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Stop the UK Selling Arms to Saudi Arabia

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Yemen: British arms sales to Saudi Arabia under scrutiny
Channel 4 News, 23 August 2016

A personal appeal by Hamish Erskine, a plumber in Exeter.

Although I am now back in the UK and retrained as a plumber in 2011, I was previously a mathematics teacher and spent 14 years teaching in Yemen from 1995 until 2009. Yemen was a wild and wonderful place to live, with beautiful scenery, amazing architecture, and incredibly friendly and hospitable people.

Now in 2017, after nearly two years of war and intense aerial bombardment by Saudi Arabia, Yemen is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe, as documented by BBC Our World's 'Starving Yemen' on 26 September 2016. Yemen isn't in the British news in the way that Syria has been. Refugees have flooded out of Syria into Europe, and their plight has caught our attention. But Yemen's population is trapped, with land borders closed, a Saudi Arabian naval blockade around its coastline, and very few flights out of what is left of the country's airports.

As the Middle East's poorest country, even before the war Yemen imported 70% of its fuel, 90% of its food, and all its medical supplies. With its port facilities having been all but crippled by Saudi Arabian airstrikes, ships wait off its coastline for months at a time to unload their cargoes. The few remaining hospitals that haven't been bombed operate with only the most basic medical supplies. Lack of fuel means transportation of food and aid is severely hampered. Clean water is extracted by diesel pumps from aquifers that lie as much as 400 metres underground. Without diesel, there is no water to irrigate land for farming, and access to clean drinking water is severely limited. Food imports are all but cut-off. Fishing communities along its coastline cannot work as their boats are bombed by Saudi warplanes. Food prices have sky-rocketed, but with Yemen's economy devastated, most of the population is now unemployed. The population is starving, and it is the children who will die first.

It is our ally, Saudi Arabia, that is causing this devastation, and the UK is supporting it. In the first year since the start of the conflict on 26 March 2015, the UK licensed £3.3 billion of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, including £1 billion of bombs and missiles, up from only £9 million the previous year. Saudi Arabia has devastated Yemen's infrastructure, leaving the population to starve to death.

Meanwhile, the UK government has increased its aid to Yemen from £37 million, to £85 million, a mere drop in the ocean compared to the tens of billions of pounds worth of damage caused to its infrastructure by British and American made bombs. And that's not even counting the cost of human life and suffering.

In August 2015, the International Red Cross reported that 'five months of war in Yemen has wrought destruction similar to that seen in Syria after five years'. In January 2016, after 10 months of war, the UN reported that 'an astonishing 82% of the population needs humanitarian assistance - 21.2 million people, compared with 12.2 million in Syria. The food situation is particularly concerning, with 14.4 million people struggling to find enough to eat, including 1.3 million children who are acutely malnourished. Millions cannot access safe water or basic healthcare and 1.8 million children are out of school.'

From April to August 2016 there was a fragile cease-fire while parties sought a political solution, but Saudi's naval blockade was not lifted. Talks broke down and fighting and intense bombardment have continued since August. Now 20 months into the conflict, Yemen's population are perched on a cliff-edge, with Saudi Arabia pushing them mercilessly into an abyss of human suffering.

The UN reports that the conflict has now killed over 10,000 people, which is still small compared to the Syrian conflict. But numbers are set to sky rocket exponentially in the months ahead as famine sets in. And it is the children who will die in the greatest numbers.

It is imperative that Saudi Arabia ends its war against Yemen immediately. But it is unlikely to do so while the UK and USA continue supplying it with weapons. Even if the war ends today, the international relief effort required to stop the population from starving will be massive.

Of course, Saudi Arabia is not the only warring party. But as long as Saudi Arabia is trying to restore the previous Yemen government, a negotiated settlement is unlikely.

Enough is enough. We must stop the UK selling arms to Saudi Arabia, immediately.

Human Rights Watch, 24 August 2016

Overview of calls to stop the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia

On 7 October 2015, Amnesty International called on the UK and the USA to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners involved in the civil war in Yemen, citing evidence of war crimes being committed by Saudi Arabia with British and American weapons.

Please join me and add your voice to this urgent call.

Channel 4 News, 16 December 2015

On 28 September 2015, the spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General to the United Nations, made the following appeal:
“The Secretary-General has consistently stated that there is no military solution to the conflict in Yemen. Its continuation will only bring more human suffering and destruction. Earlier today addressing the United Nations General Assembly, he condemned the disregard shown by all sides for human life. The Secretary-General, therefore, again calls on all parties involved in the Yemeni conflict, from inside and outside the country, to immediately cease all military activities and resolve all differences through peaceful negotiations facilitated by his Special Envoy”.

