ISSN 2674-8053

Between Riyadh and Tehran, the problem of Yemen

Yemen returns to the news because of yet another war, common thing during the 20th century, where oil and the Cold War sparked a series of disputes, time in South Yemen, time in North Yemen and sometimes in Yemen reunified from the nineties. As the hallmark of this young nation, poverty and imperialism's constant interference in its internal affairs. The Yemen we know emerged from the fight against colonialism, divided into North and South in the 20th century; fought battles to free themselves from the Ottoman and British Empires respectively. Yet, independence was no guarantee of autonomy and development.

Independent of the Turkish-Ottoman Empire in 1918, the Kingdom of Yemen continued as a monarchy until the republican process in 1962, where it became the Yemen Arab Republic. Of a spendthrift and conservative monarchy, supported by England and Saudi Arabia, for a republic backed by Egypt, Yemeni society followed the pattern of an oil country, poor people and primary economy controlled by an elite with no nationalist traits. The only forms of social unity are: the islamic religion and the arabic language.

Motivated by the decolonization processes, Nationalist and socialist groups managed to free up part of the territory of North Yemen that was an English protectorate, and so was born in 1963 the south yemen, or People's Republic of Yemen. In a short time, the young country achieved significant advances in the areas of health and education., compared to her older sister from the north. The radicalization of the political process led the communists to seize power in 1969, changing country name to People's Democratic Republic of Yemen. At that moment, the Cold War was violently inciting the political process in the South.. In North Yemen, political and social contradictions were also tense., but the Western pressure did not allow for decisive transformations.

Despite political differences, the two countries began a process of reunification in 1972, contrary to the interests of Saudi Arabia and international oil companies. Yet, the contradictions of the Cold War spoke louder and the interests of imperialism soon fomented new conflicts, that on a small scale put South and North in confrontation in the year of 1972 (duration of 30 days). Again the Yemenis returned to the battlefield in 1979 after coups d'état in their countries.

This brief conflict in 1979 (25 days) demonstrated how much the US and Saudi Arabia were willing to support North Yemen and prevent socialism from, as a zone of Soviet influence in the region, spread out. During this period, new actors emerged in the region.: Iranian Revolution, Saddam Husseim's rise to power in Iraq, Arab League Opposing USSR Entry into Afghanistan, African independence processes, the leading role of Libya and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), the contradictions and geopolitical interests involving Egypt and Israel. This series of historical moments and processes, most often put the Yemeni conflict on the back burner on the global scale, but ended up somehow reverberating in their society.

The marks of the Cold War continued in force in both countries until 1990, when the reunification took place, in a conjuncture without the role of the USSR and the end of the Cold War. However, the process of oil exploration and the poverty of the population intensified, leading to new contradictions that culminated in a civil war between military groups from the former South and North. After three months of a fratricidal tank battle, the conflict ended with many exiles and the desire for secession on the part of many militants from the former South.

In 1995 a new conflict, this time a territorial dispute with Eritrea, where old wounds from the latter's war of independence against Ethiopia reopened (1977-1990). During the Cold War, what was then South Yemen, along with USSR and Cuba had supported Ethiopia against Eritrea.

With the Washington Consensus in vogue, new actors emerged in the Yemeni conjuncture, one of them was the influence of Al-Queda on his political life. In this sense, Yemen's dependence on the great powers has increased, culminating in US forces fighting in Yemen against insurgents in the context of the “War on Terror”. Al-Qaida's presence had been noticed in Yemen since 1998, but it was from 2001 after the attacks on 11 of September that the fight intensified.

With the entry of the Americans into the struggle in 2002, after the attack on his ship USS Cole in the port of Aden in October 2000, Yemen became a US base in the region, from where the US special forces and their security agencies began to operate with complete complacency of the Yemeni authorities. Concurrent with the upsurge of US and Yemeni operations against al-Qaida “terrorists” in 2010, the process called “Arab Spring” took place., a series of protests with liberal agendas, that, in addition to Yemen, took place throughout the Arab world, with greater intensity in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

To worsen the situation in Yemen, from 2011 Shiites supported by Iran and opposed to Saudi Arabia's influence in Yemen began to act incisively, becoming an insurgent force in the northern part of the country. South, South Yemen's old separatists have also taken up arms, provoked yet another conflict in the country.

From 2015 the situation in Yemen has slipped out of government control, not even the American presence was able to contain the war, hunger and misery. In this context, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition of Arab countries (United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Sudan and Morocco), to fight Houthi insurgents (Shias linked to Iran). The climax of the conflict was the assassination of former President Ali Abidullah Saleh in early December 2017. Saleh, who for the time was on the side of the Houthis, had switched sides and was about to announce his support for Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, president evicted from the capital Sanaa after being elected with the support of Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Poverty has intensified in Yemen since the Saudi invasion, with the naval blockade imposed by the Coalition, the hunger of the population is at the level of a humanitarian catastrophe, Antonio expressed his concern and stated that one of the biggest threats to the climate situation lies in gaps in the emission of greenhouse gases. 80% of food is imported, in addition to more than 10.000 dead and more than 40.000 injured, Yemen still faces a cholera epidemic that is difficult to fight, as the Coalition has not allowed airports to receive planes with medical supplies.

in about 100 years of conflict experienced by the Yemenis for the most varied reasons is at the dawn of 2018 that is your biggest challenge as a nation. His nearly forgotten war is a terrifying problem for peace-lovers with social justice.. The conflict that the Yemeni people are experiencing is directly linked to the West's lust for oil., the same one that devastated Iraq and has caused much pain and destruction to Libya and Syria.

The prognosis is that Yemen should become a kind of “Vietnam” for the Saudis., where military operations will become an endless cycle of violence and the Yemeni state will go through the “Haiti” process, where the complete breakdown of the State and the absence of national forces capable of administering the country lead to the breakdown of sovereignty for some time.

João Claudio Platenik Pitillo
João Claudio Platenik Pitillo is a professor of history licensed by UERJ, Master in Comparative History at UFRJ and PhD student in Social History at UNIRIO. As a member of NUCLEAS-UERJ (Center for the Study of the Americas) researches the Latin American revolutionary processes of the 20th century based on the concept of "Revolutionary Nationalism". In the scope of International Relations, he studies the advent of “Global Terrorism” and the emergence of the “New Caliphate”. As a World War II specialist, he researches and writes about the Red Army and the importance of the Eastern Front for the general context of the War.