tv Wilson Center Discussion on Yemen CSPAN December 18, 2018 2:33pm-3:38pm EST
we see in regard to these devices are when they misinterpret something we asked them to do or something we say. can you talk about how hard that is to get that technology right and efforts to overcome that hurdle? judith: it is incredibly hard to program a computer to have a conversation. it is something people have been working on for 50 years. there been great leaps in natural language processing. >> r.i.m jane harman, president, ceo of the wilson center. i am delighted to welcome you to the second major event in this room today at the wilson center. we had a standing room only event this morning on china, the u.s. china relationship and how we are in a new cold war. panelists said no, just so you know. spoiler alert, they said no.
on anfternoon's panel is issue that is just as and may be in immediate terms, more momentous than the one this morning. i traveled to the middle east over my nines terms in congress and i have or six timesve since coming to the wilson center almost eight years ago. delegationressional i went to yemen. i think this was about 15 years ago. i was there on a fact-finding mission to assess the situation. r viableth about fou political parties. this may sound like a parallel universe, but i remember it well. i heard detail about the civil war with the cohen -- with the houthis, which existed.
likeember important issues yemen was running out of both oil resources and water. quite a calamity, but there was hope because there was some political capacity and certainly some or more than some, peace. those days seem far, far away. and i do not think anybody would disagree with me, the conflict in yemen is the largest humanitarian crisis on the planet, among other competitors, but in this case, mass starvation, millions of refugees, a calera epidemic -- chole epidemic and the civil warra. competitors might be syria, the ethnic cleansing in myanmar, and the dire consequences of accelerating climate change. that is pretty serious competition. and catastrophically, yemen is leading.
so what is the good news? is there good news? one thing i noticed and i am sure you all did, too, was a few days ago there were signs of life in the united states congress. after everyone just nodded, after a long time just observing the situation, last thursday the senate passed a resolution by a 56-41, a bipartisan vote, prohibiting the u.s. military assistance to yemen. the senate also voted unanimously to condemn the crown prince of saudi arabia for the murder of jamal khashoggi. that one is personal to us here because khashoggi had been invited to come here as one of our scholars. as we know, saudi arabia and been alarly mbs, has driver between the conflict between saudi arabia and the houthis. the action by congress was
time-limited, but attention is now being paid to the issue. i amformer member there, pleased to see the article one branch of government pledged to defend the united states and project our interests around the world is paying attention. today's panel could not be more timely. what are the prospects for peace and a political settlement in yemen? how would the international community planning to scale up humanitarian aid? hopefully it is planning to. what is the impact on future relations with the gulf? these questions and others will to a stellar panel by the director of our middle east program, aaron david miller. you won't know him from this incarnation and on the airwaves and in the blog is but he also and'sfor six secretaries
-- of state and focused his file on the middle east. please welcome aaron miller, who will introduce our panelists. although his name is illegible on the wall in the back -- we have our own wall here, where those who speak signer names. one of our panelists, robert worth, is back after a hiatus of a couple years. we are delighted to welcome him back. please welcome back david miller. -- aaron miller. mr. miller: thank you. i would agree if there was ever a perfect storm of disasters and horrors, it is yemen. at least it is finally getting hopefully its share of attention. the relative tamping down of violence in syria, which hereto for taken pride to place as the middle east's most horrific disaster. the increasing reality of widespread famine, the battle for hodeidah, which could have
been and still might be a projection of a new set of horrors, and the epic murder of jamal khashoggi has focused attention. i think jane is right. it is significant one of the few issues which have driven a bipartisan community of interest in the u.s. senate in this era of partisanship has been khashoggi's murder and yemen. there may well be no conflict in the world today with so many moving parts. most of which are moving in the wrong direction. u.n. envoy martin howevers efforts, perhaps, to begin a series of confidence builders in sweden, a cease-fire that appears to be holding, may have opened up some opportunities for hope. and tot the course today
enlighten us on yemen's political security, humanitarian situation, and the role of external actors in the conflict, we have three extremely talented and knowledgeable observers of yemen. i will summarize and abbreviate their biographies, starting with stephen, the director of the international crisis group's u.s. program, previously served as assistant to the president, national security council in several different roles, including senior director for african affairs. he also served in the office of legal advisor, an extraordinary place. as far as people i have met in government, worked in that office. he is also a lawyer and has an undergraduate degree from harvard and a law degree from yale. dr. rand is vice president for research at mercy
corps. she has a deep background in government, serving in at least two of the three branches of government. deputy secretary in the bureau of democracy, human rights and labor. for a while.e nsc of -- asrth a graduate well as princeton, is an award-winning writer for the new york times and former fellow here at the wilson center where he wrote a wonderful book. ofert is a walk -- native washington educated at was leanne and winston. the housekeeping matter here is quite simple. we have almost an hour. will talk for 10 minutes.