On 18 August 2015, Peter Maurer, head of the International Red Cross, stated that ‘five months of war in Yemen has wrought destruction similar to that seen in Syria after five years.’

On 14 December 2015, Andrew Mitchell, a Tory MP and formerly the UK’s international development secretary, exposed the idiocy of the UK’s current policy towards Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The UK is paying millions of pounds in foreign aid to Yemen, supporting the crucial work of charities like Oxfam and Save The Children. At the same time, these charities have both had their Yemen offices bombed by Saudi warplanes dropping munitions supplied by the UK and the USA.

According to a report released on 22 December 2015, Yemen is now the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The Saudi-Coalition’s blockade of Yemen is preventing desperately needed supplies of food and medical supplies into the country. Yemen has a population of 26 million people and is the poorest Arab nation. Of those 26 million people, according to a BBC report on 15 December 2015, 21.2 million were then in need of humanitarian aid. 14.4 million were considered food-insecure and 19.3 million were without access to safe water and sanitation.

According to a report by the World Food Program on 10 December 2015, 10 out of 22 governorates in Yemen were classified as facing food insecurity at ‘emergency’ level – one step below famine. By March 2016, clear evidence was emerging that Yemen's children were starving.

BBC Newsnight 10/11/15

On 10 November 2015, BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis challenged Philip Hammond, then the UK’s Foreign Secretary, about the UK’s weapons trade with Saudi in light of accusations of war crimes committed by them against Yemen. Philip Hammond said that ‘we need to see proper investigations into these allegations in order to ensure that humanitarian laws have been complied with’. He assured her that UK licences for the sale of weapons to Saudi would be withdrawn if humanitarian laws were found not to have been followed. However, Saudi Arabia continued to commit war crimes, and the export of UK weapons to Saudi continues.

As recently as 24 December 2014, the Arms Trade Treaty came into force, having been signed and ratified by David Cameron. The United Kingdom played a key role in the creation of this historic treaty which was intended to hold nations accountable. The treaty itself states, “Of course, the ATT will only work if states do what they sign up to do.” But since the Saudi bombardment of Yemen began on 26 March 2015, the UK has failed to honour the very treaty it so recently helped to create and ratify.

On 11 December 2015, Amnesty International released a report which exposed the bombing of Yemeni schools by the Saudi coalition. They stated, “Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces have carried out a series of air strikes targeting schools that were still in use, in violation of international humanitarian law, and hampering access to education for thousands of Yemen’s children”.

On 17 December 2015, Amnesty International stated, “The UK Government is breaking national, EU and international law and policy by supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia in the context of its military intervention and bombing campaign in Yemen according to an analysis by eminent international law experts commissioned by Amnesty International UK and Saferworld”.

On 29 December 2015, Saudi warplanes bombed the Sanaa International School, leaving a burnt-out shell of what was formerly a beautiful educational oasis for the children of foreign diplomats, aid workers, and richer Yemenis.

On 5 January 2016, they bombed a school for the blind in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital.

On 10 January, UNESCO deplored the Saudi bombing of Yemen’s ancient city of Baraqish. This is an uninhabited historical site in the middle of the desert. It has no military significance whatsoever, and its bombing is nothing other than wanton vandalism of Yemen’s cultural heritage and an attempt to bash Yemeni pride. Saudi Arabia has also bombed other World Heritage sites in Yemen such as the Old Cities of Sanaa and Zabid, the historic centres of Saada, Mukalla and Taiz, as well as the Marib Dam.

According to Amnesty, the UK is fuelling the civil war in Yemen through its sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. This must stop.

The UK is still profiting from a weapons trade that has positioned Yemen right on the brink on impending famine and humanitarian catastrophe.

A UN brokered cease-fire came into force on 10 April 2016 to provide an opportunity for the various factions to reach a diplomatic solution. Tragically, talks were unsuccessful and fighting resumed in August, with renewed aerial bombardment from Saudi Arabia. Even during the period of cease-fire, Saudi Arabia maintained its naval blockade of Yemen's ports and coastline, preventing desperately needed aid and supplies from reaching the impoverished nation. Now in 2017, Yemen looks set to fall into an abyss of famine and misery.

Why is this issue important to me?

