November 27-December 4; Former President Saleh is Killed Amidst Violence Between Houthi and Saleh Forces


The UN, after completing a delivery of 1.9 million diphtheria vaccines shortly after the Saudi-led coalition reopened Yemen’s airspace to humanitarian flights, stated that the successful delivery through the San’a airport “cannot be a one-off,” because nearly every Yemeni child is in need of further humanitarian assistance.

September 19 - 25: UN calls for greater international assistance

Al Jazeera reports that the UK has made over $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, with the government receiving about $40 million in corporate taxes as a result - only a small portion of the profit, most of which is taken by private arms corporations.

September 5-12: UN Urges Independent Inquiry


In a meeting with the Saudi foreign minister, UK Prime Minister Theresa May emphasized the importance of ending the Yemen conflict and complying with international humanitarian law. Activists have called the UK government complicit in the Saudi-led coalition’s alleged crimes in Yemen.

The UK Must Change its Policy Approach to Saudi Arabia

James Firebrace, a retired British diplomat, and Sherine El-Taraboulsi, of the Overseas Development Institute, wrote an op-ed outlining recommendations for the UK government regarding its engagement with Saudi Arabia. The UK has the potential to exert influence over peace processes in the Middle East, but its current support of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen undermines its moral standing and dedication to humanitarian principles. In order to maintain credibility as a mediator, Firebrace and El-Taraboulsi recommend that the UK reduce its unconditional military support for Saudi Arabia, pressure Saudi Arabia to allow humanitarian imports, and call for more accountability in human rights violations.

Embassy closures shake Houthis' confidence

On Tuesday afternoon, the US State Department announced that its embassy in San‘a had closed, and that all embassy staff had been evacuated from Yemen. The United Kingdom's mission and several other European embassies quickly followed suit. Official statements cited the "security situation" in San‘a as the primary reason for the closures. On Twitter, UK Ambassador Jane Marriott took the leader of the Houthi movement personally to task for security problems, recalling that Ansar Allah had promised to protect foreign missions after its takeover of much of the capital in September. 

It seems another reason for the closures of many of the so-called G10 states' embassies is that foreign diplomats no longer believe they have a trustworthy counterpart in Yemen's government. Yemen's Ministry of Foreign Affairs appears to be firmly under Houthi control. In another tweet, Ambassador Marriott bristled at the behavior of a Ministry official during a meeting this week.

According to sources cited by The New York Times, Houthi fighters confiscated the vehicles and weapons of US embassy staff at the airport, and there have been reports of looting at the embassy.* But the same Times article indicates that Ansar Allah officials were caught off-guard by the severe diplomatic backlash their coup has inspired:

A senior member of the Houthi political bureau, speaking on the condition of anonymity as a matter of policy, expressed regret about the American move. “We didn’t want them to go, and we were ready to work with the American Embassy on measures that would ensure their protection and facilitate their work.”

At this point, the Houthis may be falling victim to their own success. When President Hadi and his government resigned following the armed seizure of the Republican Palace and presidential residence, Ansar Allah was left to clean up the mess. Now, facing opprobrium from other Yemeni factions and the international community, they will likely have to soften their stance if they want to cobble together a credible--or even minimally functional--state. Meanwhile, the group is using the parts of the state it already controls--including Yemen's official press agency, SABA--to simulate legitimacy. After the EU's Foreign Affairs Council issued a stern rebuke of the Houthi coup, SABA published a heavily edited version of the EU statement, removing all mentions of Ansar Allah and its responsibility for the current crisis.

[UPDATE: For the record, the US Marine Corps says that no weapons were taken from embassy Marine Security Force. Rather, all large weapons were destroyed ahead of time, and all rifles and pistols were individually smashed with hammers at the airport prior to the Force's departure.]

Mafraj Radio Episode 15: UK Strategy, and Reprieve on Multiple Kills

On this episode we speak with Sir Alan Duncan, the British government’s Special Envoy to Yemen, about UK foreign policy and his thoughts on Yemen’s precarious transition. We also talk to Jennifer Gibson, a staff attorney for the London-based NGO Reprieve. Her recently-published report reveals damning details about the American targeted killing program. Sir Alan Duncan is the United Kingdom's Special Envoy to Yemen and Special Envoy to Oman. He has served as a Member of Parliament since 1992.

Jennifer Gibson is a staff attorney at the NGO Reprieve, where she leads the organization's program on issues related to US drone strikes in Pakistan. She tweets at @jennifermgibson.

You can read more about Jennifer's report on multiple kills here. Gregory Johnsen's piece on a December 2013 strike, which killed 12 members of a Yemeni wedding party, is here.

I close this episode with a brief segment on the tragic death of American photojournalist Luke Somers. The segment is a condensed version of a recent blog post.

