War and Peace in Yemen with Dr. Waleed Mahdi

Monday, October 17, 2016 I attended the talk entitled “War and Peace in Yemen” with Dr. Joshua Landis and Dr. Waleed Mahdi. I am a student of both professors and I was excited to hear Dr. Mahdi’s unique perspective as a Yemen-born American. He began by giving an introduction to the geography of Yemen as well as some information about the humanitarian need in the country. %85 of Yemen is currently experiencing humanitarian need with 3.5 million people internally displaced. Dr. Mahdi explained the Hoothi doctrine as “Death to America, death to the Jews, praise be to God, and the dominance of Islam”. He explained the situation in Yemen as caused by a variety of factors, among them being political, religious, and tribal. The traditional north-south divide that has long characterized Yemen is not reflected in the political geography of Yemen today. Another important factor in understanding the conflict in Yemen is the role played by Saudi Arabia and the role of Iran. Dr. Mahdi explained these roles very simply: Iran and Saudi Arabia are engaged in a proxy war in Iran. The Hoothis are backed by the Iranian regime. Iran has traditionally supported religious minorities (notably those leaning towards Shiism) as well as Shia majorities in countries like Bahrain and Iraq. The Hadi are backed by Saudi Arabia. The influence of foreign intervention has caused friction both within Yemen and on the international stage. Dr. Mahdi expressed his concern regarding foreign intervention in Yemen by both Saudi Arabia and Iran; he also criticized the use of US drone strikes.

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