I haven’t always been a plumber. Originally from Scotland, I lived in Yemen for 14 years from 1995 until 2009, working as a mathematics teacher. My first 2 years were spent at a private Yemeni school in Taiz, Yemen’s second largest city in the south-west of the country. I then moved to Sanaa, the capital city, where I taught for 5 years in another Yemeni school, followed by 7 years at Sanaa International School. This was Yemen’s only real international school, catering for the children of western expatriates as well as those of rich Yemenis, the President, and government ministers.

Sanaa International School was built in the 1970’s by Jim Gilson, a pioneering American educationalist. His driving vision was to facilitate Yemen’s development by making it a viable destination for western families involved in diplomacy, development and the oil industry, as well as to educate Yemen’s future leaders. He opened the school in rented accommodation in 1971, and in 1975 persuaded the government to give him an empty plot of barren wasteland on the outskirts of the city for the construction of a purpose-built school. The school moved to this site in 1978, and over the next decade he continued to build and expand the site, turning it into a beautiful educational oasis. It was a special place for me to work for 7 years, and my children were educated there.

For a snapshot of what it was like for me to live and work in Yemen, watch the school video, produced in about 2003. I'm the maths teacher. I've since shaved my moustache!

Sanaa International School, 2003

On 29 December 2015, a Saudi war plane bombed the school, leaving much of it as a burnt-out shell, as shown in the following ‘before and after’ set of photos:
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Three months earlier on 23 September, UNICEF reported that the Saudi coalition had bombed 41 schools and 61 hospitals in Yemen in the first 6 months of its military campaign. On 14 December, Amnesty International reported on its investigations into 5 of these school bombings, as shown in the following video:
Bombings of civilian targets such as schools and hospitals are war crimes. The UK is complicit in such war crimes by its continued supply of weaponry to Saudi Arabia.

On 17 December 2015, in its report entitled ‘UK Government breaking the law supplying arms to Saudi Arabia’, Amnesty International stated, “This legal opinion confirms our long-held view that the continued sale of arms from the UK to Saudi Arabia is illegal, immoral and indefensible. Thousands of civilians have been killed in Saudi Arabia-led airstrikes, and there’s a real risk that misery was ‘Made in Britain’.”

Furthermore, the besieged City of Taiz, where I lived for 2 years, is now in a desperate situation, with 200,000 residents trapped by a Houthi blockade and being bombed from the air by Saudi war planes. The main hospital now lacks even the most basic medical supplies. To make matters worse, on 2 December 2015 a clinic run by Doctors Without Borders (Medecin Sans Frontieres) was bombed by Saudi war planes.

On 28 September 2015, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General to the United Nations, made the following appeal:
“The Secretary-General has consistently stated that there is no military solution to the conflict in Yemen. Its continuation will only bring more human suffering and destruction….The Secretary-General, therefore, again calls on all parties involved in the Yemeni conflict, from inside and outside the country, to immediately cease all military activities and resolve all differences through peaceful negotiations facilitated by his Special Envoy”.

Please add your voice to an appeal for the immediate withdrawal of licences for the sale of UK arms to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners involved in the war in Yemen. Having been complicit in this war through the sale of arms, and in the war crimes committed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, the UK must now do all in its power to bring about a peaceful negotiated settlement to this conflict.
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Why Is There A War In Yemen?

Yemen is much like Scotland was a few hundred years ago - a mountainous country populated by lots of competing and often militant tribes. Think for one moment of the film ‘Braveheart’, the Hollywood dramatisation of the story of William Wallace in about the year 1300 AD. Imagine that when Wallace invaded England he had got all the way to London, the city had fallen and he had succeeded in overthrowing the British government. Imagine the bloody civil war that would have ensued as he tried to then impose Scottish rule over the rest of England. Then catapult such a scenario into the 21st century, and imagine that the European Union decides to ‘help’ the situation by bombing the heck out of Scotland and also much of England. That is kind of what is happening in Yemen today, except that instead of the Scots it is the Houthis, and instead of the European Union it is the 9-nation Sunni coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

Most of Yemen’s population are Sunni muslims, but the Houthi tribe in the North belong to the Zaidi sect of Shia Islam. Although theologically much closer to Sunni Islam than the Iranian Shiites, Saudi Arabia still views them as a threat and has consistently accused them of being supported and supplied by the Iranians.

