Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates Compliance with NDAA Section 1290 - September 2018

NDAA Section 1290 conditions further United States refueling assistance to the Saudi-led coalition’s air raids in Yemen on whether the Secretary of State can certify to Congress that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are undertaking specific steps to support a peace process and reduce civilian harm in Yemen. Drawing from the language of Section 1290, we briefly analyze the extent to which Saudi Arabia and the UAE have undertaken these measures and provide a recommendation for further congressional action.

Building Back Better: Priorities for Yemen's Economic Reconstruction

It might seem premature to discuss reconstruction as the war in Yemen drags on, with many actors on the ground seeing no end in sight. However, several key decision-makers, including Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council, are already discussing post-war strategies for reconstruction and recovery in Yemen. It is valuable then to discuss some policies that could facilitate rebuilding Yemen’s fractured economy, with an eye toward the future and the cessation of hostilities, but including those that could help the economy even before the conflict has ended.

Profits of War, Obstacles to Peace

As the crisis in Yemen approaches its fifth year, wartime economic opportunities have entrenched themselves in the political economy of Yemen. As long as they exist, these economic opportunities represent disincentives to negotiation for the same powerful parties whose buy-in is essential for a peaceful resolution to the war.

War and Water Insecurity in Yemen

Yemen faces many problems in the years to come; often forgotten is the increasing threat of climate change. The country has long faced issues of water insecurity and scarcity, desertification and overgrazing, but these issues are set to get worse given the global climate and, even more so, the war in Yemen.

Currency in Crisis: The Yemeni Riyal and the Dangerous Effects of Depreciation

A taxi driver is unable to feed his family after long days of work. A police officer spends most of his salary on transportation to and from his workplace. A government employee’s salary is worth half of what it was worth before the war. A school teacher goes to work everyday, but hasn’t been paid for five months. Financial strain in the Yemeni economy has had an outsize impact on Yemenis’ lives, as ordinary Yemenis contend with the falling currency value that decreases their purchasing power on imported items.

Before 2014: Yemen's Economy Before the War

Yemen has suffered from economic woes since the unification of the North (Yemen Arab Republic) and South (People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen) in 1990. Months after unification, Yemen—then on the UN Security Council—voted against the authorization of use of force against Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait. The vote not only provoked the US and Saudi Arabia to cut off all aid to the new state, it also spurred the expulsion of nearly 750,000 Yemenis from Saudi Arabia, many of whom had worked there for decades, sending remittances to their families still in Yemen.[1] As external funding flowing into the nation trickled to a stop, the 1994 civil war and subsequent political crises decreased investor confidence, racked up reconstruction expenses, and sent Yemen's economy spiraling.

The Magical Thinking Behind An Attack On Hudaydah

YPP Director of Policy & Advocacy Eric Eikenberry has an op-ed on LobeLog today about the many flaws with the coalition's plan to capture Hudaydah, and with the arguments put forth by the coalition's apologists in Washington.

Over the last several days, the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have independently reported that the Trump administration is softening on a potential United Arab Emirates-led assault on Hudaydah, Yemen’s largest port and a major logistics hub for the international response to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. International humanitarian NGOsUN agencies, and even the US government have repeatedly stated that an attack on Hudaydah could seriously deepen the crisis, precipitating a long-warned-of famine, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, and leading to unconscionable human casualties from direct fighting in and around the city.

Trump defunds aid and diplomacy in 2019 budget

The Trump Administration's Fiscal Year 2019 budget request would boost defense spending to $686 billion, a seven percent increase, while slashing funding to the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to $39.3 billion, a twenty-four percent decrease. When examining these changes at face value, it is easy to see where the priorities of the Trump Administration lie; these budgets cuts further emphasize defense and military action in lieu of diplomacy, while directing another blow toward the already struggling State Department. Despite the proposed severity of the cuts to the State Department, this move by Trump should come as a shock to no one, as he has consistently prioritized defense initiatives and belittled diplomatic efforts. 

Senate hearing and CRS report show two sides to congressional engagement on Yemen

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) held a hearing this morning on US policy in Yemen, the first such hearing in over a year. To help prepare committee members for today’s hearing, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) produced a special report on the situation in Yemen, authored by the CRS’ long-time Yemen specialist, Jeremy Sharp. The report begins with a sober overview of the war in Yemen and a measured assessment of Iran’s limited role as the Houthis’ main foreign supporter, which is a welcome contrast from the rhetoric both the Trump administration and the Saudi-led coalition employ concerning Iran’s involvement. However, Sharp’s analysis, while couched in the voice of objective expertise for which the CRS is known, has several shortcomings that, perhaps unintentionally, obscure the nature of Yemen’s crisis and the context of increasing congressional dissatisfaction over US participation in the conflict.

S.J.Res.54 Latest in a Chain of Congressional Action on Yemen

Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 54 on February 28, which, if passed, would require President Trump to remove all US personnel from their activities in support of the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen and halt US logistical support to coalition air raids--including in-flight refueling, intelligence sharing, and targeting assistance--that have consistently targeted civilian schools, markets, and homes. Furthermore, S.J.Res.54 reasserts Congress’ power to approve and oversee the president’s deployment of the armed forces, as mandated by the War Powers Resolution. This assertion is not only a welcome congressional effort, as multiple presidential administrations have failed to push for an end to the war in Yemen; S.J.Res.54 is also the latest manifestation of a positive upward trend in congressional engagement on ending US complicity in and perpetuation of Yemen’s catastrophe.

Houthis reeducate civil servants with "cultural courses"

This guest post comes to us from a trusted contact in Houthi-controlled San'a, and it represents the author's own opinions. The YPP has not been able to independently verify the incidents reported herein.

The Houthis have left no chapter of human rights law unviolated. They have committed all kinds of violations from murder, intimidation and torture against intellectual and political opponents as well as activists. In most cases, the violation of human rights is a forced and compulsory act of power or of arms. The Houthis have gone beyond attacking opponents and activists to peaceful citizens under their authority. People in the Houthi controled areas can no longer show any kind of resistance or rejection, even in their most basic culture and ideological rights. The Houthis are not as backward and ignorant as some think, but they are a group with extensive experience in sociology. Therefore, their behavior can not be random, but is rather very deliberate. The Houthis are a radical ideological organization, not only a political or social group. Consequently, the most important concern of this group is to control the faith of people and their values nd beliefs.

"Just Enough": The Saudi-led Coalition's Humanitarian Plan for Yemen

Concise and insightful analyses of the Saudi-led coalition’s Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations (YCHO) plan swiftly followed its Monday announcement. Though the top line number -- a pledge of 1.5 billion USD to UN agencies in response to the 2.96 billion requested by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) from the international community -- is commendable, the YCHO’s fine print only underlines the contradictions shaping the plan for the worse: if Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other coalition governments want to be both warring parties in Yemen’s conflict and the country’s humanitarian saviors, the former will always subsume the latter.

The War Powers Resolution and America's role in Yemen

The YPP's legal team prepared this analysis of the War Powers Resolution last year, ahead of an effort in the US House of Representatives to invoke the Resolution and end America's military involvement in Yemen's civil war. 

Historical Context

In 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorizing the Executive Branch to introduce U.S. forces in South-East Asia without a declaration of war from Congress. President Johnson and Nixon subsequently escalated the initial “advise and assist” mission in South Vietnam into a full-scale war prosecuted by U.S. forces, and failed to notify Congress of a bombing campaign in Cambodia. In an attempt to avoid similar executive overreach, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution in 1973 (50 U.S.C. Chapter 33).

Saudi Government Statement on Easing Blockade Reinforces Status Quo

Following an attempted Houthi ballistic missile strike on Riyadh, the Saudi government announced today that the coalition would continue “opening Hudaydah port to humanitarian and relief supplies and allowing the entry of commercial ships, including fuel and food vessels, for a period of 30 days to implement the proposals” of the UN Special Envoy to Yemen concerning vessel inspection measures at Hudaydah port. The announcement was intended to elicit relief and praise  from the international community. After the Houthis’ last attempted attack on Riyadh, the Saudi government made its partial blockade of Yemeni ports total, closing humanitarian and commercial access to Yemenis bearing the brunt of the nation’s humanitarian catastrophe. It’s tempting to think that the loud and continuous outcry of the international community, with late contributions from the United States and United Kingdom, has checked the Saudi government’s most punitive impulses.

