Yemen Conflict

  May 28, 2020

Yemen Conflict

How did the civil war in Yemen begin?

Arab Spring uprising in 2011 forced Yemen’s longtime authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Hadi had too many problems to contend with. The Houthi movement, which champions Yemen's Zaidi Shia Muslim minority and fought a series of rebellions against Saleh during the previous decade, took advantage of the new president's weakness by taking control of their northern heartland of Saada province and neighbouring areas.

Houthis in early 2015 took over Sanaa and later forced Mr Hadi to flee.

Why did Saudi Arabia intervene? Who supports the Saudi coalition?

Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states began an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr Hadi's government.

The coalition received logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK and France.

How did Yemen come to see the worst humanitarian disaster?

Saudi coalition has led a blockade of Yemen, denying the country critical supplies and leading to a famine and a humanitarian crisis that, as of 2019, is described as the worst in the world. Thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed during the conflict. 

When and where did the Houthi attack on Aramco refineries take place? 

On 14 September 2019, a drone attack was carried out targeting the state-owned Saudi Aramco oil processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais in eastern Saudi Arabia. The Houthi movement in Yemen claimed responsibility, tying it to events surrounding the Saudi Arabian intervention in the Yemeni Civil War. 

What do Saudi Arabia and US say about who is behind the attack?

However, Saudi Arabian officials claim that drones and missiles were used for the attack and that they were of Iranian manufacture. United States officials assert the attacks originated in Iran. Iran has denied any involvement in the attack. 

What has been the strategic impact? 

What happened to oil processing facilities?

Both facilities were shut down to effect repairs, cutting Saudi Arabia's oil production by about half – representing about 5% of global oil production – and causing some destabilization of global financial and commodities markets. 

How big an oil player is Saudi Arabia?

The proven oil reserves in Saudi Arabia are the second largest in the world second only to Venezuela. Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil exporter. Saudi Aramco is a national oil company owned by the Saudi Arabian government; it is the second largest oil producer in the world, behind Russia's Rosneft.

How is India impacted due to the steep rise in global crude prices?

Global crude prices soared almost 20% - the highest single day rise since the Iraq crisis in 1991.

If high oil prices persist, is likely to hurt India’s economic growth. Saudi is our second-biggest oil supplier after Iraq. It sold 40 million tonnes of crude oil to India in 2018-19 fiscal, when the country had imported 207 million tonnes of oil.

How bad can it become?

What is India’s response in terms of preparation against such drone attacks?

Following a major drone attack on Saudi Arabian oil installations last week, Indian defence forces and the private sector are taking stock of counter-drone preparedness.

Private companies, especially oil refiners, and key government bodies like the Airports Authority of India (AAI) are reviewing preparedness.

India has a number of large oil refining assets close to India-Pakistan border. These include Reliance’s mega oil plant at Jamnagar, HPCL-Mittal’s refinery in Bhatinda, Nayara Energy’s Vadinar facility, and Indian Oil’s Panipat, Mathura and Koyali. The physical security at these sites is being managed by the Central Industrial Security Force.

What does the Counter-drone technology comprise of?

Counter-drone technology comprises two parts — detection and neutralisation.

A drone can be detected using traditional radar systems, or radio frequency-based solutions. However, drones flying too low or too fast, or if they are too small, may go undetected. This raises requirement for specialised radar systems.

To neutralise them, the most prevalent solution is a jammer. However, jammers may not work with autonomous drones, which are pre-programmed for a specific target location.

In such cases, the counter measure is Global Positioning System (GPS) spoofing, which maliciously infects the GPS on a drone, causing it to lose sight of the target.