As a Saudi-led coalition intensifies its strikes in Yemen, where the Houthis — the current group in charge of the country’s capital — are battling local opposition, Associate Professor of Political Science and Middle East scholar Stacey Philbrick Yadav recently shared her perspective on the situation with Al Jazeera.
In the April 13 interview, Philbrick Yadav said that the coalition’s attacks in Yemen have “achieved a great deal of destruction on the ground [in terms of] civilian infrastructure, lives and livelihoods. We’re on the cusp of a full-blown humanitarian crisis. But in terms of the political objectives that the Saudis may have had in initiating this conflict, I don’t see any progress.”
She added that the aim of the Saudi-led strikes, as well as the naval blockade along the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, “has actually been to bring Yemenis to heel in effect. We see that particularly because of the use of the naval blockade. That’s really a way of shutting off access to the country.”
Yemen, she noted, “is a country that is profoundly reliant on food imports, and everyone knows that — the Saudis know that perfectly well. Closing the country off was a very deliberate effort to force the hand of political actors but also to provoke precisely the kind of chaos we’re now seeing.”
As for the potential for peace and stability in the country, “The thorniest question at this point is who might actually function as a good-faith broker of negotiations,” Philbrick Yadav said. “At this stage, the Saudis, the Gulf Cooperation Council in general, has very little political capital on the ground. The United Nations squandered, I think, a lot of its political capital through a drawn out and in many ways poorly implemented transitional process over the past four years. The United States is certainly just not seen as an evenhanded player in this particular conflict.”
Philbrick Yadav, who has lived in Yemen and is a member of the executive committee of the American Institute of Yemeni Studies, has been writing about Yemen’s opposition politics for more than a decade. Since Yemen’s uprising in 2011, she’s published a book exploring the dynamics of Islamist activism and alliance building, and articles in several academic journals, including the latest issues of International Journal of Middle East Studies and Middle East Report.
A member of the HWS faculty in 2007, Philbrick Yadav earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies from Smith College, and has spent several years conducting field research in Yemen, Lebanon and Egypt. Before joining the Colleges, she taught at Mount Holyoke College, and in 2008 was a visiting scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies.