Otto attacchi in quindici giorni: è questo il numero dei missili lanciati dagli huthi yemeniti contro l’Arabia Saudita tra l’11 e il 23 aprile.(1) La sicurezza nazionale saudita è evidentemente a rischio. Nonostante gli insorti sciiti zaiditi si siano dimostrati, finora, degli scarsi lanciatori, non riuscendo a centrare gli obiettivi prefissati, il bilancio dell’intervento militare in Yemen si rivela sempre più fallimentare.
L’area del Mediterraneo allargato continua a essere caratterizzata da numerose crisi che, lungi dal risolversi, sembrano invece diventare sempre più profonde, coinvolgendo un crescente numero di attori. I focolai di conflitto sono inoltre circondati da contesti e aree in via di transizione che, in cerca di un nuovo equilibrio, difficilmente potranno dare un contributo alla stabilizzazione dell’area.
The war in Yemen has enhanced transnational insecurity between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, with the Gulf of Aden as the epicentre of this insecurity: nevertheless, Yemen and Somalia still maintain distinct features.
Too often depicted as yet another arena in the proxy war between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, the Yemeni conflict has much more to do with a domestic struggle for power rather than sectarian – and supposedly archaic – rivalries. But with the opening of a new round of conflict after the 2011 Arab Spring, and even more after the 2015 Saudi-led intervention, the conflict underwent a dynamic of “sectarianisation”, or politicization of religious identities.
The war in Yemen enters its fourth year: in March 2015, the Saudi-led Arab coalition started a controversial military intervention in Yemen, with the purpose to reinstate the government after a coup by insurgents in Sana’a. After years of stalemate, the conflict is still under way: nobody is winning the war, while diplomacy keeps on failing. What is the impact of the conflict on Yemen’s tribal, political, economic, and military structures?
The military expansion of the Houthis and forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh into Southern Yemen in February 2015, after the flight of president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to Aden, exacerbated the north-south division of the country, highlighting its fragmentation. This led to a strong military response in the South to what appeared to be a new invasion by Northern forces after the 1994 war: from that moment on, new military and political orientations have risen in the South, as well as increased popular support for separatism.
After Houthi rebels executed a coup against the government in January 2015, and marched towards Aden, absorbing the territory of the internationally-recognized President Abd-Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, the Saudi-led coalition launched a military campaign in Yemen (26 March 2015), under the declared aim of reinstating the legitimate government and protecting its southern borders. From that moment on, the conflict has escalated and fighting fronts extended, resulting in a complex war that has so far defied all efforts at peacemaking.
The rise of the Houthi upended the tribal political alliances that formed the backbone of republican Yemen in the north but without altering the dominance of tribes and tribalism. The Houthi adroitly manipulated local tribal politics in the north during many years of conflict to defeat the Houthi enemies in the tribal leadership that had dominated the north under the Saleh regime. At the same time, the Houthi attacked the political bases of the Islah party and the allied military forces of Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar.
Yemen’s tribal army does not exist anymore, replaced by a plethora of militias, sometimes institutionalised: only a federal-based reform of the security sector could limit the rising territorial power of warlords. A survey conducted by the Yemen Polling Centre in 2017 sheds further light on this point: at the question “Who brings security in this area?”, only 16% of Yemenis all over the country answer “the police/security authorities”.