jane and i may talk -- ask an annoying question or two, then we asked the audience. talk about your recent travels in yemen. >> thank you. it is nice to be here. i will talk about what it looks and feels like in yemen, some of the visible power differences, what we see on the grounds. i was there a couple weeks in september. one of the most striking things is the difference between the south and north. where the in yemen flights come into. in a certain sense you feel you are on safer grounds. after all, these are our allies. the south is effectively run by emirati,d m.r.i. -- yet you say something menacing there. watch outsaid, walking the streets, especially looking as i do. there is a sense there are still
assassination's, kidnappings. ,hen you talk as i did to members of the council there is rhetoric of, everything will be over once the war is over and we declare a separate south yemen. anyone who spent time in yemen knows that is not true. many different groups, many different agendas, and a feeling of impending danger. when you cross, it takes about 11 hours to drive up through the province and through northern yemen. not exactly that it is safe there, but it is more unified in terms of the control. as long as you have a pass from did, you feels i you will be ok. the houthis have done a pretty good job of keeping al qaeda out of their areas, so i was not afraid of that. in years past in yemen had been one of my worries, because there
-- youmes when even in could be picked up or car bombs. -- bombed. celebration huge september 21st, marking the houthi's conquest -- they do not collect that, they call it a revolution. there were many prominent houthi s. my eyes went up to the sky now and then, wondering if saudis might take advantage of this opportunity. there were many houthi wounded warriors in the front row. i met some houthis clerics and political figures, including at least one member of the houthi royal family. fortunately, the only drones were photographing. timeomeone who has spent
in yemen prior to 2011, which is amazing, or prayer to 2014, what is striking is the completeness of the houthi control. weree old days the houthis spoken of as this mysterious rebel group or terrorist group, depending who you were talking to. different people would give you different answers about who they ite and what they stood for, was rare to see them openly. prior to 2011 you do not see them at all. even after that they were contenders. now they run everything. you see their slogan printed everywhere. they run the ministries, which oddly enough, they have left largely intact. they left their people at the top or sometimes in a deputy position. they deputy really runs the
show, but they have an official foreign minister who is a bit of a captive. if you arrive at the information ministry as i did, i went there and there were employees who are the same guys i recognized from years past. are not beingmost paid anymore or not regularly, ever since the central bank was moved to aden in 2016. the misery on the streets is remarkable. yemen has been a poor country for a long time. there have always been people begging in the streets, but the number has multiplied. everywhere you see people begging, lots of women and children. it gets more extreme when you drive north to the northwest. time in a city which is the heartland and wellspring of the houthi movement.
road to that city there were hordes and hordes of desperate people begging for food, for anything. is also striking is the level of destruction you see. this becomes evident as you ada from the south. it is outskirts of the city that is most visible. there has been very little bombing recently inside sanaa. city. on the edges of the when -- when i was in the northwest i did hear airstrikes outside the city and there was quite a lot of activity still going on. tried to go to a spot near the saudi border where msf has a medical station where they are
treating wounded fighters and the houthis would not let us do that. it isof ngo workers said not as dangerous as it is being made out. exercise tight control over journalist. the reporting i did was in spite of those houthi minders that accompanied me, i have friends that helped me evade the minders to some extent, nonetheless, i did not meet top houthis. these guys travel carefully, they are extremely conscious of the possibility of airstrikes or assassinations. like thet meet people primary military commander of the houthis. the people i met were mid-level who go back and forth from the frontlines and also run sectors of the city.
