yemen maps

5 Maps That Show How Yemen Is A Mess

Yemen has become a cauldron of instability and is suffering from violence, disease and starvation. Here’s how that came to be and what’s happening now.

1.) Houthi rebels took control over large swaths of Yemen

yemen maps

map provided by the BBC

Houthi Rebels – a Shia minority group named after their assassinated leader Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi – banded together in late 2014 to take large swaths of populated West Yemen, including the capital of Sanaa.

The Houthis target was Yemen’s Sunni President Hadi, a democratically elected leader who was eventually forced to flee the country and take refuge in neighboring Saudi Arabia..

In their quest for control of Yemen, the Houthis made an additional enemy in Al Qaeda.

2.) Saudi’s formed their own coalition to stop the Houthis

yemen maps

map provided by Reuters

In a response to the Houthi’s success in Yemen, Sunni countries formed a coalition to stop the spread of the insurgents.  With members including Saudi Arabia and Egypt – with Saudi Arabia taking the lead- the coalition has a formidable arsenal of advanced weapons and air power.

The Saudi coalition is indirectly supported by the US military, which supplies armaments to Saudi Arabia and patrols the waters off Yemen’s coast.


4.) The dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen

yemen maps

map provided by the United Nations

As a result of the fighting the UN has estimated that around 15 million people are in need of help in Yemen. Most of those needing help reside in the country’s western, most populated region, which is also the scene of the most fighting.

The situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate as Saudi lead attacks on the Houthi stronghold of Sanaa have further added to the death toll, which the UN estimates at around 50,000.

The already-complex situation in Yemen is complicated even more by al-Qaeda, and Iran. Al-Qaeda is leveraging instability in the country to build training bases and recruit new affiliates. Meanwhile Iran supports the Houthis, creating a Saudi-Iran proxy war in Yemen.

5.) The Houthis drive South

yemen maps

map provided by The New York Times

Successful Houthis campaigns enabled the group to challenge the city of Aden, which borders the Red Sea strait in the Gulf of Aden.

This strait is of vital importance and acts as the gateway to Saudi Arabian oil routes, with about 11 percent of the world’s seaborne petroleum passing through.  through the strait, making it an economic lifeline for Saudi Arabia and Europeans buying oil.

In 2016 rebels used their access to the sea to conduct a missile attack that required nearby U.S. naval forces to defend themselves.  The U.S., a main arms supplier to Saudi Arabia,  has been careful to stay out of any direct fighting in Yemen, except to conduct small, special forces operations against al-Qaeda.

Today disease and starvation grip the nation

Map courtesy of the United Nations

In 2017, after years of relentless conflict, the country

bab eo mandeb

(For our corresponding piece on Yemen in context, read here.)


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