Yemen is Rapidly Falling Apart
The Saudi-Emirati coalition currently fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen may have just suffered a gigantic setback, as the UAE-backed southern separatists (SRF) seized a Yemeni-government held army base after a UAE fighter jet bombed the base on Thursday. The SRF also surrounded the presidential palace in Aden and have seized most of the city, following three days of fighting within the already war-torn capital.
The separatists in Yemen have repeatedly called for an overthrow of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, believing the Yemeni government to be corrupt and a foreign puppet (both of which being true claims). However, the separatists previously had an uneasy alliance with the very government they vowed to overthrow, viewing the Houthis as a more dangerous common enemy. However, with the fall of Aden, this alliance appears to be completely finished. Additionally, the Yemeni government is likely doomed as well. Sana'a, the former capital city, has been under Houthi control for three years. Aden has now fallen. While the separatists did return two of the military bases they had occupied, the move by the SRF still reveals that there are massive internal problems within the Arab coalition. Unless the separatists fully relent or Saudi Arabia launches an actual invasion of Yemen, the chances of a government victory in Yemen look grim. Even if the coalition holds (the separatist leader has pledged allegiance to President Hadi, a move which makes absolutely no sense), it will most likely break apart completely if the Houthis are ever defeated. There is also, of course, the issue that Al Qaeda controls 36% of Yemen.
An even more interesting aspect of this crisis could be the potential ramification for Saudi-UAE relations and the GCC as a whole. Saudi and UAE envoys have attempted to mediate the situation in Yemen, which indicates that the UAE has no intent in breaking away from the Saudis. Indeed, given the Qatar embargo and the power of Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi would be foolish to try and break off from the Saudis. However, the UAE still has an agenda of its own in Yemen, namely when it comes to control over Yemeni ports. Yemen sits near the Red Sea, a huge waterway for the UAE's oil and gas exports. A friendy government or puppet state in Southern Yemen would ensure that a belligerent Mohammed Bin Salman would be unable to bully the UAE into submission.
Additionally, the elephant in the room remains - Iran and the Houthis. The apparent weakening of the UAE-Saudi alliance could potentially pave the way for Houthi advances in Yemen, spurred on by increased Iranian aid. However, the Houthis have also suffered setbacks. The assassination of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh by Houthi forces (Saleh was a Houthi ally who was suspected of negotiating with the Saudis) has greatly turned the Yemeni populace away from the Houthis.
The Houthis are facing problems. The Saudi-led coalition is facing problems. Yemen's food and medicine situation is one gargantuan problem, especially in the wake of a Saudi-led blockade of Yemen. Yemen, in its current state, is a quagmire of the type that makes Iraq look like heaven. With roughly five different factions (ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Houthis, the Saudi-backed government, and the UAE-backed seperatists), any peace in Yemen appears to be impossibly far away.