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Yemen: A Battle for the Future

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Ginny Hill and Baraa Shiban
9 November 2016

Authors’ note

Research for this paper was conducted during June, July and August 2016.  

Updates and amendments

Since the Saudi-led Coalition bombed a funeral hall in Sana’a on October 8 2016, killing at least 140 people, diplomatic positions have modified slightly. There is mounting pressure within Yemen for a long-term ceasefire, binding on the Saudi-led Coalition as well as all Yemeni armed groups, and some tentative steps towards greater internal accountability inside both President Abdurabbo Hadi’s forces and the Saudi Arabian military. While Riyadh has admitted responsibility for several air strikes leading to civilian casualties and agreed to pay compensation to the bereaved, this has not apparently resulted in a systemic review of targeting policy.


Yemen is embroiled in multiple civil wars, triggered by a long-term decline in oil production, the failure of state-building, strong sub-national identities and internal competition between rival elite networks that comprised the regime of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Regional actors are intervening in Yemen’s local wars to support their preferred allies, resulting in a complex conflict environment.

The paper sets Yemen’s multiple conflicts in the context of the ‘remote control’ approach to warfare – focusing on the use of special forces, mercenaries and armed drones. It highlights the moral and political risks for Western governments training and arming regional protagonists, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

About the Authors

Ginny Hill is Visiting Fellow at the LSE Middle East Centre. She is also a writer and independent consultant, who has covered politics and conflict in Yemen for more than a decade. She is the founder and former convenor of the Chatham House Yemen Forum (2010–2013) and she recently served on the United Nations Panel of Experts on Yemen (2015–2016).

Baraa Shiban is a Yemeni activist who works with the human rights organisation Reprieve. He investigated drone strikes across Yemen between 2012 and 2015. He also served as member of Yemen’s National Dialogue, a body in charge of reviewing Yemeni laws and drafting its new constitution, and he helped in running a media centre in Sana’a’s Change Square in 2011.

The Remote Control project is a project of the Network for Social Change hosted by Oxford Research Group. The project examines changes in military engagement, in particular the use of drones, special forces, private military companies and cyber warfare


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