A simmering conflict between separatists in Southern Yemen and Aden-based elements of Yemen’s exiled government spilled out into the open in late January. This produced a torrent of commentary by Yemen analysts warning that the events point to a deepening fissure between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the two principal members of the military coalition seeking to restore the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. While the outbreak of hostilities between separatist forces in Aden that enjoy Emirati support and those representing the Hadi government is certainly unhelpful, its causes have more to do with long-standing Southern grievances than disagreements between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Both governments sent senior military officials to Aden to establish a cease-fire and refocus attention on the continuing struggle to defeat the Houthi insurgency, a goal that, nearly three years after it entered Yemen’s war, still eludes the coalition.
Meanwhile, another event that appears far more relevant to this effort has gone relatively unnoticed: On January 25, Reuters reported that Mohammed Abdel-Salam, a senior leader of the Houthi insurgents and one of the group’s principal negotiators, flew to neighboring Oman, accompanying a U.S. citizen freed by the Houthis after months in detention, following a decision to release him to the custody of the Omani government.