A U.N.-backed process to end Yemen’s nine-year conflict appeared to be moving forward recently. But then the war in Gaza began and tensions spilled over.
For nine years, Yemen was torn by a war that erupted when the Houthis, a Yemeni militia supported by Iran, ousted the government and took control of the country’s northwest.
Alarmed by an Iran-linked group taking control across the border, Saudi Arabia assembled a military coalition and launched a bombing campaign, backed by American weapons and support, in an attempt to reinstate the government. Instead, hundreds of thousands of people died from fighting, starvation and disease, and the coalition pulled back under international pressure, leaving the Houthis in power.
When 2023 dawned, it looked as if the Houthis and the Yemeni factions they had been fighting were finally ready to sign a peace deal. But then the war in Gaza began, and now the prospect of peace is unraveling.
The Houthis launched a series of attacks on ships in the Red Sea, a U.S.-led military coalition began pounding Yemen with airstrikes — including an intensive barrage on Sunday — and a U.S. decision to designate the Houthis a terrorist group temporarily blocked a crucial element of the peace process.
Anti-Houthi groups in Yemen saw an opening to claw back territory, and began calling for international support to reignite their fight. All of that has spoiled hopes that many diplomats had for the United Nations-backed peace deal, which had looked imminent for much of last year.
“The escalation in the Red Sea has resulted in the direct suspension of a deal that was anticipated to be announced in recent months,” said Ahmed Nagi, a senior Yemen analyst at the International Crisis Group, a think tank. “The U.N.-led political discussions are presently at a standstill.”