A country destroyed by war, almost entirely eclipsed by the conflict in Syria. Referred to as the forgotten war due to its lack of media attention, the situation in Yemen is dire.
In Yemen, 80% of the population need humanitarian aid.
Yemen’s situation is a complex one. It is not simply one conflict; it is mixed with and indistinguishable from conflicts of the past. This is a likely cause for its lack of media attention: there is no clear bad guy and no good versus evil story to tell the public. Leaving the Yemeni people to suffer in silence.
The issue can be followed back to the Arab Spring. Following the Tunisian revolution in 2011, there was a call for change in Yemen. The then President Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted and replaced by his deputy Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi on February 27th 2012. At this time Yemen was plagued with many domestic issues including separatist movements in the South, terrorism and extreme poverty. Houthi rebels used this time of instability to occupy large areas of the country. The Houthi are a Shia Muslim group made up of around 40% of Yemen’s Muslims. The rebels seized the capital and caused President Hadi to flee and call for support in March 2015. In response to the uprising, and because of accusations of links to Iran, Saudi Arabia began a campaign, with assistance from the US, the UK, France and eight other Arab states. Their goal, they claimed, was to drive out rebel forces and reinstate Hadi.
The future of Yemen is unclear; the war rages on with no visible end. Peace talks come and go. Ultimately, after nineteen months of constant battle, the country is near the edge of collapse. The UN estimates the war has killed 10,000 Yemeni people and over 36,000 have been injured, but there are fears this number could be much higher. Even before the conflict, the country, with a population of nearly 28 million is larger than Syria, was the poorest in the Middle East. Now, over 14 million are described as food insecure, with 1.5 million children suffering from malnutrition. Before the war, 90% of Yemen’s food came from outside its borders. Now, Saudi blockades and rebel sieges on cities are restricting supplies getting to civilians. Alongside this, the Yemeni heath system is heavily damaged and war survivors are facing different threats. 10,000 children under five years old have died from preventable diseases since the war began. Less than half of the health facilities remain open and there is a severe shortage of doctors. In the capital, Sana’a, less than half of the residents are connected to the water supply. Even then, the water only runs one every four days. In some cities in the South, water comes once a month. Another threat to the people of Yemen is a recent cholera outbreak that has over 2000 suspected cases.
There is a glimmer of hope for the people Yemen, the World Bank has pledged to commit $400 million of aid to Yemen, starting immediately. But, for the next generation of Yemeni children, where over 3.4 million have been forced out of education and the only employment is behind the barrel of a gun, the future looks bleak.
Executive Summary – Tensions Flaring in Waters Around Yemen
Media reports have been relating recent events involving shore to ship attack attempts against US naval vessels patrolling in Yemeni waters. These follow a previous successful attack against a UAE logistics vessel, which saw it damaged and withdrawn from the Saudi-led campaign. The attacks are believed to have been carried out by Houthi rebels although they have strenuously denied any involvement. The most recent strikes are believed by some to be retaliation for the Saudi air strike that killed at least 140 mourners at a funeral in Sanaa on 8th October 2016. These incidents have resulted in the US Navy launching counter measures to defend themselves and conducting their own missile strikes against shore based radar sites believed to have been directing the original Houthi attacks. Iranian warships are deploying into the theatre and this is serving to ratchet tensions further. The Iranian deployment was planned and announced earlier but is now being linked to developing events.
Merchant vessels transiting the region should expect to see increased military naval and air traffic. Masters should be vigilant when cruising within range of landfall and be prepared for contact with combatant parties. Vessels moving to or from Yemeni ports must ensure situational awareness at all times and comply carefully with military instructions. MS Risk continues to monitor events and will be issuing in depth insights and forecasts in the coming days.
According to the United States State Department, there was a marked fall in the number of terror attacks that occurred around the world in 2015.
In a newly released report this month, the State Department attributed the 13% decline from 2014 to fewer attacks in Iraq, Nigeria and Pakistan, which are three of the five countries that have been the worst affected by terrorism. The other two are Afghanistan and India. Together, more than half of the 11,000 attacks that occurred last year happened within the borders of these five countries.
Data compiled by the University of Maryland indicates that more than 28,300 people died – a 14% decline – and about 35,300 others were wounded in 11,774 terrorist attacks that occurred worldwide last year. State Department Acting Co-ordinator for Counterterrorism Justin Siberell notes that attacks and deaths increased in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, the Philippines, Syria and Turkey. The State Department also reported that figures indicate that the terror threat “continued to evolve rapidly in 2015, becoming increasingly decentralized and diffused,” adding that extremists were exploiting frustration in countries “where avenues for free and peaceful expression of opinion were blocked.” The State Department highlighted that the so-called Islamic State (IS) group is the biggest single threat, adding that the group has attracted affiliates and supporters in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It noted that while IS was losing territory in Iraq and Syria, it was gaining strength in Libya and Egypt. The United Nations has also warned that IS is increasingly focusing on international civilian targets. The UN has reported that over the past six months, IS had carried out attacks in eleven countries. This does not include the militant group’s ongoing activity in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
The State Department report also disclosed that Iran was the biggest state sponsor of terrorism, stating that it supported conflicts in Syria and Iraq and that it was also implicated in violent Shia opposition raids in Bahrain. Bahrain has accused Iran of supplying weapons to Shia militants behind bomb attacks on security forces however Iran has denied this.
