February 14-20: UN Experts release report, al-Hudaydah campaign continues

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Houthi forces are reportedly preparing for the oncoming advance of pro-government forces toward al-Hudaydah. Meanwhile, clashes on the Yemen-Saudi border resulted in the deaths of at least 7 Saudi soldiers, according to Al Jazeera.

The Trump administration is considering sending a prisoner held in Yemen, suspected of being a member of al-Qaeda, to Guantanamo Bay. This would be the first time since 2008 that a prisoner was sent there.

A strike by Yemenis in the Bay Area of California was held today. Yemeni business owners closed shop in protest of the recent anti-Muslim and anti-immigration measures taken by the Trump administration.

An article by the Carnegie International Endowment for Peace stressed the limited influence of Iran in Yemen’s ongoing conflict. Much more crucial to the Houthi rebellion than Iranian support, the article says, were internal factors: both the lack of inclusivity of the transitional Hadi government, and the decision by Saudi Arabia to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, helped to set the stage for the Houthi movement. However, the article warns that increased military involvement by the U.S. in the conflict combined with the Trump Administration’s aggressive anti-Iran rhetoric could deepen the Iran-Houthi alliance.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A group of Yemeni students have been stranded in America by the civil war in their home country, but the State Department will cease funding them in June.

A report from the Associated Press discussed the American intelligence that led up to last month’s raid in Bayda province. Sheikh Abdel Raouf Al-Dhahab, killed in the raid on Yakla village, was allied with the Hadi government’s forces. US Central Command labelled him and his brother Sultan as “top operational planners and weapons experts” but local sources say otherwise. Although members of his family are involved with Al Qaeda, sources in Yemen say that al-Dhahab was not. It was confirmed that he received money to give to fighters allied with him in exchange for fighting for the US-allied Hadi government. This illumination raises further questions about the accuracy of the information held by American forces when planning the controversial raid. Witness reports put the number of Yemenis killed in the raid at 25, including 10 children and 9 women.

An air raid in by the Saudi-led coalition struck a funeral in San’a during the night, killing at least eight women and wounding ten more, according to Al Jazeera. The house targeted belonged to a tribal leader said to have ties to the Houthi movement. United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick said he was “appalled” by the number of women and children that have been killed in such airstrikes.

US Secretary of State Tillerson announced his support for UN-led conflict resolution efforts in Yemen, and encouraged unhindered humanitarian aid to the country.

The Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC) in San Francisco hosted an event today to help Yemeni citizens renew or apply for Temporary Protected Status.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The UN Panel of Experts on Yemen released their most recent report on the state of affairs in the country today. They stress that decisive military victory by either side is no longer feasible, and urge continued implementation and improvement of targeted sanctions in order to disincentivize hindrances to the peace process by criminal organizations and businesses that currently benefit from the conflict.

USAID released a Complex Emergency Fact Sheet for Yemen, highlighting the displacement of over 34,000 people from al-Mokha and Dhubab. The UNHCR, meanwhile, still only has 1% of the funding it needs to help the growing number of Yemenis dying of starvation and lack of medical attention. Ayman Gharaibeh, the UNHCR’s Representative in Yemen, says that the situation in Yemen is now “beyond any humanitarian catastrophe that we’ve seen.”

Two UAE soldiers were reported dead in Yemen this week.

Al Jazeera highlighted the story of street artist Murad Subay, whose work in San’a focuses on the many social issues faced by Yemenis. Subay’s wife Hadil Almowafak is one of many Yemenis whose plans to study in the United States have been cast into doubt by Trump’s recent travel and immigration ban.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Al-Arabiya reported clashes in Atma, Dhamar, located in central Yemen. Pro-government forces reportedly fired a missile at a Houthi vehicle, which killed five fighters including one field commander. Another field commander was reportedly captured.

A new travel ban is set to be announced by the United States next week, which according to US Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, will not prevent those holding green cards or already on airplanes to the United States from entering the country.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The UAE announced more than $1.2 billion in arms deals, the majority of which was purchased by the Gulf country from a local manufacturer. However, a portion also went to the US-based Raytheon, Co. in exchange for providing missiles to the UAE Navy.

Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, spoke at the 2017 Munich Security Conference today. He emphasized his optimism in working with the Trump Administration in the future, highlighting their shared interests. He also focused on the role of Iran in the region and the threat that Saudi Arabia feels that Iran represents, expressing hope that Iran’s outlook and behavior will change in the near future. He calls for American leadership in the region with the goal of changing Iranian behavior, without saying specifically what form he hopes that leadership will take. Arab News provided a summary of the speech.

The UNHCR released a country fact sheet on Yemen, summarizing the accomplishments of the organization in the country to date, the current at-risk population, and the $99.6 million in funding still needed to assist them.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Arab News reports that Yemen has filed a complaint with the United Nations against Iran for inciting conflict within the Gulf country. Specifically, Yemeni Ambassador Khaled Al-Yamani protested against Iranian military and strategic support of the Houthi movement through funding, military training, and weapons shipments.

The Yemeni Prime Minister Dr. Ahmed Obaid bin Daghar tweeted his appreciation for the support of the WHO and UNICEF in launching a campaign against polio in Aden.

The Norwegian Refugee Council, responding to reports on Twitter of the abduction of several of their staff in Hodaida, posted a report stating that six of their staff and one contracted driver are being detained by local authorities due to suspected links to Saudi Arabia, which may be due to writing inside recycled boxes used for medical supplies. The writing predates the escalation of the conflict in March 2015 and the NRC stresses their neutrality and that they do not accept funding from Saudi Arabia.