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Sectarian Tensions in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula Research Paper

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Updated: Jan 20th, 2021


Yemen has been affected by numerous political wrangles. The current war between two political rivals has torn the country into two distinctive blocs. The strategic position of Yemen has also made the country a target for international terror. Additionally, it has also ensured that any war in the region will spill over to other nearby regions. This paper looks at the sectarian tensions in the region and potential spill over the entire Arabian Peninsula. The paper offers a detailed background, analysis, and recommendations for the problem stated.


The issue that will be addressed in this paper will revolve around the dangers of the current civil war in Yemen and how the impacts of the war can affect other countries within the same region and presented to the United Nations to assist in reducing the effects of the war in Yemen itself and the neighbouring countries.


In order to understand the relevance of drafting a policy to combat the Yemen war, it is essential first to understand how vital Yemen is in the Gulf Cooperation Council. The GCC includes numerous countries in the region. Although Yemen is not a GCC member, it provides the link between the world and the GCC.

Yemen has been at war since March 2015. The central issue that has caused what is now referred to as the Yemeni 2015 civil war is a drift between political rivals. The Southern separatists, who are supporters of Mansur Hadi, the official president of Yemen have been at war with the Houthi forces that support the former president of the country, Ali Saleh. The fight is over power, but it has affected the economy and other social sectors. It suffices to mention that the impacts of the war have not only been felt in Yemen, but also in other parts of the world. The main point of entry for the world to Yemen is the Gulf of Aden, which also serves as a vital sea route.

It suffices to mention that the current president of Yemen, Mansur Hadi, was based in Aden before he was forced by the Houthi to abandon his residence. The president had installed a combined task force to fight pirates and other unwanted foreigners in the Gulf of Aden (Upadhyaya 135).

Looking at the potential spill, the first thing that comes to mind is the oil industry that is dominated by Dubai. As mentioned, the Gulf of Aden is a crucial sea route. Many oil ships pass through this region to then proceed to their destination. With the removal of President Hadi, the route becomes open to all manner of politics and banditry. The world economy relies heavily on the oil business. Thus, any government or group that controls the Gulf of Aden will also control part of the world economy.

Two of the countries that will be hit by a spillover are Saudi Arabia and Oman as they are both very close to Yemen (Rayman 1). The Houthi will open doors for terrorists to attack these peaceful areas in an attempt to control the one thing that the region is well known for oil.

At this juncture, it is important to state why a policy is needed to deal with the war. Even though Saudi Arabia has been keen on helping President Hadi resume power and end the war, challenges have been faced in the process (Ahmed 1). The state of Yemen has remained vulnerable due to these challenges. As mentioned, President Hadi fled from Aden to save his life. However, this prompted the Houthi to take over Aden, including the Gulf of Aden.

The Arabian Gulf is an important corridor in oil trade and transport (Arabia Infelix 42). It is crucial for the GCC, and the UN, to take action right now in order to avoid future problems. Letting the Houthi control the Gulf will erase all the work that has been done since 2008 to secure the passage for international oil transactions, both in the sea and off the sea. In addition, the war puts the economy of Yemen at risk and adversely affects the world economy. Control of the Gulf of Aden will eventually lead to the control of the Strait of Hormuz, which is used as a route by 20% of ships carrying petroleum for trade (Hendawi, 1). Indeed, the region also attracts approximately 35% of on-sea trading (Khalifa 28). It goes without saying that the policies that are already drafted and those that will be drafted have to focus on getting the Houthi out of the region. This will help in saving the world economy.


Considering the adverse impacts that the Houthi can cause if they take over the Gulf of Aden, it is crucial to come up with policies that can prevent them from accessing these waters. Before this, however, it is crucial to note the policies that have been used so far in an attempt to solve the problem.

The first policy used to handle the problem is the installation of the maritime security patrol area in the Gulf of Aden. The idea behind this policy was the attempt to chase away unwanted foreigners by placing many marines in the region. The policy was instigated in 2008 and worked as expected. The Combined Task Force 150 headed the project, which is a multinational coalition (Archibugi and Chiarugi 235). The coming together of several countries to put an end to the war, for example, the help that Saudi Arabia and the USA are giving, just shows the dedication the region has to solve the problem.

The UN also introduced policies to help keep out the Somali pirates, who have also been linked to the Houthi. It is crucial to point out that the maritime security patrols were only ordered to push unwanted agents out of the Gulf of Aden. Thus, many of the pirates went back to Somalia waters. The government of Somalia requested the UN to help get rid of the pirates for good. The reaction was to allow nations that were approved by the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to invade the pirates in their home turf. The Somalia government then let the marines from other countries to go in the Somalia waters.

