Is the Saudi-Led Coalition in Yemen Collapsing?
Plus: A fourth day of Hong Kong protests, Guatemala’s new president, and what to watch in the world this week.
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Fighting in Yemen exposes tensions within the Saudi-led coalition, Hong Kong braces for a fourth day of protests after a weekend of violence, and Guatemala elects a new president.
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A Fragile Ceasefire in Aden
The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen intervened on Sunday in the port of Aden, where southern separatists had seized military bases and surrounded the vacant presidential palace. The coalition officially backs the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who resides in Saudi Arabia.
The separatists have been part of the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis but are also at odds with Hadi’s government. While a ceasefire has been called, the separatist forces—who have benefited from the support of the United Arab Emirates—have not retreated from the military camps they seized on Saturday. At least 40 people were killed during the fighting, which coincided with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
A fractured coalition? The seizure of Aden has exposed cracks within the Saudi-led coalition, which has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen since 2015. The conflict between the UAE-backed southern separatists and government forces has been simmering for months. Moreover, the UAE began to draw down its troops in Yemen last month in an effort to aid talks with the Houthis.
“It is becoming increasingly obvious that the UAE and Saudi Arabia do not share the same end goals in Yemen, even though they share the same overarching goal of pushing back the perceived influence of Iran,” the Yemen scholar Elisabeth Kendall told the Washington Post.
What’s next? Saudi Arabia has called an emergency meeting on the developing situation in Aden, where the ceasefire remains fragile. Meanwhile, peace talks with the Houthis in the port city of Hodeidah are stalled. After the events in Aden, the Houthis’ deputy foreign minister said on Saturday that the seizure of Aden was further proof that Hadi’s government is not fit to lead.
What We’re Following
Hong Kong prepares for another day of protests. Anti-government protesters are expected again at Hong Kong’s international airport today followed by a rally outside the city’s police headquarters. Clashes between protesters and police over the weekend again grew violent, with the police quickly turning to tear gas to clear the streets. Activists threw at least two petrol bombs at the police. Meanwhile, Hong Kong officials continue to emphasize the economic damage the protests have done, with revenue across industries declining amid disruptions.
Norway’s police treat mosque attack as terrorist act. Norwegian police are investigating an attempted attack on a mosque over the weekend as a potential act of terrorism. (The gunman was overpowered by those inside.) It is the latest in a series of white nationalist attacks, including the deadly shooting in El Paso, Texas last week. The Guardian reports that the suspect in Norway was inspired by the attackers in El Paso and in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Guatemala elects its next president. Alejandro Giammattei appears set to win Guatemala’s presidential election by a significant margin, defeating the former first lady Sandra Torres. Giammattei won’t take office until January, but he already faces a major challenge: the so-called safe third country deal that Guatemala has signed with the United States. Despite the country’s high rates of violent crime, it seems unlikely that Giammattei will be able to reverse the agreement.
The World This Week
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton is in London today and Tuesday for talks with British officials. He is expected to push Britain to toughen its policies on Iran, which last month seized a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, and on the Chinese firm Huawei, which the United States considers a risk to national security.
Zimbabwe’s opposition will take to the streets on Friday to protest against the state of the country’s economy, which is suffering its worst crisis in a decade. Zimbabwe faces shortages of fuel and food, as well as power cuts. The opposition sees the situation as the result of corruption under President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The corruption trial of Sudanese ex-President Omar al-Bashir begins on Saturday, though the criminal case has been met with some skepticism. Sudan remains under the control of a ruling military council, which is expected to finalize a new constitutional declaration with the country’s opposition on the same day. A new prime minister will be announced on Aug. 20.
Keep an Eye On
Russian censorship. Around 50,000 people turned out for a rally in Moscow on Saturday—the largest opposition protest in years. In response, Russia’s state communications watchdog lodged a complaint with Google for promoting “illegal mass events” after livestreams of the demonstration were broadcast on YouTube. Russia has a history of putting such pressure on Google: It removed a YouTube ad by opposition activist Alexei Navalny last year.
A meeting between Britain and Ireland. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has agreed to sit down with his Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar, to discuss the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and the “backstop” to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Varadkar remains firm that Ireland will not renegotiate the backstop now that Johnson is prime minister. Both men bear some blame for the impasse, argues Oliver Wiseman in FP. A date for the talks has not yet been set.
Turkey’s treatment of Syrian refugees. Thousands of Syrian refugees are being deported from Turkey—despite the fact that many of them hold the documents required to be there. Ankara’s policy is sending them back to face danger and death, argue Kareem Chehayeb and Sarah Hunaidi. One of these deported refugees was shot while attempting to return to Turkey last week. The Washington Post follows up on his story, which was first reported in FP.
Sri Lanka’s opposition candidate. On Sunday, Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa was selected as the opposition candidate in this year’s presidential election. Gotabaya, a former military officer and the younger brother of ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is known for his harsh—and controversial—tactics during the country’s 26-year civil war.
Shinzo Abe’s legacy. Later this year, Shinzo Abe is set to become Japan’s longest serving prime minister. While he has brought recovery to a stagnating economy and improved relations with China, Abe has fallen short of a personal goal: amending Japan’s pacifist postwar constitution. Recent polls show he doesn’t have the public support to do it, William Sposato writes for FP.
Germany has halted 35 million euros of funds sent to Brazil earmarked for Amazon preservation projects, according to Brazilian newspapers. The move comes amid concerns about deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, which has risen by 67 percent in 2019.
Over 140 people have died during severe floods in India, where tens of thousands are sheltering in relief camps. In the southern state of Kerala, authorities fear the rescue efforts will be slowed by more heavy rains this week.
Odds and Ends
While bees are dying off in many parts of the world, Berlin has witnessed an increase in beehives—and swarms of bees around the city. The population boom can be attributed in part to the recent rise in urban beekeeping, the New York Times reports.
That’s it for today.