In October 2016, the Network for Social Change’s “Remote Control” project at the Oxford Research Group published a report on Yemen by writer and consultant Ginny Hill and human rights activist, Baraa Shiban, entitled “Yemen: A Battle for the Future.”

Following protests in 2011 and a failed attempt at a peaceful transition of power, at the start of 2015, Yemen descended into a vicious civil war that has been largely ignored by the mainstream media.

In the paper, the authors explain that:

Yemen is embroiled in multiple civil wars, triggered by a long-term decline in oil production, the failure of state-building, strong sub-national identities, and internal competition between rival elite networks that comprised the regime of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Regional actors have intervened in Yemen’s local wars to support their preferred allies. The result is a complex conflict environment, revealing the strategic incoherence of the Saudi-led Coalition – which ostensibly aims to reinstate the current, exiled president, Abdurabbo Mansour Hadi – and the limitations of United Nations diplomacy.

[Related: Special Collection: War & the Media in Yemen (Part 1 & Part 2)]

The conflict and the Saudi-led coalition’s air campaign have devastated Yemen’s economy and infrastructure, causing immense suffering to a civilian population that has borne the brunt of the destruction. As the report highlights:

the poorest country in the Middle East has endured the destruction of the formal economy, the decimation of its essential infrastructure, and massive commodity price inflation, which has – in turn – precipitated an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The UN estimates more than 10,000 people have been killed, and many thousands more injured since the start of the Coalition intervention; three million people have fled their homes and more than 80% of the 26-million-strong population is in need of humanitarian assistance.

Crucially, the paper identifies the risk that Yemen will become a model for future ‘remote control’ approaches to warfare:

focusing on the use of special forces, mercenaries and armed drones. It highlights the moral and political risks for Western governments training and arming regional protagonists, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It also discusses the question of where accountability lies, especially in relation to the use of armed drones, which continue despite the effective collapse of Yemen’s formal military and security institutions under President Hadi’s constitutional control.

It further sets the Coalition campaign in Yemen in the context of a gradual shift towards a more ‘realist’ approach in US foreign policy, in which America’s Gulf allies are expected to contribute towards managing regional security. This comes as a younger generation of aspiring Gulf leaders appear willing to take a more active and assertive role in security and statecraft. In this sense, Coalition activities in Yemen can be viewed as a capacity building exercise for increasingly activist Gulf armies, supplied, trained and supported by the West.

Read the full report here.

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