Hanaa Ahmad Ali Bahr, a malnourished girl sits on her father's lap in a shanty town in Hodeidah, Yemen March 25, 2019. (Abduljabbar Zeyad /REUTERS)

Four years on, no end in sight for Yemen war

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As Yemen marks Tuesday the fourth anniversary of the conflict that has ravaged what was already the Middle East’s poorest country, turning it into the worst man-made humanitarian crisis in the world, experts see little hope for optimism.

With the country entering the fifth year of war between the so-called pro-government forces supported by a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates and Houthi rebels, nearly 20 million Yemenis – some 70 per cent of the population – are food insecure, according to the United Nations.

Four years of fighting between the Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-backed Houthis has left tens of thousands dead or injured including at least 17,700 civilians, according to the UN.

Yemeni pro-government forces flash the victory gesture as they arrive in al-Durayhimi district, about nine kilometres south of Hodeidah international airport on June 13, 2018. ( Nabil Hassan/AFP/Getty Images)

But Thomas Juneau, associate professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, said he expects things to get worse before they get better.

“The tragic reality is that I’m not optimistic that a solution will be found to the conflict anytime soon, certainly not this year,” Juneau said.

“It’s important to remember that this is a multi-layered conflict: the Saudi-led intervention is only one layer to this conflict that has regionalized it but on top of that there are a number of domestic conflicts inside Yemen.”

I spoke to Juneau, who studied in Yemen in 2007, to understand what drives the ongoing conflict and get a crash course on its roots and its possible outcomes. We discussed the origins of the conflict, the strategic rationale for Saudi Arabia’s intervention, Iran’s role, the role of Western countries, including Canada, the complicated internal dynamics of the conflict and prospects for peace.

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