In the Middle East, there are 3 great tensions:
1) The Israeli-Palestinian tension

2) Fundamentalist Muslims vs. Moderate Muslims

3) Sunni Muslims vs. Shia Muslims.
Most westerners are aware of the first two, but not so aware of the third. In reality, the third one is probably the biggest of them all. Yemen is embroiled in tribal tensions, but is also caught in the middle of the Sunni-Shia tension.

Between 1918 and 1962, North Yemen was a kingdom ruled by an Imam from the Zaidi Shia tribe. After he was overthrown in a popular revolution, there was a long-drawn-out civil war between the Zaidi loyalists and a Republican movement supported by Egypt's President, Gamal Abdul Nasser. Eventually the Republicans won in 1969, by which time Egypt had lost so many of its soldiers that Yemen became known as 'Egypt's Vietnam'. North Yemen then became a republic ruled by a majority-Sunni government, and the Zaidi Shias became a marginalised minority. In 1990, North Yemen merged with South Yemen to become a single country. The Zaidi Shias became known as the Houthis after 2004, when Hussein al-Houthi arose as their leader and led an armed insurgency against the government. Hussein al-Houthi was soon killed by government forces, but his brother Abdul-Malik al-Houthi took over, and remains as their leader today.

A New York Times article entitled ‘Nasser’s Ghost Hovers Over Yemen’ makes an interesting comparison between Yemen’s civil war of the 1960’s and that of today.

When I lived in Sanaa up until 2009, the Houthi insurgency was a stop-start-stop-start kind of war that was mainly confined to the Saada region, 120 miles north of the capital. Occasionally they launched attacks near Sanaa, and several times they tried to take the airport. But the government was fairly strong under the leadership of then President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and it seemed unlikely the Houthis would achieve much.

In 2011, Yemen was destabilised by the Arab Spring. While the government had a popular uprising to deal with, groups like the Houthis in the North, and Al-Qaeda in the South, took advantage of the situation and managed to make significant gains. Meanwhile Western governments became gripped by a naive and deluded euphoria that western-style democracy was about to sweep the Middle East. They withdrew much of their support from embattled leaders like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh, even though these leaders had been pro-Western allies up until that point. In 2012, Ali Abdullah Saleh finally stepped down under internal and external pressure to leave. His vice-president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi was elected as President through a election in which he was the only candidate (if you can call that democracy!!!!) After leaving Presidential office, Ali Abdullah Saleh allied himself to his former enemies, the Houthis. In September 2014, with backing from forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Houthis successfully invaded Sanaa and government forces surrendered.

The Houthis then consolidated their position in Sanaa, and attempted to form a proper government, in negotiation with President Hadi, who was placed under house-arrest. However, negotiations broke down and he escaped and fled to Aden. The Houthis then marched on Aden, and the President fled to Saudi.

Once in Saudi, deposed-President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi gave the Saudis exactly what they had been waiting for - a request for armed intervention. Together with UN Resolution 2201, this enabled Saudi Arabia to enter Yemen’s civil war with a facade of legitimacy.

Perhaps you are wondering why Saudi wanted to get involved? You now need to understand a bit more about the Sunni-Shia tension, and the corresponding rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Because of its immense oil-wealth, Saudi Arabia has been the Middle East’s most powerful nation for the last fifty years or so. Saudi is a Sunni-majority nation, with a Shia minority who make up about ten percent of the population and are concentrated in its oil-rich Eastern Province. The second most powerful nation is Iran, which is a Shia-majority nation. Over the last decade or so, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Gulf countries have become increasingly alarmed by Iran’s rising power and influence in the Middle East. They have become especially alarmed since the 2011 Arab Spring which threatened to upset the political status quo in many Sunni-majority nations with Shia minorities. Saudi Arabia intervened militarily in Bahrain to help put down a Shia uprising in 2011. They feared that a successful Shia uprising in Bahrain might lead to a successful Shia uprising in Saudi Arabia, and that they might lose their oil-rich Eastern Province to a break-away Shia movement. Saudi Arabia is also afraid of the rising might of Iran, that Iran might one day attack them. They are particularly concerned by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and by the recent lifting of Western sanctions against Iran. Saudi feels the threat of Iran on its eastern side, just across the waters of the Persian Gulf. It feels further threatened by the possibility of an Iranian-backed government in Yemen, on its southern border. North of Saudi lies Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Asad’s Iranian-backed government in what is left of Syria.