are houthie often fighters in the streets managing checkpoints here and there. include child soldiers. i did not ask anybody's age, but some could not have been more than 14. it is a common sight. it is striking that they seem to have developed a system in the absence of any real state for keeping people happy enough, or .ather fed enough the war has been very good for them in the sense there is a tremendous feeling of encirclement, a feeling the saudis are bombing, everyone knows someone or has someone in the family who has been hurt or killed in a saudi or coalition airstrike. i think you do see expressions of popular support.
i saw cars heading toward frontlines filled with food and other supplies for the fighters. it was not very difficult for me to arrange through friends to on briefters in sana'a holidays away from the fighting. surface ider the think there is a lot of discontent. just after i left there was a protest near sana'a university. the houthis do not allow any brill expression of dissent. andask ordinary yemenis they are front about that, it is not a democracy by any means. the old friends i spoke to were uniformly upset with the houthi ,ana'a, -- with the houthis feeling they are talibanish.
they did not fundamentally try to change sana'a, apart from changing checkpoints. many people say that is because they cannot. they do not have that many fighters. they cannot fight this war and also transform the place socially. in 2015ear stories that they would make efforts to shut down radio stations or prevent women from going out and accompanied. strangely enough, despite the fact that houthis see the saudis as their primary enemy, they have extreme religious conservatives and -- conservativism. one of the things difficult to understand about the houthis, they are happy to put forward people, like the guy who took me around sa'dah in the northwest, people who i met that helps me to make connections in sana'a, in the capital. fighting forbout
justice, an occupation and so forth. these are the kinds of things everybody heard from the houthis during the national dialogue council which took lace in 2012, 2013, but the moderate face of disappeared after that dialogue council. to be fair, two of their members were killed, but one has a sense the houthis as with iran, people who are the smiling face of the regime are those who do not make the decision and the guys who do are the clerical and who are hardliners pretty inscrutable from the outside. that is been one of the difficulties of gaming where these negotiations will go and whether we will get to a real peace. i had an interesting discussion with the deputy foreign minister told me this will be a long,
long war. it is us or them. confidenced a lot of , for whatever that is worth. i got the sense that they know this war in some ways has helped them. it allowed them to continue to pose as the victim and has prevented some of the discontent that might otherwise spoil up. . will leave it there dr. rand: thank you very much, and thank you to aaron for the warm introduction. i will try to talk about what is driving the crisis in yemen and thoughts about where we are in terms of solutions, building on a great layout overview of what is happening on the ground. we read a lot of statistics on some of them are
85,000 children who may have died so far since the start of the war. that is one that jumped out in the news. millions are food insecure at and 2.2 million children who are malnourished, etc. i thought i thought it would give you a diagram see you can wrap your head around the depth of this crisis. imagine if yemen were only 100 people. this is a statistic from the world health organization. if yemen was just 100 people, here is what it would look like. 74 would need humanitarian aid, 57 would have no access to clean water or sanitation services, 60 would be food insecure and at the womenmine, 10 of and children would be acutely malnourished, 27 would be at risk of contracting either
preventable illnesses including cholera, and a 63 would have no access at all to health services. i think that in sum offers you a snapshot of where we are in yemen beyond the headlines and superlatives. there is no hyperbole there. i will leave it to steve to analyze the results of sweden last week and begin to unpack that. what are the drivers of the humanitarian crisis? we hear it is not man-made. i want to list five variables driving the humanitarian suffering because each of them of and it in the analysis potential solutions said. number one and most obvious is the ongoing conflict, the ongoing fighting is making it extremely difficult for people to access food and water. you can see this in maps of yemen that almost perfectly
correlate between those parts of byen that are most affected food insecurity and they lay on those areas where there is the most active conflict, such as .odeidah and sa'dah those are the areas with the most famine and active fighting. the portion of the airstrike hitting civilian targets has increased. this followed an average, 65% of airstrikes were hitting civilian sites. including water infrastructure. that is another example of how of conflictct continuing is exacerbating the food insecurity and humanitarian suffering. inre were 230 airstrikes september alone. the pace of this conflict has escalated in the last couple months. the second trend is the ongoing
conflict is the financial and economic access to food. there is food in the marketplace. you imagine a marketplace that is bare. that is not what yemen looks like. there is food on the shelves, but little economic purchasing power and access. people have almost no money. this is correlating with inflation. the combination of no money and soaring food prices is what is contributing to the humanitarian hardship. to give you some idea what is going on with the economy and examples of where parties to the conflict are holding and exacerbating the conflict, the government of yemen is holding 70,000 tons of fuel and preventing it from entering hodeidah port. this drives up prices of fuel because -- food because fuel is expensive. that is one of the factors, the price of fuel has spiked the past couple years. the government of yemen lifted
and try to alleviate it through food imports. there was some attenuation of the situation in the past couple months. we need to give credit where credit is due. still, only 15% improved in the past couple months. containers stuck at the port of aden. u.s. allies are controlling this port. they are reporting u.s. allies are not letting the offloading of some of these containers of food. much of the food is purchased by humanitarian aid and our allies. the fourth factor is a reduced local food production. yemen has always been very reliant on imports, and 90% alliant market, but there has still been a basic infrastructure of manufacturing. this infrastructure is really devastated.
