by ZACH ROSENBERG
The New York Times is reporting that the Yemeni government has successfully repulsed a “major offensive” by insurgents. News organizations report at least 140 insurgents killed in a battle all over the northern province of Saada, including urban fighting in the area’s major city.
The conflict in Yemen, though often ignored by major media outlets, is a full-on entrenched insurgency. Northern Yemen is considered an active war zone, home to a conflict that has killed thousands and displaced at least 100,000 people. There are indications that the Yemen conflict is proxy war: the Zaidi are Shiites fighting the U.S.- and Saudi-backed Yemen government, making them a tempting policy tool for the Iranians. The U.S. has maintained a not-so-quiet presence there for years.
While few experts believe the Zaidi to be an existential threat to the government in Saana, the Yemeni government — weak, unpopular and poor — is in no position to effectively end the insurgency through either force or negotiation. The big question is how much support outside parties are willing to give. U.S. intelligence and special forces could give the Yemenis a decisive edge (ala Ethiopia), but is the U.S. willing to risk the anger and publicity that such support would bring? Are the benefits worth the costs?
(Photo: Los Angeles Times)