The Houthi threat to Marib that dominated 2021 set in motion a shift in strategy by Saudi Arabia that restored the vanguard role to the United Arab Emirates and its allied Yemeni forces. The turning point came in January when the UAE-backed Giants Brigades pushed Houthi forces out of Shabwa and entered southern Marib, forcing the Houthis to divert resources away from their campaign against Marib city. The Emiratis’ renewed influence prompted Houthi drone and missile strikes on Abu Dhabi, resulting in an intense and sustained round of Saudi-led coalition airstrikes on Sana’a and other parts of Houthi-controlled northern Yemen.
While the risk of Marib and Shabwa falling to the Houthis has eased, the shifts within the anti-Houthi alliance and on the battlefield have set in motion a new phase of the war. The uncertainty this has created has been further compounded by fuel shortages, rising food prices and the prospect that Russia’s war on Ukraine will cut into humanitarian assistance to Yemen.