Why we oppose the coalition's Hudaydah offensive

The Yemen Peace Project and many other advocacy and humanitarian organizations are currently using every tool at our disposal to pressure the White House to try to stop the offensive on al-Hudaydah currently being mounted by Yemeni army, Southern Resistance and coalition forces. This position is controversial. I’ve heard from many Yemeni and Yemeni-American contacts who agree with our stance on this, and from a number who disagree. So I feel it’s necessary to explain, personally, why I think the YPP’s position is the right one, and why we think this offensive should not go forward. I hope those who think I’m wrong will take the time to read it.

Trump's New Iran Policy is Misguided

A policy analysis by Jay Solomon of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy describes how President Trump places Yemen “front and center” in his new strategy to counter Iran. The Trump administration’s plan focuses on limiting Iran’s regional influence, which it exerts by providing weapons and training to militias in other countries. Regarding Yemen, Trump is concerned about Iranian weapon transfers to the Houthis, the increasing danger the Houthis pose to neighboring countries, and Iran’s ability to threaten energy trade routes in the Red Sea. Since the Houthis have already fired missiles into Saudi Arabia, Trump views the Houthi threat as imminent, and his plan to counter the group includes further assisting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, especially through intelligence and logistics support, reducing conditions on arms transfers to the coalition, and guarding the Red Sea against Iranian hostilities more forcefully.

UN Human Rights Council must establish an impartial commission of inquiry for Yemen

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNCHR) has the legal authority and supporting precedents to establish an independent international commission of investigation (“CoI”) in respect of the conflict in Yemen. Its failure to do so is completely inconsistent with well-established UN practice.

The 1991 UN General Assembly (UNGA) “Declaration on Fact-finding by the United Nations in the Field of the Maintenance of International Peace and Security” makes clear that “[f]act-finding should be comprehensive, objective, impartial and timely.” The Declaration also recommends “using the United Nations fact-finding capabilities at an early stage in order to contribute to the prevention of disputes and situations.”

Fractures in the Houthi-GPC alliance

We're very pleased to publish the second of two guest posts on the tensions within the Houthi-GPC alliance. The views of the author do not necessarily represent those of the YPP.

Yemen is in the midst of the third year of its civil war. Starvation and disease are rampant in the poorest country in the Middle East; there is still no light on the horizon. In seeking to understand this war, we cannot find satisfying and logical answers without first asking the right questions. Hence, this piece will be humbly dedicated for laying bare some personal thoughts, as an ordinary citizen in this perplexing war-torn country, and specifically in San’a. 

The dynamics of the Houthi-GPC alliance

We're very pleased to publish the first of two guest posts on the tensions within the Houthi-GPC alliance. The author is an activist based in San'a, who writes anonymously for personal and professional reasons. The views of the author do not necessarily represent those of the YPP.

The intensifying conflict in Yemen has created a complex political situation with overlapping factors imposed by the nature and structure of the conflicting forces within Yemen. We believe that this political situation can only be understood by analyzing the contexts in which these events and reality were born, as well as the reasons behind them. This article presents a perspective on the political situation in Yemen and the role of the conflicting parties within Yemen, particularly in areas under the control of the Houthis.

Last Jewish family in Raydah: We wish we could stay, but…

December 19, Raydah - The houses’ gates inscribed with the word “Welcome,” in Hebrew, are the last signs of the Yemeni Jewish community in the town of Raydah, 30 miles north of Yemen’s capital. Near the western edge of Raydah town sits a pair of houses, ordinary in most respects. “The green gate is of Masha, the brown is Banin’s,” said a teen from the neighborhood, identifying the Jewish families to whom the homes once belonged. Now, they’re owned and inhabited by Muslims. As the brown gate squeaked ajar, a little kid peep out, mumbling. Last year nearly a dozen Jewish families from this community left Yemen for Israel in covert airlift described by The Jewish Agency, which arranged the operation, as the last of its kind. Only one Jewish family opted to remain in Raydah. Saʻid al-Naʻati, 55, father of six children and caretaker of his 90-year-old mother, hasn’t yet made up his mind. “It’s my call [whether to emigrate],” said al-Naʻati. “Maybe I’ll travel, maybe I’ll stay.”

