Yemen – obstacles and pathways to peace

Liberal International British Group, amongst other things, organise discussion events on international issues. On 19 March, they’ll be discussing the situation in Yemen.

The war in Yemen started in 2015, in the Middle East’s poorest country. Since then there have been more than ten thousand fatalities. As of now, there have been more than one million cases of cholera and more than two and a half thousands related deaths. The already-weakened economy has all but collapsed and the UN reports than two million children are suffering from acute malnutrition, with thousands reportedly dying of starvation.

It has variously been described as:

  • a civil war between rebels aligned to the Houthis and to the late former President Saleh on the one side and the recognised Hadi government on the other
  • a ‘preventative’ proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran
  • part of a religious war between Sunnis and Shias
  • a fallout from Russian ‘successes’ in Syria
  • a fallout from the Arab Spring
  • a by-product of America’s global War on Terror against Al Qaeda (or IS) and affiliates

Are there pathways to peace to be found in some of these macro-analyses, or on the ground is reconciliation and peace fatally inhibited by shifting tribal rivalries born of the chaos of war, desperate poverty and easy access to arms? Both sides in the conflict have been accused of committing war crimes, most notably related to Saudi air strikes and blockade. Should peace come before accountability?

In European countries little is known about the war and only a minority of their peoples are aware of its existence. It receives little attention in the mainstream media, and it is way down the agendas of the respective foreign ministries. However, the mass horrors of such a war have a habit of biting back.

Desperate people do desperate things. From destabilisation arising from mass refugee flows to GCC countries and the Horn of Africa, to gun running across the region, and strains in the UK’s close ally Oman, which borders Yemen, such wars always have consequences. Yemen borders the Al Mandeb Straights, which is the Red Sea gateway to the Suez canal through which a third of Europe’s maritime oil passes. Disruption of this flow would have a major negative impact on the European economy.

European countries therefore have very good reasons to understand better the conflict, its origins and sustaining factors, and the potential steps for peace. There is a premium on looking beyond the simple narratives which obscure the complex set of pro-peace steps needed.

This open discussion will feature known experts on the war and will explore the reality of the factors sustaining it. Participants will be invited to set aside the partisan narratives of the belligerents and their backers and attempt an objective assessment of the factors and recent history that led to the conflict. There will be a pursuit of a deeper understanding as to what it will take to end the war, and establish a peace that leads to stability and prosperity.

The meeting will take place at the National Liberal Club at 6.30 p.m. on Monday, March 19th. If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP to Mark Smulian at mark[at]marksmulian[dot]co[dot]uk.

* Paul Reynolds works with multilateral organisations as an independent adviser on international relations, economics, and senior governance. He is a member of the Lib Dem Federal International Relations Committee and an Executive member of Liberal International (British Group).

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This entry was posted in Europe / International.


  • Steve Trevethan 22nd Jan '18 - 9:19am

    Thank you for a most interesting and important piece on Yemen.
    Thank you for drawing attention to “Foreign Policy” matters.
    And it does!

  • Mark Smulian 22nd Jan '18 - 3:00pm

    All are welcome to attend this meeting – there is no need to RSVP or make any booking.

  • Tony Dawson 22nd Jan '18 - 5:57pm

    One of my constituents and a good friend is the nephew of the former vice president of Yemen – the former president of North Yemen. He is very sad at what is happening to his country. I am very sad that neither our government nor our major media appear to have any capability of addressing more than one or two at the most ‘matters foreign’ at the same time, thus allowing all sorts of horrifying things to continue. A famous quote of Lyndon Johnson relating to inability to chew gum and perform other activity comes to mind. 🙁

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