that producesill grain. a humanitarian advisor at the u.n. keeps raising this example. it is in hodeidah, a basic yemeni bread production site, but access to the mills has been impossible since the fighting in september. since the offensive at the coastline has physically walled off the manufacturing plant. you have a situation where nobody is blocking food, but the indigenous sources of food production are all but inaccessible to the people. finally, it is contributing directly to the health and problems, a function of continued fighting in part. those would be the five that must be addressed immediately,
regardless of the political status, to alleviate humanitarian suffering. and some thoughts on sweden. today was the deadline for which a cease-fire was supposed to take hold in hodeidah, and things might have calmed down at the interesting thing to watch would be if there are small violations of fighting in the port area, and who will maintain functioning of the port. there is talk of a u.n. mechanism. the details are important for the humanitarian situation. the function of the port is critical to ensuring at least some improvement in access. commercial access is particularly important. in the past year, commercial shipping vessels have not tried to get into hodeidah because they were worried about impediments being imposed on dip, so there has been a
and commercial vessels willing to come in. one sign of this agreement, whether it is working, is whatever institutional monitors are put in the port can enable commerce to resume in this giant port. and the other ports besides , and thatre important was included in the sweden talks. what was left out in sweden is a wiggly important to redress the humanitarian situation, some the factolution to that central bank is now divided andeen aden and sanaa, civil servants have not been paid salaries, doctors, teachers, nurses, local officials have not been paid and that is related to the disappearance of income. airport,ly, the sanaa
a critical port of entry blocked by the coalition. that will be high on the list as a next step for negotiators. thatinally, i would offer as much as last week was an important milestone because it was passage in u.s. of important legislation signaling u.s. involvement in the war, the next step is a more detailed legislative vehicle with a more skillful approach to put pressure on the coalition, to continue the pressure after sweden to ensure u.s. allies understand u.s. leverage and discontent has not been mitigated by sweden, but also on is as well that there is adherence to these cease-fires, which i would call de-escalation agreements. >> thanks, to the wilson center
and itting this event, is great to be up here with my friends. i'm going to spend a little time unpacking some of the topics daf what has been happening in hodeidah and how that is linked to what just happened at stockholm, and why this hates the faintest glimmer of hope in a seemingly hopeless situation in yemen. i am the u.s. program director for international crisis group. we focus on conflict prevention. we have got analysts around the world, a number who focus on the conflict. i will be drawing on their field reporting and contacts with the special envoy for yemen for the
united nations, in what i am about to share. so why is an agreement in stockholm that is focused on hodeidah important? on the brinkering of a man-made famine of horrific proportions. she has given you statistics to illustrate that. over the last year, it has teetered on the brink of something worse. the port and city of hodeidah are at the center of what that something worse might be. is a port city through food andh of the fuel of the 18 million people comes. yemeni highlands it has been in the hands of
insurgents since 2015, and for the past year yemeni forces have been trying to take it back. . this year has been an active year for the hodeidah campaign. one reason is that the uae-saudi coalition made a strategic calculation that it needed to his a decisive blow at hodeidah to force them to the negotiating table. for another thing, u.s. officials who sent a very strong hodeidah was off-limits started to signal what was called a blinking yellow light, creating an opening for the coalition to focus in that direction, and yet
many forces achieved a military so we haveh in may, seen a series of stop and start advancements on the city that have brought uae-backed forces around the city, cutting off the main road to sanaa and within kilometers to the port, which lies north of the city. but they haven't gone in yet mercifully, because our analysts tell us the fight for the city would be urban warfare at its most nightmarish. it would involve huge destruction of infrastructure and the ills that follow that, dirty water, disease, etc.
