Political news in May was dominated by the reorganization and resurgence of the Southern Transitional Council (STC). Seemingly sidelined by the Saudi-Houthi talks and the Kingdom’s support of Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) chief Rashad al-Alimi, the Emirati-backed group extended its influence through the recruitment of powerful politicians, an internal reorganization, and a conference resulting in a new ‘Southern National Charter.’ Saudi-Houthi negotiations appear to have stalled over disagreement on a number of long-standing issues, but the recent involvement of China could bring additional resources and leverage to the table.
The STC’s revived fortunes have led to renewed political and military mobilization in Hadramawt. The Nation’s Shield forces, paid for and supplied by Saudi Arabia, but under the nominal control of President Al-Alimi, increased their presence in the governorate, and were visited by the Saudi coalition commander before assuming control of an important border crossing. For their part, STC-affiliated forces took up positions on the strategic Ataq-Al-Abr road linking Hadramawt and Shabwa, including a key stretch used by Islah-affiliated forces. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula also stepped up its activity, conducting at least two drone strikes in Shabwa as it publicly condemned the easing of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The Houthis launched their latest offensive in the economic war, banning the sale of domestically produced cooking gas in favor of imports. Imported gas is more expensive, but the brunt of the impact will be felt by the internationally recognized government and its production facilities in Marib. Having shut down the government’s oil exports and rerouted trade to deprive it of customs fees, the sanction will further cripple the government’s finances. It is already having trouble purchasing sufficient fuel to keep the lights on – May saw an extension of rolling blackouts in Aden as a Saudi grant has expired without extension. Summer sees the highest demand for electricity, but a number of generators in the interim capital have already shut down due to the shortage.
This issue of the Yemen Review was prepared by (in alphabetical order): Ryan Bailey, William Clough, Casey Coombs, Yasmeen Al-Eryani, Tawfeek Al-Ganad, Andrew Hammond, Hamza Al-Hammadi, Abdulghani Al-Iryani, Yazeed Al-Jeddawy, Maged Al-Madhaji, Elham Omar, Ghaidaa Al-Rashidy, Osamah Al-Rawhani, Miriam Saleh, Maysaa Shuja Al-Deen, Lara Uhlenhaut, Ned Whalley, and the Sana’a Center Economic Unit.