Is There Any Hope for Yemen? | Wilson Center
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Is There Any Hope for Yemen?

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Webcast Recap

Does Yemen have a future beyond the violent civil strife; intervention by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran; and the famine and disease that have plagued the country in recent years? What are the prospects for UN-mediated talks? And what is an appropriate U.S. policy toward the conflict?
Three experienced observers of Yemen addressed these and related questions in a wide-ranging discussion on the country’s future.


Selected Quotes


Jane Harman

“The conflict is the largest humanitarian crisis on the planet… Some of the competitors might be Syria, the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, and the dire consequences of accelerating climate change. That’s pretty serious competition. But, I think, sadly, and really, catastrophically, Yemen is leading.”
“The action by Congress was time-limited, but attention is now being paid to the issue. As a former member there, I’m really pleased to see that the Article-One branch of government… is paying attention.”


Aaron David Miller

“If there ever was a perfect storm of disasters and horrors, even by Middle East standards, it is clearly Yemen.” 
“It’s significant that one of the few issues that could have driven a bipartisan community of interests in the U.S. Senate in this era of partisanship has been Khashoggi’s murder and Yemen.”


Robert Worth

“When you talk, for instance, as I did, to members of the Southern Transitional Council, there’s this rhetoric of, ‘Oh, everything’s going to be fine once the war is over and we declare a separate South Yemen.’ But anyone who has spent any time in Yemen knows that’s not true. Under the surface, there are many, many different groups, many agendas, and a feeling of impending danger.”
“Once has a sense that, with the Houthis, as, to some extent, with Iran, the people who are the smiling face of the regime are the ones who don’t make the decisions, and that the guys who do are the clerical and military hardliners who are pretty inscrutable from the outside. I think that’s been one of the difficulties of gaming where these negotiations are going to go and whether we’re going to get to a real peace.”
“I got the sense that [the Houthis] know that this war has, in some ways, helped them. It has allowed them to continue to pose as the victim and has prevented some of the discontent that might otherwise boil up.” 
Dafna Hochman Rand
“The proportion of airstrikes hitting civilian targets has increased a bit over time. This fall, on average, 65% of some of the airstrikes were hitting civilian sites… including water infrastructure.” 
“There is food in the marketplace. You imagine a famine and you imagine a supermarket that’s bare. That’s not what Yemen looks like. There is food on the shelves, but there is very, very little economic purchasing power… People basically have no money.”
“In as much as last week was an important milestone, because it was the passage in the U.S. Congress of very important legislation signaling Congressional position on U.S. involvement in the war, the next step is a more detailed legislative vehicle, in January and beyond, that would continue, through more scalpel approach, to put pressure on the coalition, first and foremost – to the continue the pressure even after Sweden.”
Stephen Pomper
“The fight for [Hodeidah] would be urban warfare at its most nightmarish. It would involve huge destruction of infrastructure, it would involve the ills that follow from that – dirty water disease, et cetera. The humanitarian costs would be astronomical. It might very well not vanquish the Houthis, and if it did vanquish them, if probably would not, at least in our view, deal the knockout blow that the coalition wants to believe.”
“Even of these [Sweden] agreements are just about, I don’t know, 40% of what the [UN] special envoy was aiming for, it’s hard not to see the meetings as successful. For one thing, that they happened at all was no small feat… More importantly, if they had to hit one issue of the suite that were on the special envoy’s list, I think they probably hit the right one.”
“Congress has an enormously important role to play. I really wonder if Secretary of Defense Mattis would have been making those phone calls [to Saudi and Emirati officials] if Congress hadn’t signaled loud and clear that it was going to be taking action that really would have been unheard of, I think, even a year ago, weighing in on what has been a key strategic alliance for the United States, and, frankly, asserting itself in war powers frame in a way that is very unusual and, from my perspective, quite welcome.”

12-18-2018 Is There Any Hope for Yemen





  • Dafna Hochman Rand

    Vice President for Policy and Research, Mercy Corps; former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
  • Stephen Pomper

    U.S. Program Director, International Crisis Group; Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights in the Obama White House
  • Robert Worth

    Former Public Policy Fellow
    Contributing Writer, The New York Times Magazine; former Beirut Bureau Chief, The New York Times