Hopes for peace in Yemen fade as the new year begins

Yemen war -- AFP
5 min read
31 December, 2021
Analysis: As violence intensifies and peace efforts falter, Yemen's conflict seems set to escalate in 2022.

A new year of war is taking shape in Yemen, with peace elusive amid rising violence.

Over the last two weeks, airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition have intensified, and ground fighting has grown fiercer. The coalition has resumed bombing locations in Sanaa, including a military camp, a military school, the airport, and roads.

With UN-led peace attempts having faltered so far, military power seems to be the only choice left for the coalition. The barrage of airstrikes in Yemen indicates the coalition's frustration with diplomatic efforts in Yemen.

With the Houthis being hard to persuade and negotiate with, the conflict in Yemen is set to escalate, and 2022 will not be calmer.

"Geopolitical conflicts in Yemen and foreign intervention have created an uncontrollable situation, with the fate of the country hard to predict"

Turki Al-Maliki, the Arab Coalition's spokesperson, said on 26 December in a news conference that the war in Yemen is an intellectual, cultural, social, military, and economic battle.

He added, "The coalition presented all initiatives to reach a comprehensive political solution, but the [Houthis] rejected them. The political solution is the best solution to the crisis in Yemen, but the military tool seeks to achieve this goal."

Recently, the coalition has begun pursuing this method: resolute military action in the hope of paving the way for a political solution. This has been apparent through the relentless airstrikes in Sanaa and Marib and the escalation of the fighting, particularly in the oil-rich Marib province.

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Al-Maliki said more Houthi targets could be hit in Sanaa, but the fear of civilian casualties has been a hindrance. "We did not attack many targets in Sanaa because civilians are a priority for the coalition, and the [Houthis] have to remove all weapons from civilian objects. We decide when and where to target their capabilities," Maliki said during the conference.

The war has created a hellish situation in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia has not been entirely safe from its consequences. Maliki said 59 Saudi civilians had been killed since the war started in 2015. He revealed that the Houthi group had fired 430 ballistic missiles and 851 armed drones at Saudi Arabia. As victims fall to Houthi drones and missiles in Saudi territories, the Saudi reaction has only become more aggressive and destructive.

Notwithstanding the coalition's harsh rhetoric and ferocious aerial operations, the Houthis’ defiant tone has not altered. Hussein Al-Ezi, a senior Houthi official, implied that the escalation by the "enemy" might bear positive consequences for Houthi fighters.

A Yemeni child holds missile shrapnel outside a factory after it destroyed in airstrikes carried out by warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition killing three civilians and injured six others on January 20, 2019 in Sana'a, Yemen. [Getty]
Over the last two weeks, airstrikes by the Saudi-led Arab coalition have intensified. [Getty]

On 26 December, he tweeted, saying, "We believe that God controls the matter. So, even if we hate the escalation and consider it unnecessary, it may bring a benefit, and a wave of great events may happen as a result."

This statement reflects the Houthi attitude towards the escalating violence in Yemen. On the surface it is terrible, but they hope it will be to their advantage.

A political researcher in Sanaa, who wished to remain anonymous, told The New Arab that the coalition airstrikes would not intimidate the Houthis, and they can capitalise on the destruction these air raids cause to mobilise more fighters.

The researcher explained how this could happen. "On December 24, the coalition bombed a bridge in the heart of Sanaa. A few hours later, Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi arrived in the targeted place. Crowds of people gathered, and he delivered a speech. The rallies there were furious, and that was a chance for the Houthis to attract fighters and send them to the frontlines."

"A new year of war is taking shape in Yemen, with peace elusive amid rising violence"

While the aerial bombardments damaged Houthi facilities and weapons, they also served the group’s objectives. According to the researcher, the Houthis will only surrender when pro-government forces approach Sanaa or take over their stronghold, the Saada province. "Otherwise, the war will continue indefinitely, and the Houthis still have the capabilities to fight many years ahead."

In view of this complex reality in Yemen, violence and turbulence will not subside in 2022. In a recent analysis, Adel Dashela, a Yemeni researcher focusing on war and politics in Yemen, said that the conflict is no longer easy to resolve without international and regional rapprochement.

He continued, "The conflict has shown how the regional rivals compete to control the waterways and Yemeni islands….These actions led to the complexity of the political and military scene, leading Yemen to the stage of no state. "

Dashela argued that geopolitical conflicts in Yemen and foreign intervention had created an uncontrollable situation, with the fate of the country hard to predict. 

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The recent escalation of aerial bombardments has brought back horrible memories among the population in the capital Sanaa, and the new year seems like it will hold further challenges. For seven years, airstrikes have been sporadic, but the latest bombings have made people feel that the war has only just started.

Faisal Mohammed, a 34-year-old Sanaa resident, told The New Arab that the December airstrikes reminded him of bombings in March 2015, when the coalition began its military intervention in Yemen.

Mohammed lives in the Maeen district, and many locations were pounded in his area, including Al-Tashrifat military camp near Al-Zubairi Street in Sanaa. "The earth was shaking, and the explosions were huge. Even if the strikes do not hit me or my family or neighbours, the horror is huge suffering."

Mohammed does not expect a tranquil and peaceful year as 2022 begins.

"Like other Yemenis here, I am mentally prepared for tough times. We may see more aerial bombings, fuel shortages, or shortages of some food commodities or medicines. We [Yemeni civilians] have to bear and adapt as long as the conflicting parties remain pig-headed and hostile to each other."

The writer is a Yemeni journalist, reporting from Yemen, whose identity we are protecting for their security