the humanitarian costs might be astronomical and it might not vanquish the hodeidah, and if if it did it would not deliver the knockout blow the coalition wants to believe, so it would be a dubious goal. so what happened at stockholm is that it seems to have pushed off that prospect, at least for the time being. the idea of the stockholm talks gained public attention at the end of october, when secretary ttisefense james ma announced it was time to come sweden with the u.s. envoy against the backdrop of a cease-fire. the parties did not make the deadline but they did convene in agenda with a multiparty
,o end the fighting in hodeida to restore ties, concluded prisoner swap agreement that had been in the mix, unscramble the central bank system, reopen the airport at sanaa and put in place a framework for a peace process. it was an ambitious agenda. he only got a piece of it, for prisoner swaps, a set of loose commitments in the form of a mutual statement on ties, and a deal on hodeidah. the prisoner swaps are significant in number, thousands of prisoners involved, but primarily a confidence-building measure than having strategic implications. the handshake on ties is too rudimentary to evaluate. whiche deal on hodeidah, extends to nearby ports up the
coast, is potentially much more significant. it creates the framework for a cease-fire, which is off to a rocky start but it is off. and it creates the framework for forces to and houthi pull back and d militarized city emilitarize the city. it is at least a step in the right direction. so even if these agreements are what thet 40% of special envoy was aiming for, it is hard not to see the meetings as successful. that they happened at all was no small feat. whene who watch yemen no the u.n. try to bring parties together in september, the parties never showed up and there was probably eight 50-50
chance that was going to repeat itself last week -- probably a 50-50 chance that was going to repeat itself last week, so getting them in the same building was an accomplishment. but if they had to hit one issue of the special envoy'list, i think they hit the right one. taking hodeidah and sister ports out of the line of fire can save yemen additional pain that it can scarcely sustain, and even if it is not sufficient to guarantee a broader peace, it is offssary to take hodeidah the table to create space for a bigger conversation. it also likely a deal that would not have happened without outside pressure. someone had to get the houthis to show up, someone has to take
the credit and we get the sense that it was the european union, the u.s.n though insisted iran couldn't send somebody to stockholm to be part of the conversation. and we are also told this breakthrough on hodeidah came after a barrage of phone calls from capitals, and at the 11th hour of phone call from a senior u.s. official whose name may or may not rhyme with james mattis, to saudi and emma roddy top emirati top and officials, and his message was, this meeting needs to produce something, and it did. it did come together in a hurry. there are a huge number of unanswered questions. there is a roughly three-week deadline to get government and houthi fighters out of hodeidah.
the government has to move quickly. they are going to be working over the holidays. they have hired a highly-respected former dutch marine with a lot of you and experience to lead the effort. he does have a tough hand to play. the houthis have a checkered history when it comes to honoring agreements in this conflict. coalition forces probably feel like they have wind in their sales and may be reluctant -- wind in their sails and may be reluctant to pull back, so we will see how that goes, but there is an opportunity for the international community to apply pressure, starting with the security council, which is this week considering a resolution that would endorse the stockholm agreement. the u.k. as a draft in circulation. had a piece that summarized it.
iss week, the council reportedly supposed to retire for the holidays and come back reconstituted in the new year, with swedes and the netherlands, who have played a leading role in pushing the council to engage in this, replacing old members and might take a while to get their feet wet on this. past couple of weeks the u.s. has reportedly been blocking action at the council and i think that would be a big mistake. it would undermine the special envoy's work. and congress has an important role to play. i wonder secretary of defense mattis would have been making those phone calls if congress had not signaled loud and clear that it was going to be taking action that would have been unheard of even a year ago, weighing in on what has been a
key strategic alliance for the united states and asserting r powersn the wa frame and a way that is unusual and from my perspective, quite welcome. aron: now it is time for some outstanding questions. i have a few, but i will wait my turn. >> why don't you ask one now? aaron: endgame. i know it is too early to speculate, but is this another example of yet another middle east problem that has no comprehensive solution, but a series of outcomes that could perhaps be shaped favorably,
primarily for the people of yemen? note, is offer a brief that what we are talking about, step-by-step, and if that is the case, how do you anchor a step-by-step process with no vision of the endgame, and prevent a return to violence? thing i worry about is, even if a larger framework is agreed on, fighting might continue at a local level and be harder to root out than the big saudis fight. ehe other thing is that th houthi are politically immature, this is a group of people formed by clerics.
