For the belligerents of the war in Yemen, it is the mother of battles. For civilian populations, an endless nightmare. Since February, the Houthi rebels, the pro-Iranian militia from the north of the country, have been trying to expel from the province of Marib and its capital the forces loyal to President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, himself dislodged. in the capital, Sana’a, in February 2015 – which precipitated Saudi Arabia’s intervention.
This battle of attrition has already claimed the lives of hundreds of fighters on both sides in this region, which is crucial for the country’s energy supply. According to the report announced on Saturday April 10 by loyalist military officials, the fighting left at least 53 dead on both sides in twenty-four hours. Marib produces nearly 10% of the diesel fuel and, above all, 90% of the liquefied petroleum gas consumed in the country. Which is used for cooking and heating in almost all Yemeni households, while severe fuel shortages are already plaguing many parts of Yemen.
These fights could determine the contours of any political settlement of the civil war. If Marib falls, the rebels will be able to claim a strategic victory and assert that advantage in negotiations. And it would allow them to tighten their control over the northern half of the country. If the city resists, the pro-Hadi camp would save one of its only strongholds, while its authority is contested elsewhere, especially by secessionists in the south of the country.
“Marib is the last pro-Hadi government stronghold in what used to be Yemen of North before the country’s unification, in 1990. Symbolically, its loss would constitute a major setback for the government recognized by the international community and supported by the Saudi coalition. This is why Marib is important. For the Houthis, as for the forces of the government camp, for whom this attack is an existential danger “, describes Peter Salisbury, analyst and specialist on Yemen for the NGO International Crisis Group (ICG). “There are probably several factors at play, he adds, but the main one is the conviction of the Houthis that they can take this city and end the war in the north, improve the economic viability of the areas they control and their negotiating position with Saudi Arabia ”.
Washington’s more balanced position
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