Human Rights Watch recommends that the UN Security Council impose asset freezes and travel bans on senior coalition officials, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, unless the coalition fully lifts its blockade on Yemen. The coalition is currently restricting humanitarian aid and commercial imports from reaching civilians living in Houthi-controlled territory. The blockade contributes to the massive humanitarian crisis, causing a fuel shortage and widespread food insecurity. These actions may amount to using starvation as a tool of warfare, a war crime under international law.
Deep Root, a consulting firm focused on development in Yemen, recently published a report that details how the conflict has impacted the food pipeline. Around 60% of Yemenis are food insecure, and pockets of areas hardest-hit by the food insecurity crisis have reached the point of famine. This humanitarian disaster is caused by a multitude of factors; the livelihoods of civilians have been negatively impacted by the conflict, and many people are unable to pay for the increased prices of food and fuel.
The governor of Ta’iz, Ali al-Mamari, recently described the economic and military conditions of Ta’iz in an interview with Farea al-Muslimi of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies. The Houthis stormed Ta’iz in 2015, and fighting between Houthi-Saleh forces and local resistance groups supported by the Hadi government and the Saudi-led coalition has continued since. The Houthis control Ta’iz’s industrial areas of major economic activity, and in order to keep control of these revenue-generating areas, the Houthis blockade and shell Ta’iz. Al-Mamari details how the central government, particularly the Central Bank of Yemen, neglects Ta’iz - and how the lack of funds contributes to the deteriorating security, education, and public health situation.
Elisabeth Kendall recently published an issue brief for the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security regarding Iranian involvement in Yemen. She begins by criticizing those who misinterpret the available data to confirm pre-existing biases or conclusions regarding Iranian support for Houthi forces. Kendall states that her goal is to examine the conflict in Yemen in a more neutral manner by eschewing any particular predisposition toward one conclusion or another.
International Crisis Group published a report on October 11, 2017 explaining that the ongoing tensions within the Houthi-Saleh alliance provide the opportunity for Saudi Arabia to resolve the war in Yemen with an inclusive regional initiative. The report suggests that Saudi Arabia should capitalize on this moment of heightened strain in the Houthi-Saleh relationship and promote peace, ending a war that is economically and diplomatically costly for Saudi Arabia itself and disastrous for the Yemenis.
On October 11, 2017, the Stimson Center and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Clinic hosted a panel discussion on past US drone practices, recent developments, and future drone policy under the Trump administration. The discussion was moderated by Rachel Stohl, Senior Associate for the Conventional Defense Program at the Stimson Center. The panelists included Waleed Alhariri from the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, Alex Moorehead from the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute, and Luke Hartig from the National Journal’s Network Science Initiative.
On October 10, 2017, the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen briefed the Security Council on the ongoing War in Yemen. The envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, reported that intense fighting continues on all major fronts including Ta‘iz, Marib, al-Jawf, al-Baydha, Hajjah and Sa‘dah governorates, and the Saudi-Yemen border areas. Civilian casualties also continue to mount due to a disregard for international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict. On August 25, 2017, an airstrike in San‘a killed fourteen civilians while injuring an additional sixteen. Shelling of residential areas by Houthi-Saleh forces also continues. The envoy reported civilian deaths, including eight children, in Ta‘iz from rocket fire.
In the paper “The evolution of militant Salafism in Taiz,” activist and scholar Bushra Al-Maqtari argues that the rise of the Houthi movement and the outbreak Yemen’s armed conflict have driven a transformation of Salafi groups in Yemen. Since the establishment of the first Salafist center in Yemen in the 1980s, most Salafi factions have focused on charity, relief, and intellectual institutions, and have been governed by the Islamic notion of Wali al-Amr that rejected the disobedience to the ruler and distanced the movement from political action
Human Rights Watch recently issued a detailed press release concerning violations of international human rights law in Yemen. Both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi forces have obstructed the import and dissemination of critical aid for civilians, including fuel, medicine, food, and critical support infrastructure. According to Human Rights Watch, international humanitarian law (under Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions, and customary international humanitarian law for a non-international armed conflict) requires warring parties to allow humanitarian personnel free movement. It also requires any warring party that imposes a blockade to do so in a manner that balances the anticipated military advantage with the potential harm to civilians. Human Rights Watch has identified numerous instances in which both parties to the conflict in Yemen have violated international humanitarian law, with devastating consequences for the civilian population.
In a recent piece for Just Security, Former NSC Senior Director for Counterterrorism Luke Hartig recently analyzed the Trump administration’s new drone strike policies and their implications for human rights, national security, and U.S. foreign policy. According to The New York Times, President Trump is considering a new policy for drone strikes recommended by his national security team. The administration is expected to publish a Principles, Standards, and Procedures (PSP) document, which will replace the Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG) that was drafted during President Obama’s administration. The revised policy could substantially impact counterterrorism operations around the world, particularly Yemen.