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The Saudi Coalition Is Tearing Itself Apart

The Saudi coalition and its proxies are once again fighting among themselves as the UAE-backed separatists rose up against the Hadi government and seized control of most of Aden [1]:

Yemeni separatists took over most of the southern city of Aden on Saturday, a major blow to the country’s internationally recognized government and to efforts by Saudi Arabia to put it back in control of all of Yemen.

The takeover followed four days of intense fighting that terrified residents, killed dozens of people and split one of the main coalitions fighting Yemen’s civil war.

The loss of Aden means that Yemen’s government no longer has a foothold in two of the country’s most important cities, even though it is internationally recognized.

The UAE and its proxies have been sharply at odds with the Hadi government for at least the last two years. This is hardly the first time that separatists and forces loyal to Hadi have come to blows [2], but this is latest move is just the most aggressive effort on their part to dislodge and replace a government that has virtually no support inside the country. Hadi has the distinction of having had his government ousted on two occasions from two different capitals. The separatists’ takeover of Aden underscores how badly things have deteriorated in Yemen and how completely the Saudi coalition has failed in achieving its stated goals. It also shows how the war has served to fragment Yemen, including and especially in those areas controlled by the coalition.

The Saudi coalition is still slaughtering Yemeni civilians [3], but now it is also targeting Yemenis in the south that oppose Hadi’s government:

A Saudi-led coalition launched Sunday a strike against Yemen’s southern separatists after clashes in the second city Aden left around 40 people dead, threatening to push the war-ravaged nation deeper into turmoil.

The strike came a day after the separatists seized the presidential palace in Aden, a move decried by the Riyadh-backed Yemeni government as a UAE-supported coup.

Few things could better illustrate the absurdity of our Yemen policy than attacks by one part of the U.S.-backed coalition against another part. The U.S. has insisted that it is supporting the restoration of Hadi’s government, but it just so happens that no one in any part of Yemen wants to be governed by Hadi or his Saudi backers. The UAE has been carving out its own sphere of influence in southern Yemen for some time, so their high-profile “withdrawal” [4] from Yemen earlier in the summer was just a change in the manner of their role in the conflict. Even though the UAE may be pulling back its own forces, they will continue to interfere in Yemen’s affairs through their proxies for a long while to come.

The best thing for the U.S. to do under the circumstances is to withdraw all support from both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, give up on the fantasy of putting Hadi back in power, and pressure both governments to lift the blockade and end their economic war on the rest of the country. Eighteen months ago, I commented [2] on a previous clash in Aden between the separatists and Hadi’s government and said this:

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.

The civilian population of Aden are once again the main victims of this escalation in fighting, and tens of thousands are already fleeing the city to get away from it. The Saudi coalition’s intervention in Yemen has been a curse on Yemenis in both the north and south, and the U.S. has shamefully backed that intervention every step of the way. Congress must keep pressing to cut off the flow of arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and shutting off all U.S. military assistance to the coalition.

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