Al-Naʻati had his own reasons for opting to stay when he could have left with his neighbors a year ago. But the current situation in Yemen, devastated by two years of war, could soon force his hand. “It has to do with eking out a living. There’s no more living because of the crises and because I no longer have a job,” said al-Naʻati, who used to make jackets out of fur and sell them in the local market. “Now, we have sold half of our belongings [to survive],” he said. The war has rendered millions of Yemenis jobless, and caused rampant inflation. Over one million government employees—upon whose salaries an estimated nine million people depend—have not been paid for four months now. “Everything is expensive and there’s no longer income,” al-Naʻati complains.

 Saʻid al-Naʻati outside al- home in Raydah. Photographed by the author.

Saʻid al-Naʻati outside al- home in Raydah. Photographed by the author.

The emigration of al-Naʻati’s fellow Jews has also made his life harder. “Our hope has been to stay,” al-Naʻati said. “With the extinction of Yemenite Jewry, however, one can’t live alone as a Jew [among Muslim people] because our religion doesn’t allow it. We need someone to prepare our meat. We also want [our sons] to get married to [Jewish women] and we want to marry off our women..” Al-Naʻati lives with three of his daughters now. Of his three sons, one now lives in the US, and one in the United Kingdom. The third is in Sanʻa, Yemen’s capital, where some 40 Jews live in Tourist City, a guarded complex, for safety reasons.

Intermittent attacks against Jewish communities have been among the factors contributing to increased emigration in recent years. In 2007, the Jewish family of Al Salim, who lived in Saʻdah Governorate, was expelled from their village. The Houthi movement, known for its anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment, was then at war with the central government; they issued a fifteen-day ultimatum for the Jews to leave. The Houthis gave no reason, but they apparently suspected the local Jewish community of aiding the government in some way. No proof to that effect was ever provided. Then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh relocated the Jews of Saʻdah to Tourist City in Sanʻa and began paying them a monthly stipend. Even after the Houthi movement—with Saleh’s support—seized power and took control of Sanʻa in late 2014, the government’s nominal protection of the Jewish community has remained in place.

Yemen’s Jews are indigenous to the region. Archeological records show that Judaism has been practiced in southwestern Arabia since at least the second century BCE, and many sources say it dates back much further than that. Jewish dynasties rose and fell in Yemen long before the advent of Islam. Since the rise of Islam in Yemen, local Jewish communities have endured periodic persecution. During the last fifty years, the Yemenite Jews have been treated as a second class. In 1949 and 1950, the Israeli government and The Jewish Agency brought tens of thousands of Yemeni Jews to Israel. Many smaller groups have made Aliyah since then. Those who remained in Yemen have kept a low profile since. In the past fifteen years, two Jewish people have been murdered, both by men said to be Wahhabis. The most recent victim was killed in Sanʻa by someone who reportedly claimed to have been sent by God. The victim’s son accused al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch of inciting the killing.

 A child peeks through the gate of one of the historically-Jewish homes in Raydah. Photographed by the author.

A child peeks through the gate of one of the historically-Jewish homes in Raydah. Photographed by the author.

Culturally, Yemeni Jews have much in common with Yemeni Muslims, but they also maintain their own unique traditions and religious beliefs. Jewish men wear long payot, or sidelocks—often hidden while in public—but they also wear the long white robes and scarves common among northern Yemenis, and Jewish women are covered completely while in public. They also have their own rich culture of literature, music, crafts, and traditions that set them apart from both Yemeni Muslims and non-Yemeni Jewry.

For Saʻid al-Naʻati, the current volatile situation will decide whether he can remain in Raydah or follow his former neighbors, who have fled both war and extremists’ hate. “So far, [I have experienced] no harassment of the sort, thank God,” said al-Naʻati. “But no one knows what might happen to them.”

Shuaib Almosawa is a freelance journalist based in San'a. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Policy, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Independent, BuzzFeed, and Inter Press Service. Shuaib has also appeared on the BBC World Service and YLE radio and television.