Mafraj Radio Episode 3

In this episode we take our first look at the efforts of the international community in Yemen, a subject we'll come back to in several future episodes. The first segment features an interview with the UK's ambassador to Yemen, Mr. Nicholas Hopton, who summarizes for us his government's role in the country's affairs. This is followed by a chat with Ms. Kate Nevens of Saferworld, who talks about the non-governmental side of things. The episode wraps up with an excerpt from an interview with Yemeni writer and activist Farea al-Muslimi, who shares a personal perspective on US-Yemeni relations.

About our guests:

Ambassador Nicholas Hopton From the Ambassador's official bio: "Nicholas Hopton was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Yemen in December 2011 and took up his post in January 2012. Nicholas is a career diplomat who joined the FCO in 1989 having studied at St Peter’s School, York, and Cambridge University (Magdalene College).  He has also studied at La Sapienza University in Rome and ENA in Paris. With the FCO he has served overseas in Paris, Rome, Morocco and Mauritania. He is married with five children." Read Al-Sharq al-Awsat's interview with Ambassador Hopton here. Ambassador Hopton tweets at @NicholasHopton.

Farea al-Muslimi Farea al-Muslimi is a young journalist and activist based in San'a. He has made several trips to Abyan to report from areas formerly controlled by AQAP. He wrote about some of the issues covered in this interview here. Earlier this week, he wrote about a US air strike on his own village in Dhamar Governorate.

Kate Nevens Kate Nevens directs Middle East and North Africa Program at Saferworld, a UK-based international NGO. "Kate previously worked as the manager of the MENA programme at Chatham House, an international affairs think tank based in London, with a particular focus on youth and political inclusions issues in the region and international involvement in fragile states." Kate tweets at @KateNevens.

Please note: the lack of internet access and the state of the mobile phone network in Yemen makes it difficult to record high-quality interviews with people there. Please excuse the poor sound quality; we feel that the content is well worth the auditory discomfort.

With friends like these…

"It is important to make sure that we strengthen the capacity of the government so that you don't see the same vacuum develop in Yemen that has developed in Somalia....We'll continue to help Yemen in terms of its dialogue with its own population in both north and south."

These two gems come from US State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley's press briefing yesterday, in which he gave us the upshot of last Friday's "Friends of Yemen" meeting in New York. The first sentence is, of course, the exact opposite what the Yemen Peace Project and Human Rights Watch both urged prior to the meeting. We implored the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, and other members of the Friends of Yemen group not to rely on a policy of "strengthening the capacity" of President Saleh's government, a government that has abandoned democracy and due process in favor of its own survival. If the US and its allies continue to "strengthen the capacity" of this regime, the people of Yemen will face more and more hardship, repression, and violence.

As we pointed out in our open letter to the Friends of Yemen, the US is also directly responsible for killing dozens of Yemeni civilians. Saudi Arabia -- which chaired last Friday's conference along with Yemen and the UK -- has racked up a far larger Yemeni body count, having bombed several villages out of existence during the last phase of the Sa'dah war. The US recently announced a massive deal to supply new jets and helicopters to the Saudi military, thus ensuring the Kingdom's ability to kill even more Yemenis the next time around. For the leaders of these two countries to talk about "dialogue" and development is disingenuous at best. Does the State Department expect Yemenis to buy this double-talk? Does it seriously expect Yemenis to choose Saleh and his "Friends" over the various opposition movements currently at work in Yemen?

In his remarks to the press, Crowley also claimed that US Undersecretary William Burns led the Friends of Yemen conference, although, as noted above, this dubious honor in fact fell to the UK and Saudi Arabia. Clearly the US wants to be seen -- or wants to see itself -- as leading the effort to fix Yemen. But the truth is that US humanitarian aid is already vastly overshadowed by military assistance to Saleh's regime, and now the Obama administration is considering a huge, multi-year package that will augment Saleh's capacity for violence several-fold, even though critics within the administration and Department of Defense argue that the new weapons and training will be used against Saleh's political enemies rather than al-Qa'idah (it's almost as if they'd been reading the news).

This week Secretary of State Clinton told the United Nations that the US would not "sacrifice human rights" to fight terrorism. Clinton told the world that the way to end terrorism is to provide hope to those vulnerable to the "allure" of extremism. To be honest, I'm surprised Hilary Clinton -- or any other State Department official -- can gather the nerve to speak to the world, knowing as we all do the humiliating fact that they are almost completely irrelevant to American foreign policy. I give Clinton credit: her words to the General Assembly weren't hollow rhetoric. The State Department has been producing papers for a long time now pushing the agenda of long-term, systemic solutions in places like Yemen. But the US hasn't shown Yemen any long-term solutions, only the immediate destructive power of the American war machine. For many Yemenis and other victims of American violence around the world, the "choice" between Yemen's "Friends" and al-Qa'idah isn't so simple.