The Latest On The Situation In Yemen NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with Yemen expert April Alley with the International Crisis Group, about how allies against the Houthis are escalating violence in Yemen by also supporting opposite sides.

The Latest On The Situation In Yemen

The Latest On The Situation In Yemen

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NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with Yemen expert April Alley with the International Crisis Group, about how allies against the Houthis are escalating violence in Yemen by also supporting opposite sides.


A new report from the United Nations says the U.S. and other countries may be complicit in war crimes in Yemen. For years, the U.N. has called Yemen's civil war the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Fighting, starvation and disease have killed many thousands of people. And the situation has just become even more complicated. The coalition of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is fracturing. Those two countries are now supporting different militias.

To help us sort this out, we are joined by April Alley. She is the Arabian Peninsula program director for the International Crisis Group, and she joins us from Dubai.


APRIL ALLEY: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: First, just explain what this U.N. panel has concluded about potential war crimes in Yemen and the role the U.S. may have played in them.

ALLEY: Basically, this report has said that no hands are clean in this war in Yemen. It has essentially said that both sides of this conflict have been committing violations.

SHAPIRO: Through indiscriminate killing of civilians.

ALLEY: Exactly, exactly. So on the Saudi-led coalition side, there have been repeated cases of airstrikes against civilian infrastructure - schools, hospitals. Both sides have been guilty of blocking humanitarian aid as the country is on - many parts of the country are on the brink of famine. Both sides have recruited child soldiers. There's been many instances from many of the combatants on issues of torture, illegal detention, et cetera. The list goes on.

SHAPIRO: To turn to the changing landscape of this war, for years, we have heard that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with American support, have been bombing Houthi rebels. And the Houthis, of course, are supported by Iran. Now what's happening to that coalition between Saudi Arabia and the UAE?

ALLEY: Yeah, so what we've seen - I mean, this war is often described as a binary war, one between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition that's supporting the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. But really, this is a multipolar conflict. It's been that way from the beginning. But what we're seeing lately is that on the side of the coalition, the curtain has been pulled back to some extent. And so we're seeing the divisions on that side, different priorities on the Yemeni side for the future of Yemen, different visions for the country. And there's actually been fighting inside of the coalition over control of, particularly, their temporary capital of Aden and areas in the south of the country that the coalition controls.

SHAPIRO: And where does that leave the U.S., which has been supporting the coalition through weapons sales and training and more?

ALLEY: Well, I think what we have right now is that Yemen's already complex civil war is now on the verge of a new layer, of a war within a war essentially. So we've already seen inside the coalition two groups come to - the fighting come to a head in Aden. And this is - right now, the Saudi - Saudi Arabia has called both sides to Jeddah for talks to see if they can be reconciled. But if this doesn't work, we could see significant violence in the south, in particular, and between nominal allies that the U.S. is supporting.

SHAPIRO: And so for people in Yemen, does that mean more fighting, more violence, fewer safe places to stay?

ALLEY: It absolutely does. I mean, Yemen is at yet another one of these critical junctures where it looks like the potential for it to get much worse is there. Right now, already, there are limited ability to bring in goods through the port of Hodeidah, which is the main port in the country, which has been blockaded in the past and has now just limited goods coming through it because of restrictions by the coalition. Aden would be a center of gravity for this fighting. So if that port is closed, it creates even more problems there.

And also, if there's a fight within the coalition side, you're going to see certainly the Houthi position strengthened in the north. You're going to see more fighting probably on - which we've actually already seen on frontlines as they try to take advantage of the internal fighting on the coalition side. And I think you could see, certainly, a delay of the larger peace process that the country desperately needs.

SHAPIRO: April Alley of the International Crisis Group speaking with us from Dubai.

Thanks for joining us today.

ALLEY: Thank you.

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