It’s a Middle Eastern Cold-War between Saudi and Iran that is likely to get ever more intense over the next few years. Saudi Arabia is now the world's biggest importer of weapons, and with the United States and Britain being the world's two biggest arms exporters, their relationship with Saudi is extremely lucrative. Not only are they fuelling this cold war from the Saudi side, but also incredibly from the Iranian side. The West's recent deal with Iran and lifting of sanctions in exchange for promises regarding its nuclear program involved the release of billions of dollars of frozen Iranian assets. And with sanctions removed and Iran able to freely export its massive oil reserves, the Iranian economy is set to take off, big-time!. The Saudis may be right to fear the writing on the wall, that like ancient Babylon, their days are numbered. For based on their abysmal human rights record, they are certainly to be found wanting. If, or more realistically ‘when’ Iran builds a nuclear weapon, it is much more likely to be pointed at Saudi Arabia than at Israel as most people assume.

The rise of ISIS has greatly aroused interest and excitement among many Muslims around the world concerning Islamic prophecies of an imminent end-time apocalypse. ISIS see themselves as preparing the way for the Mahdi, the Islamic Messiah who will supposedly lead Islam to victory and conquer the world. According to Islamic prophecies, the end-time apocalypse includes the destruction of Mecca and Medina, after which the Mahdi will supposedly conquer Jerusalem and make it the eternal capital of Islam. If you think Iran might one day nuke Tel Aviv, think again. It is too close to Jerusalem, their coveted capital. But nuke Mecca? Much more likely! Now the Iran deal might allow the inspectors in and be a short-term set back to Iran’s nuclear program. But in a few years time, they will be in a much stronger position to build the bomb than they are today. Just listen to what Benjamin Netanyahu had to say about the Iran deal. Whatever you think about Israeli politics, no-one tells the truth about the Iran deal like Netanyahu. And who knows? Perhaps Mecca really will suffer such a fate, even like Mystery Babylon of the biblical apocalypse. The biblical imagery seems strangely appropriate. The rulers of the nations have for too long been intoxicated with Saudi’s oil, ‘the wine of her adulteries’ perhaps.

On 26 March 2015, Saudi Arabia launched Operation Decisive Storm against Yemen, having successfully put together a nine-nation Sunni coalition. The name of the campaign was deliberately similar to Operation Desert Storm, and suggests that Saudi Arabia sees itself as leading a new kind of Sunni-Islamic Nato that will police the Middle East and put down the rising threat of Shia Iran and its allies.

Don’t suppose for one moment that Saudi cares one iota about poor deposed President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, or about the people of Yemen. Saudi is in this to save its own skin, and will happily bomb the heck out of the Yemeni people to achieve that. But understand this - the unrelenting aggression that Saudi Arabia has shown towards Yemen in the last year is not in retaliation for any sin committed by Yemen against Saudi. True, the Houthis have responded with attacks across the Saudi border, but this is not about Saudi defending its territory against Houthi aggression. Neither is it to help Yemen in any bizarre kind of way. Rather, it is because Saudi is afraid of an impending day of judgement for its own sins. And the most likely agent of that judgement is Iran.

David Cameron simplistically understood Saudi’s war against Yemen to be a justifiable defence of Yemen’s legitimate government. In reality, Yemen needs a negotiated settlement and a government which represents the interests of Yemen’s different ethnic groups.

In its paranoid fear of Iran and Shia muslims, Saudi is now the world’s largest importer of weapons. As the world's largest exporters of weapons, the USA and the UK want to maintain friendly relations with Saudi Arabia. It's not only weapons, but also many other goods that we export to Saudi to boost our economies, along with our interest in importing Saudi's oil.

Consequently the UK and the USA remain in bed with the Saudi regime, prepared to supply them with whatever they ask for. Never mind that Amnesty International say, “The continued sale of arms from the UK to Saudi Arabia is illegal, immoral and indefensible.”

Come on Britain and America, enough of our immoral threesome and her intoxicating wine. It’s time to get out of bed with Saudi Arabia!

Summary of the Internal Parties in the Yemen conflict

1) The Houthis
As discussed above, the Houthis are a tribe from Northern Yemen who belong to the Zaidi Sect of Shia Islam, which represents approximately 25% of Yemen's population. From 1918 until 1962, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, North Yemen was ruled by Zaidi Imams (theocratic monarchs), but they were overthrown in the 1962 republican revolution and subsequent civil war. When Hussein Al-Houthi started an armed insurgency in 2004, it seemed that they wanted to achieve better representation in Yemen's government. When they successfully took Yemen's capital, Sanaa, in 2014, they entered into negotiations with President Hadi, during which it seemed that their intention was to form a new and more inclusive coalition government. But since negotiations broke down, and President Hadi was forced to flee in early 2015, it would seem, if I understand things correctly, that their goal changed to that of restoring the Zaidi Imamate and imposing their rule over all of Yemen. For a timeline of their rise to power and take-over of Yemen, click here.