It suffices to mention that the UN also allows the Royal Navy and other international security bodies to release pirates who have been caught as prisoners. Guilfoyle explains that no released pirate has been caught doing the criminal again, hinting at a possible rehabilitation for the pirates to cut off support to the Houthi (164). However, he has a long-term solution that might take a long time to implement.

The next best solution will be to end the war by deploying UN peacekeepers in the region (Frisch 178). Reinstating President Hadi will ensure that the Houthi are kept out of the region, thus, avoiding a potential and hazardous spill over.

Iran is backing the Houthis, making the international community fear that Iran may supply the Yemen rebels with arms and lead to an escalation of the tensions (“Iran Moves Ships” par. 4-5). The “Operation Decisive Storm” was launched by Saudi Arabia to crash the Houthis, who were in Sanaa. The airstrikes that ended after a month paved way for peace restoration in a different operation dubbed “Operation Restoring Hope”. The airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia paralysed the ability of the Houthis to attack Saudi Arabia and the shipping business that occurs in the Gulf region. It is important to note that the UN supported the Gulf Initiative that was drafted by Saudi Arabia to see peace restored in Yemen. Given that the backing is internationally recognized, the international community is following keenly what is occurring in Yemen (Alhomayed par. 2-3). It implies that international forces can also intervene if violence persists.


It is highly recommended that the UN consider adding the UN peacekeepers in Yemen to avoid the spill over. This will not only keep the Houthi in check, but it will give the international community time to help President Hadi regain his position (Stout 1).

It is also recommended that the UN urge the international community to contribute marines to help secure the Gulf of Aden. Even though the takeover of the Gulf has not occurred, it will occur if the war is not stopped as the Houthi have already taken over the city of Aden. The takeover will make countries like Saudi Arabia vulnerable to attacks by pirates and even the Houthi themselves.

The UN can also impose economic sanctions on the parties that are involved in the Yemen conflict. Financial restrictions and arms embargoes should be targeted at the countries that are perpetuating the conflict. Individuals whose direct roles are causing the tensions to increase should have their assets frozen and restricted from international travel, until they resolve the conflict.


The tensions that are experienced in Yemen have a great potential of spilling over to the entire Arabian Peninsula. This poses a great economic threat to the region, especially in the area of the oil trade. It means that the GCC and the UN need to act swiftly to stop the sectarian tensions from spilling over. In addition to sending troops to keep peace in the region, the UN should also consider using pressure in the form of political and economic sanctions on individuals and countries that are involved in the war. This will force the warring parties to go back to the negotiation table to broker peace.

Works Cited

“Arabia Infelix.” Economist 415.8934 (2015): 42-42. Print.

“Iran Moves Ships, Reducing Tensions near Yemen-Pentagon.” Reuters, 2015. Web.

Ahmed, Al-Haj. Toronto Star. Web.

Alhomayed, Tariq. “What Did Operation Decisive Storm Achieve.” Sudan Vision, 2015. Web.

Archibugi, Daniele, and Marina Chiarugi. “Looking for a Jurisdiction for Somali Pirates.” Political Quarterly 82.2 (2011): 231-239. Print.

Frisch, Hillel. “The Role of Armies in the Arab Uprisings – An Introduction.” Journal of Strategic Studies 36.2 (2013): 177-179. Print.

Guilfoyle, Douglas. Modern Piracy: Legal Challenges and Responses. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2013. Print.

Hendawi, Hamza. “Arab League Unveils Joint Military Force Amid Yemen Crisis.” Times (2015): N.PAG. Print.

Khalifa, Daisy R. “Surge in Piracy off Somalia Draws International Naval Response.” Sea Power 52.2 (2009): 18-22. Print.

Rayman, Noah. “Yemen’s President Resigns as Capital Remains in Hands of Rebels.” Times (2015): N.PAG. Print.

Stout, David. “The Crisis in Yemen Intensifies as Houthi Fighters Push Deeper into Aden.” Times (2015): N.PAG. Print.

Upadhyaya, Shishir. “Piracy in the Gulf of Aden: Naval Challenges.” Maritime Affairs: Journal of the National Maritime Foundation of India 6.2 (2010): 133-147. Print.

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"Sectarian Tensions in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula." IvyPanda, 20 Jan. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/sectarian-tensions-in-yemen-and-the-arabian-peninsula/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Sectarian Tensions in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula." January 20, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sectarian-tensions-in-yemen-and-the-arabian-peninsula/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Sectarian Tensions in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula'. 20 January.

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