Islamic Republic of Iran test-fires ballistic missiles for two consecutive days. In the Alborz Mountains in the northern area of Tehran, on Tuesday 08th March, a medium range missile was successfully tested covering a range of 750km. The following day at the same lunching site a further test was performed to establish the nation’s longer range capabilities; covering over 1400km, landing in the south-east part of the country. We assess that such range and proved capabilities poses a plausible threat to neighbor’s countries. Missiles are capable of reaching Iran’s archenemy Israel in the event of a potential direct attack. This is causing friction and tensions within the international arena raising questions over the violation of UNSC resolutions and the current nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers.
Since January 2016, Tehran met the demands for implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Despite these developments, Iran presents an enduring threat due to its support to regional terrorist and militant groups and the Assad regime. A key agenda item within the Iranian regime is the development of advanced military capabilities. Tehran views itself as leading the “axis of resistance” which includes the Assad regime and subnational militia groups aligned with Iran, especially Lebanese Hezbollah (considered an international terrorist organization by the U.S.) and Iraqi Shia militants; all antagonist of Israel.
Iran support to the Shia group Hezbollah is of particular interest considering the hardening of the Lebanese current scenario. There are indications arising from recent events of an alleged Hezbollah plan to take over Beirut by purposely bombing the organization’s own munition factories as well as military positions of the Lebanese army. It is believed that Hezbollah in cooperation with forces in the Lebanese army may plan to initiate a wave of attacks against its own facilities in Lebanon which will give it legitimacy to cease Beirut. A clear indicator of the unfolding of this events is the current fighting between opposition and government supporters; on the 9th of March after a series of armed attacks Hezbollah ceased most of western Beirut.
Iranian long standing position is to undermine Israel; the supreme leader expressed his belief in several occasions by clearly stating that Israel as a country will not exist within the next 25 years. The country wishes Israel to cease existing but there is no gathered evidence of any intentions in engaging into a direct conflict, at least in the medium term.
The JCPOA played the important role of enhancing the transparency of Iran’s nuclear activities. A broader access has been granted to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other investigative authorities under the Additional Protocol in line with the Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement. As a result, the international community is well postured to promptly detect changes to Iran’s declared nuclear facilities designed to shorten the time Iran would need to produce fissile material. Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about a year. Furthermore the JCPOA also provides tools for the IAEA to investigate possible breaches of prohibitions on specific unauthorized R&D.
Iran most likely views the JCPOA as a mean to uplift sanctions while preserving some of its nuclear capabilities and a safe option to eventually expand its nuclear infrastructure. However, it is unclear wheatear or not Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.
We assess with a moderate degree of confidence that the strategic objectives of implementing and enhancing regional influence, prestige, security, financial and economic ties with several players both domestically and internationally will lead to pursue the required capabilities in the research and development of nuclear energy and technological industry. This will indivertibly confer the ability to build deliverable RCBNs in the event that such political choice will be made. The lack of foreseeable technical barriers within the production process makes Iran’s political will the central issue. The pursuit of this strategy will define its level of adherence to the JCPOA over time.
We judge that, in the event of deploying RCBNs, Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred delivering system. Tests run in the last days are indicators or proven capabilities in terms of delivery system. The U.S. intelligence community assessed that Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East and they are inherently capable of delivering WMD.
The country’s desire to deter the United States and its allies provides Tehran with the means and motivation to develop longer-range missiles, including ICBMs. A supplementary area of concern for the global security industry is the Iran’s progress on space launch vehicles. It has been reported to cooperate with Russia and China both technologically and financially in gaining ground in the ongoing outer space race.
On 18 February, the United States Department of Homeland Security announced that the US has added Libya, Somalia and Yemen as “countries of concern” under its visa waiver programme. The three additional nations join Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria as countries that are subject to restrictions for those seeking to travel to the US. The move will effectively make US visa procedures more stringent for those individuals who have visited these countries in the past five years.
The new restrictions were imposed under a law that was passed in the wake of the November 2015 attacks in Paris, France, which were attributed to the so-called Islamic State (IS) group. According to the new regulations, citizens of US allies who previously had been able to travel to the US without first obtaining a visa will now have to apply to US consulates for such visas if they have travelled to those designated countries in the past five years. The Homeland Security Department has disclosed that the new requirements will not automatically affect nationals from visa-waiver countries who also are dual nationals of Libya, Somalia and Yemen. The department did note however that under the new procedures, the Homeland Security secretary can waive the more stringent visa requirements on a case-by-case basis, adding that such waives would primarily be available to journalists or individuals travelling on behalf of international organizations of humanitarian groups.
The latest visa waiver restrictions were imposes as US agencies sharpen their focus on the threat posed by Islamist foreign fighters and seek to make it more difficult for them to take advantage of the US visa waiver programme. Under the current programme, citizens of thirty-eight, mainly European countries, are allowed to travel to the US for up to ninety days without a visa. Prior to travelling to the US, citizens of visa waiver countries must register online using a US government system, known as ESTA. This system effectively gives US agencies the opportunity to check out visa waiver applicants’ backgrounds through intelligence and law enforcement data bases before giving them permission to board US-bound flights.
After the November 2015 Paris terror attacks, the US visa waiver programme came under harsh scrutiny in the US Congress as some of the militants behind the attacks were European nationals, who had become radicalized after visiting Syria and who were theoretically eligible for US visa waives. Homeland Security has disclosed that it will continue to work with the State Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in order to determine whether additional countries should be added to the list.