A Setback for the Saudi-Led War on Yemen

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By DANIEL LARISON

UAE-backed separatists in southern Yemen have seized control of Aden in opposition to the Saudi-backed Hadi government:

Southern Yemeni separatists took control of the port city of Aden after two days of fighting, residents said on Tuesday, confining the internationally-recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to the presidential palace.

Tensions between the two sides have been building for months, and the UAE made clear a while back that they had no use for Hadi. The rejection of Hadi’s authority in the south echoes his overthrow in the north three years ago. The UAE is a member of the so-called “coalition to restore legitimacy” that intervened in 2015 to reimpose Hadi as president, and now they back forces inside Yemen that don’t accept Hadi’s rule, either. Hadi has denounced the move as a “coup,” but his position is so weak that he remains in Riyadh as a virtual prisoner of his Saudi backers. The recent events in Aden underscore how little support Hadi has inside his own country, and it tells us that the Saudi-led coalition’s poor justification for intervening in Yemen has been completely discredited. There are very few Yemenis in the north or south that want the “legitimate” government, so when will the Saudis and their Western patrons stop insisting on restoring that government to power?

Southern Yemenis have legitimate political grievances that have long been ignored by governments in Sanaa, and the UAE has effectively exploited that rift for its own purposes. The split between the UAE’s proxies and Hadi may help the Emiratis to carve out a sphere of influence for themselves, but it makes the coalition’s stated war goals much harder to achieve. In the meantime, the civilian population of Aden has been forced to suffer more violence and instability. As usual, it is Yemeni civilians throughout the country who are paying the price for the ambitions, cruelty, and ineptitude of their political leaders and foreign governments. The entire country desperately needs a cease-fire and a negotiated political settlement. To that end, the U.S. needs to end its support for the coalition’s war and begin pressing its clients to end their military campaign and blockade.