that is not a good training for kind of trust you need for this political work. behink the houthis my persuaded at some point that some kind of guarantees or vetoes could be built into a power-sharing deal, but part of the problem is that the houthi power structure is open take -- is opaguque. there are different power factions whose influence waxes and wanes, apparently. dafna: it would be great if there was a step-by-step process and de-escalation, great for the region and parties. if the de-escalation at hodeidah holds, the next step would be to and therea little bit
is humanitarian access. step-by-step, the incremental but not a big political resolution, would be u.s. pressure. saudis toure on the stop the airstrikes would be the key part of this, trying to convince the saudis that their concerns about iranian power and growth in the region are legitimate, and there are other ways to deal with it. that is the pressure on the saudis. , the uaeure on the uae says it senses a victory, with its allies claiming many of towns, andi port making the case that continued escalation is going to achieve nothing for this particular
partner, so de-escalation for the next year would probably be the most ambitious but the most realistic outcome. stephen: i would agree with that. the united states needs to think about fixing the conflicts in that seems beyond our powers to imagine right now but at least the united states can avoid being complicit in some of the actions being conducted their. and -- being conducted there. and through leverage over our partners they could create a space where proposal could emerge. >> sweden did not involve direct and continuous interaction between the governments? how they wereis set up, nevertheless they were good exchanges. on: audience, identify
yourselves. soyour question was depressing i was gasping for air. mine is about proxy wars. i was thinking about how many countries in the middle east are basically the battleground for proxies, and syria is another one, and the palestinian authority you could say is another one. i'm sad to see recent u.s. policy with respect to aid for the palestinians. growu think yemen could good government if we could stop this proxy war? i'm not hallucinating. i remember 15 years ago talking to at least four political parties. how effective they were, i don't know, but they were effective enough in the conversation with me to lead me to believe they wanted good government in their country. >> take the saudis the
theaties, the saudi and americans out of the equation, what would result? what do you think? phen: i think there is a chance. is thing that is positive that an immensely negative force -- ist country is go gone. among the political forces left there is the gpc, the general people's congress, the secular, bradley nationalist party, and it had technocrats who were decent people. some of those might form the germ of what could be useful politics.
there is also a diverse at its corerty that is brotherhoodish. that is a real liability because approach, but i see trouble there. the other difficulty is and the tremendous desire for a completely separate region. my hope is that in the north, the gpc might provide the germ ,f some kind of decent politics and if they complete collapse can be averted in the south, that's great. some of the actors there seemed politically, that
is my sense. aaron: quickly identify yourself. >> in the past 20 years, the population of yemen is almost doubled and is almost 50% under the age of 15 today. would yemen be in a humanitarian crisis today, even without the war? and what would it take to make it into a viable country? dafna: it is the poorest country in the arab world. you have cited the nature of demographics before the war. humanitarian organizations were thisng in yemen before conflict, on water issues,
maternal health issues, so there is a baseline question. but the acute hunger and access to food and disappearance of livelihoods has been directly correlated or caused by the war. people are not able to purchase food, don't have any kind of access, have no money, and this is leading to a hold generation of -- leading to a whole generation of children who are whole generation out of school, i hold generation without access to vaccinations, hold generation whole school, a generation without access to vaccinations, etc.