2) Forces loyal to deposed President Hadi
These are referred to as the 'Popular Resistance', or sometimes as the 'Legitimate Yemen Government'. In a country like Yemen, it is hard to define what makes a government legitimate unless it actually holds the reins of power. Governments are not really chosen by a process of democracy, although Yemen has certainly been working towards democracy for many years, allowing elections at various levels. When Hadi was elected as President in 2012 after the resignation of Ali Abdullah Saleh, he was the only candidate. So his legitimacy is not really arguable on the basis of democracy. In a place like Yemen, where governments change through assassinations, revolutions and coups, a government is arguably legitimate once it holds the reins of power and is recognised as the de facto government by much of its internal population. International recognition would then normally follow. Because of Saudi Arabia's opposition to the Houthi government, that never happened, and because of the West's strong alliance with Saudi Arabia, western governments have continued to view Hadi as representing the legitimate government of Yemen. Hadi returned from refuge in Saudi after his forces successfully retook Aden in August 2015, with the help of Saudi Arabia. Since then, he has made Aden his de facto capital, but Al Qaeda and ISIS continue to seriously undermine and threaten his control of southern Yemen, and even his very presence in Aden.

3) Forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh
When Saleh stepped down as President in 2012, the Republican Guard remained under the control of his eldest son, Ahmed, who Saleh had long wanted to succeed him. Saleh quietly allied himself with his former enemies, the Houthis, and the Republican Guard then also joined the Houthi side. As President, Saleh was leader of the General Peoples Congress party (GPC), and if I understand correctly, many of his former GPC supporters continue to support him on the Houthi side.

4) Islah (the Muslim Brotherhood party in Yemen)
Islah have long been a Yemeni political party, and their followers have been especially instrumental in resisting the Houthi take-over and siege of the southern city of Taiz. So far, Hadi has tried to appease them and keep them on his side, but with loyalties to Al Qaeda, this is a potentially dangerous relationship.

5) The Southern Nationalists (HIRAK)
In 1990, South Yemen united with North Yemen to form one country. After the British left Aden in 1967, South Yemen became a communist republic, but after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1989, they decided it was in their best interests to unite with the North. Southern President, Ali Salem al Beidh, entered into a power-sharing agreement with Northern President, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Elections in 1993 left Ali Salem al Beidh feeling marginalised, and tensions erupted in a short civil war in 1994, which the North won. Since then many southerners have resented northern rule and regretted the unification of 1990. But until the current Yemen War, Southern Nationalists never had the strength or means to seriously challenge northern rule or and demand secession of the South. In early 2016, after the Houthis were driven out of Aden with help from Saudi Arabia, Hadi returned to Aden and established an alliance with HIRAK.

6) Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
Since Al Qaeda has been effectively driven out of many locations by the West's War on Terror, the Saudi war against Yemen has allowed them to make significant gains, establishing an Al Qaeda Emirate of Yemen along 340 miles of Yemen's southern coastline. On 2 April 2015, shortly after the start of the Saudi bombardment of Yemen, AQAP captured the southern port city of Al-Mukalla in Hadramaut province, to make it the capital of their new mini-state. They held the city for a year before it was retaken on 25 April 2016 by forces loyal to President Hadi, with the help of forces from the UAE. But AQAP remains a significant player in the conflict. Being a fundamentalist Sunni Salafi-Jihadist group, AQAP are strongly opposed to the Houthis, as well as to Hadi's attempts to reform a Yemen government.

7) ISIS
Like AQAP, ISIS are also a significant player in the conflict. Although they don't control territory in the way that AQAP does, ISIS has terrorist cells spread around Yemen, aiming to disrupt stability and make its presence known by regular deadly bombings, especially targeting Yemeni soldiers and new recruits. On 6 December 2015 they assassinated Aden Governor, Jaafar Mohamed Saad. Other recent bombings claimed by ISIS in Yemen include a suicide bombing in Aden on 23 May 2016, four bombings of Yemeni soldiers at security checkpoints in southern Yemen during Ramadan on 29 June 2016, and a deadly car bombing of an army recruitment centre in Aden on 29 August 2016.
Website designed and written by Hamish Erskine
© 2016 Hamish Erskine
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