On Feb. 15, Saudi Arabia announced that one of its fighter jets ‘fell’ when flying over a Houthi-controlled province in Yemen. The Houthis – an Iranian backed rebel group – confirmed that they shot down an ‘enemy jet’ in the same province. In response to the indirect confirmation of the attack, the Saudi Arabia-United Arab Emirates coalition conducted airstrikes in the same territory. The airstrikes killed at least 31 civilians.
Having started in 2015 as a conflict between the government – supported by the Saudi-UAE coalition – and the Houthis, the civil war has since killed more than 100 thousand civilians. Fuelled by the instability of the unified Yemeni state, it is often seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The peace talks commenced in September 2019, when a Houthi-claimed but Iran-suspected drone attack damaged a crude oil plant in Saudi Arabia, the largest in the world, and disrupted the global oil supply. This led to the Houthi-Saudi attempt at brokering peace – the rebel group halted all of its airstrikes on Saudi Arabia and in turn, the country suspended the majority of its own. Having broken the conflict de-escalation terms, the attacks by both sides are expected to resume in the near future.
The potential failure of the peace talks might have significant consequences beyond the Gulf region. It will undoubtedly worsen the humanitarian conditions in Yemen and lead to more civilian deaths. The conflict is also expected to deepen the tension in the region – especially with respect to the sudden power dynamics change, which includes the Houthis obtaining (presumably from Iran) new airspace technology, such as the one used to shoot down the Saudi jet, that they did not possess until recently, and which might mean the end of Saudi airspace domination. Global relations – between the US, the Saudi global ally, and Iran – are also likely to worsen. The proximity of two of the world’s largest petroleum transport pathways and the Saudi oil plants also offers a unique chance to cause further oil supply and price disruptions, which can shake the global economy.
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into a broader context.
Responsible editor Matúš Jevčák.
Author: Alexandra Horkavá
Photo credits: Creative Commons
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