robert: if a lot of that water could be put to human uses and have that economy reconstructed, i'm taking it by the way from a longtime yemen scholar who argues, this by the fact groundwater is mostly depleted, you could arguably have a solution in terms of the use of water. the problem is that it was impossible to change the agriculture initiative because they were committed politically to big landowners. and today, how would you reconstruct yemen's agricultural economy? you need some central figure who is able to do that. that is where it lies now. marina? issue: related to the
people don't have money to buy food, for a long time, a key to emenival of the yea been forced workers out of saudi arabia and the other countries? what is happening to the stream of revenue which is crucial to survival? afna: my understanding is there hasn't been a mass exodus of the expatriate community in neighboring countries. there is a black market, goods are thriving across the border, but the black market is driving prices up further. so the fact that the formal economy has shattered and
informal economy has grown is not helping matters and is probably fueling militias and fighters themselves. aaron: yes, in the middle, right here. thank you. >> my name is claudia ferriss. underpinningltural or infrastructure that parallels the political divides? how do the people organize and see themselves as a community? >> i'm not sure i understand the question? cultural overlay? >> forget the politics. forget what you call proxy relationships. who lives next to whom, who goes to school with home, how do they organize and see themselves, such they are willing to fight
and kill themselves? what is the cultural infrastructure that is driving how people see themselves? s were a the houthi small, rebel movement that grew and grew and grew, for a lot of reasons. they took advantage of chaos. and this is a country that had no sectarian division, or almost none, until the past decade. that is one of the tragedies of yemen. one o third of the population muslims, and two thirds are sunni muslim. mosques,ed the same lived together more or less happily, and one thing that has happened in the conflict is that and theyuthis spread,
subscribe to a revivalist or aydiessive version of z islam, their enemies are often hardline sunnis that saw them as the shiite enemy. and the fact that the houthis are aligned with iran makes that worse. so you have a sectarian division the didn't have before. adding to that is the political , one party had a lot of islamists and it and those who were islamists were set against those who were not the gpc party, there was .iolence there and the tribes play a big role.
yemen has had tribal conflicts for some time, and those conflicts have been organized by political players. the second highest rate of weapon ownership in the world. i think we have the first claim on that. so a lot of different fractures, tribal, sectarian, and regional. deeply,h seas itself as deeply victimized by the north, which is why they want to form a separate country. i hope that helps. n: we have time for one, twoaps to more -- perhaps more questions. >> why does uae foreign policy
follow saudi foreign policy so yemeny, whether it be or the blockade of qatar? dafna: many of these members were part of the saudi-led coalition, but one of the war asting parts of the it has evolved as how each member of the coalition, uae,cularly the saudis and have had different or divergent war aims. right now you can see the emirates having a clear economic interest in the straits, an important strategic and economic passageway, and the gulf of aden in the south, so clearly the uae
is interested in that. saudi arabia has clearly stated that it's our aims -- that it's aims are to its defeat iran. so there has been a divergence over time. it depends on the issue, but in the emirates got involved this war, i think they really share saudi concern about iranian projection of power. that they did feel that the are in the neighborhood and they felt genuine anxiety about that and felt it was important to push back, and also are veryhe emiratis worried about al qaeda and would like to prevent it from reasserting itself more forcefully.
formerame is ken, foreign service officer in the good old days, in the 1980's, in yemen and saudi arabia, in 2000 and 2002. you have partly answered my question about the root causes of the conflict. i remember warning the state department when this broke out in 2015 that it was going to radicalize a lot of people because the yemenis have long memories and they remember the int war with the saudis, which territory was conquered and taken from them. i am worried about radicalization of the youth. but you pointed to a desire on the part of south yemen to
secede for independence. that might not be a good idea. that would restore the shiites to their rule of the north, which i find very tranquil. have seen the movie of two yemen's before. what about decentralization or division? i spent a lot of time in south yemen, and spoke to people who formed the southern independence movement, which was then viewed by the saudi government as almost a terrorist group, and there were protests by southern secessionists. when you actually spent time with them, there was a stew of different agendas. there is a big difference between these cities, and in
and cases there are tribal in some cases political differences which in 1996 lead to a massacre, 10,000 people in the space of two weeks. trust in south yemen are open about that, they say there is no way we could form a single government. so the desire on the outside might seem to be a new south into but it would fragment a million pieces and you would have a big resources question. what do you do with the oil? some of the oil sources are on the border between north and south and you have a pipeline on the coast. that is going to be a nightmare possible source of a new north-south war right there. on: please join me in
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