The UN Panel of Experts on Yemen released their most recent report on the state of affairs in the country on Friday, February 17. They conclude that a clear-cut military victory by either side is no longer feasible, while neither side shows interest in peace talks or a peaceful settlement. Saudi-led attacks, meanwhile, have done greater damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure than to Houthi forces or morale.
The Panel notes the political changes that have taken place over the last two years. The Houthi-Saleh alliance has strengthened their political ties, they assert, pointing to their establishment of a supreme political council based in Sana’a and a 42-person government. The goal of these developments, the report states, is likely to create a political structure that will be difficult for their opponents to uproot; this creates a “‘bureaucratic’ front to the conflict,” while the Hadi government’s attempts to prevent resource flows to Houthi forces have created an “economic front.”
“The transfer of the Central Bank to Aden by the Government has effectively opened an ‘economic’ front to the conflict, aimed at denying the Houthi-Saleh alliance the resources necessary to support continued hostilities or to administer the territory under its control. It has also significantly reduced the provision of material and services that are indispensable to the survival of civilians. The move may result in accelerating the impending humanitarian catastrophe in areas under the control of the alliance.”
Simultaneously, the power vacuums and chaotic political environment brought on by the civil war have provided terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) with the opportunity to create new networks, undertake recruiting and attacks, and take advantage of new technology, all of which present a significant danger to civilians.
Furthermore, the Panel emphasizes the human rights abuses and humanitarian law violations of which all parties to the conflict are guilty. These include forced displacement of civilians, forcible disappearance of individuals by Houthi-Saleh forces and the Hadrami Elite Forces aligned with the UAE and the Hadi government, torture, obstruction of humanitarian aid, and violations against hospitals and medical staff, religious minorities, and children.
Finally, the report addresses the financial networks used to launder money on behalf of Ali Abdullah Saleh and Ahmed Ali Abdallah Saleh, as well as black market arms trafficking by the Houthi-Saleh alliance. It points out that criminal organizations and businesspeople involved in these activities have strong incentive to leverage their influence and resources against conflict resolution efforts. The best way to counteract these groups’ incentive to undermine the peace process in Yemen is to continue implementing and improving the effectiveness of the targeted sanction regime, the report emphasizes in closing.