More than other countries, Yemen is about permeable boundaries, human connections and ideological contaminations. Nevertheless, Yemen has been widely investigated as an unicum detached from the neighbouring Gulf monarchies, although sharing with them ties and similarities. But the civil conflict, begun in 2015, has triggered dynamics of transnational instability at the forefront: this affects the Arabian Peninsula and its neighbourhoods as a whole, transcending Yemen’s borders and thus requiring holistic lenses of study.
This Dossier traces the direct and indirect, material and immaterial implications of this four-year war. Doing so, it aims to expand analysis’ horizons beyond consolidated schemes, thus providing a “peninsular perspective” of the crisis and its systemic legacies.
As a matter of fact, Saudi Arabia’s border was much safer before its military intervention in Yemen than now, and Saudi national security was not threatened by repeated Houthi missile attacks. Areas not affected by the conflict, Houthi expansion or jihadi militancy, like Oman’s frontier with the eastern Yemeni region of Mahra or the island of Socotra, have subtly turned into arenas of indirect power competition among Saudis, Emiratis and, in the first case, Omanis. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) now predominantly targets UAE Special Forces and Emirati-backed southern militias in Yemen; in a recent audio, AQAP’s official, Khalid Al-Batarfi, threatened Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar and for the first time mentioned Sultan Qaboos of Oman. A “double-sided migration” out of Yemen, but most of all from eastern Africa to Yemen, generates further layers of human insecurity for internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees and hosting communities. Maritime security and freedom of navigation through the Red Sea, the Bab el-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden are put under rising pressure, given Houthi missile attacks, water-borne improvised explosive devices and mines. In the eyes of the Gulf’s rulers, the Horn of Africa has acquired a new strategic resonance due also to the war in Yemen, but this has been paving the way for deepened local rifts and exported rivalries.
The war in Yemen has a domestic genealogy: it started as a regime crisis enhancing centre-periphery conflicts for political power and resources. Four years on, transnational factors. have overshadowed the original drivers of war, intertwining with local battlefields and local players. This tells much about the complexity of conflict resolution.
Rising hostilities in the Hajja governorate, the south-western border of Saudi Arabia, epitomize how transnational instability works and how stratified the conflict is. In 2010, the Houthis started to take control of this region known for transnational kinship networks of smuggling to and from Saudi Arabia: the truce brokered with the local Hajouri tribe in 2013 has now broken up, leading to a quick escalation since January 2019, mostly in the Kushar district. The current dispute in Hajja, although rooted in local balances, contains almost all the strata identifiable in the Yemeni war: tribesmen (Hajouri) against a movement originating from the sada Zaydi elite (the Houthis), the clash between peripheral forces (the Houthis) and a tribe widely affiliated with the two parties of the previous ruling system, the indirect backing of Saudi Arabia and Iran and, to a certain extent, the Sunni-Shia dimension, since the Hajouri tribe has linkages with the Salafi milieu.
Looking at this complex picture, the Yemen war’s transnational implications and legacies should lead analysts, academics and policy-makers to reflect upon a quite neglected reality: the Arabian Peninsula. Transnationalism as “the multiple ties and interactions linking people or institutions across the borders of nation-states” introduces a dynamic analytical angle able to complement the fixed, and in some cases Orientalist, triangle of understanding based on tribes, oil and authoritarianism, often adopted as the dominant pattern to approach the area, thus reinforcing mythologies and stereotypes about it. 
Through the centuries, the Arabian Peninsula, and Yemen in it, developed thanks to wide and consolidated networks of people, trade, religion, culture, diaspora with eastern Africa, the Persian world, Southern and Southeast Asia.However, contemporary academic studies have often addressed Yemen and the Gulf monarchies as distinct spaces: few authors have called for recognizing the Arabian Peninsula as a sub-region, bridging the form of government divide (six monarchies and a republic) to identify interconnections among them.But ironically, recent events have empirically contributed to shedding light on a different path, marked by converging trends in the Peninsula: the post-9/11 war on terror, the emergence of AQAP, the Arab uprisings and now Yemen and the Gulf monarchies’ common need to go beyond energy-based economies.
Nowadays, the phenomenon of transnational instability allows scholars and observers to (re)discover the Arabian Peninsula’s inner interdependence, made up of roots, connections and flows, shifting the attention from the state level (Yemen and the Gulf monarchies) to that of emerging processes(for instance, border threats, maritime security, transnational patronage), that need to be studied as sub-regional dynamics, since they are more and more correlated to the whole Peninsula.
For analysts, this peninsular perspective offers valuable tools of investigation: this means firstly assuming that what has been happening in Yemen and the Gulf monarchies, or better say in the sub-region of the Arabian Peninsula, is deeply related to the Red Sea, the Sinai Peninsula, the Horn of Africa, the western Indian Ocean, and vice versa. Translated: staying local but keeping an eye on broader implications and networks. Secondly, this angle provides a theoretical escape from the ´sectarian prism` (Saudi Arabia versus Iran), which has overwhelmed the debate about the Gulf region, thus influencing analyses and forecasts, as occurred for the Yemen war itself, still framed by some media as a sectarian-born conflict or a purely proxy war.
What’s interesting is that, while the Gulf monarchies are struggling to build stronger states, strengthening geopolitical power and national identities also through the military dimension, the Saudi and Emirati-led armed intervention has accelerated Yemen’s state fracturing and its process of gradual feudalization among local micro-powers driven by militias. The interaction between these opposite trends is likely to produce further dynamics, as increased transnationalism already suggests, consolidating transnational patronage connections that bypass contested central institutions. As national boundaries weaken, governance, power and security become local matters : this has been happening in Yemen, enabling transnational dynamics and networks to (re)forge domestic balances. For this reason, the main legacy of the war in Yemen is, from a theoretical viewpoint, a renewed look at the saliency of a peninsular perspective.
 Sheila Carapico, “Arabia Incognita: An Invitation to Arabian Peninsula Studies”, in Madawi Al-Rasheed and Robert Vitalis (eds.), Counter-Narratives: History, Contemporary Society and Politics in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Palgrave, 2004.
 Eleonora Ardemagni, Yemen’s nested conflict(s): Layers, geographies and feuds, ORIENT-German Journal for Politics, Economics and Culture of the Middle East, (forthcoming, April 2019) and Eleonora Ardemagni, Localizing Security: A NationalGuard for Federal Yemen, ISPI Policy Brief, Italian Institute for International Political Studies, December 2018.