War pushes Yemen to partition, thwarting peace efforts

Reuters article by Noah Browning

Yemen has endured thousands of air strikes and the deaths of more than 10,000 people in a 19-month war that has also unleashed hunger on the desperately poor country - but its biggest challenge may be yet to come.

The conflict has led to Yemen's de facto partition, with rival armies and institutions in the north and south, and could mean the map of the Middle East will have to be redrawn.

A three-day truce to allow in more humanitarian aid and prepare a political settlement collapsed last week, reflecting deadlocked efforts to end the stalemated war.

But behind the combatants' disagreements over how to share power, Yemen's future as a unified state appears increasingly in doubt.

Such a possibility appeared remote when a coalition of Arab states began launching air strikes in March 2015 to restore to power President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, driven from the capital, Sanaa, by the Iranian-allied Houthi movement in 2014.

It seems less fanciful now.

The Houthis' rise to power in the north has provoked a revival of southern separatism, a movement that sees the fracturing of state power as its moment to break away.

At the same time, the south and its major city, Aden, serve as a base for the internationally recognized government, which is trying to take back national control even as it manages an uneasy alliance with the secessionists.

Yemen was once split between a pro-Soviet state in the South and a republic buttressed by armed tribes in the North. A southern bid to secede failed in 1994 when the north restored unity by force.

Many southerners now believe their time has come after two decades of what they see as marginalization within the unified state, and the plundering of mostly southern oil reserves by corrupt northern tribal sheikhs and politicians.

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