Yemen witnessed many positive developments between the first and last week of April. In the first week, coinciding with the start of Ramadan, all Yemeni parties announced a truce that continues to hold. In the last week, the internationally-recognized Yemeni government announced the resignation of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the appointment of a Presidential Leadership Council headed by Rashad Muhammad al-Alimi. The new council includes leaders of nearly all the warring parties, except for Ansar Allah, the Iran-supported Houthi rebels. As a start in this direction and in hopes of cementing the truce, the warring parties arranged a prisoner exchange. The new council aims to end the infighting between the Saudi and Emirati-backed factions, but will face an even harder mission, bringing peace to the country and finding an agreement with the Houthis.
The truce, the new council, and the prisoner swap have surely had a positive influence on Yemen and the region; the Houthis stopped launching missiles at Saudi Arabia and the UAE and tentative steps have been taken to open Hodeida Port and Sanaa airport to international relief supplies. However, many issues remain unresolved. The new council, now based in Aden rather than Riyadh, faces multiple challenges: restoring the functioning of the Yemeni state, finding terms to establish trust measures and a good basis for negotiations with the Houthis, and sustaining the truce.
How could the UN and U.S. envoys push the peace process in Yemen? How has the new council and the truce changed domestic politics and power dynamics between the different government factions? What steps should be prioritized right now to alleviate the cost of conflict on Yemeni civilians? What other actions should the new council prioritize? How could Iran and Saudi Arabia find terms of understanding to support the political process in Yemen? What role should we expect Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait, who have tried to mediate throughout the eleven years of turmoil and conflict?
Featured Speakers: Ambassador Patrick Theros, Dr. Nabeel Khoury, Sama’a Al-Hamdani, Azal Al-Salafi, and Dr. Andrea Carboni.
Ambassador Patrick Theros (moderator)
Strategic Advisor, Gulf International Forum
Ambassador Theros has held such positions as Political Advisor to the Commander in Chief, Central Command; Deputy Chief of Mission and Political officer in Amman; Charge D’affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission in Abu Dhabi; Economic Counselor in Damascus; and U.S. Ambassador to the State of Qatar. In a career spanning almost 36 years, he also has served in diplomatic positions in Beirut, Managua, Dharan and Abu Dhabi, as well as in the Department of State. During that period, he earned four Superior Honor Awards. After retirement Ambassador Theros served as President of the U.S. Qatar Business Council in 2000-2017.
Dr. Nabeel Khoury
Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council
Dr. Khoury is a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Hariri Center for the Middle East. His commentaries appear on the Atlantic Council’s MENA Resource, The Hill, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs and on his own blog, Middle East Corner.
After twenty five years in the Foreign Service, Dr. Khoury retired from the U.S. Department of State in 2013 with the rank of Minister Counselor. He taught Middle East and US strategy courses at the National Defense University and Northwestern University. In his last overseas posting, Khoury served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Yemen (2004-2007). In 2003, during the Iraq war, he served as Department spokesperson at US Central Command in Doha and in Baghdad.
Khoury earned his BA in political science from the American University of Beirut and his MA and PhD in political science from the State University of New York at Albany. Before his Foreign Service career, Khoury was an assistant professor of political science at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, and earlier, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Jordan in Amman. Dr. Khoury has published articles on issues of leadership and development in the Arab world in The Middle East Journal, Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and The International Journal of Middle East Studies. Articles on the regional impact of the Arab uprising and on U.S. policy in Yemen appear in the summer 2013 and summer 2014 issues of Middle East Policy. In 2019 Dr. Khoury published his book “Bunker Diplomacy: An Arab-American in the U.S. Foreign Service: Personal Reflections on 25 Years of U.S. Policy in the Middle East.”
Senior Yemen Expert, Hala Systems; Director, Yemen Cultural Center of Heritage and the Arts
Sama’a Al-Hamdani is a Senior Country Expert at Hala Systems, focusing on Yemen’s political dynamics, the role of regional actors, and the obstacles in the path of transitional justice post-conflict. Previously, she was a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute (MEI), a visiting fellow at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) at Georgetown University, and a fellow at the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies (SCSS). She is also the director of the Yemen Cultural Institute for Heritage and the Arts (YCIHA), a non-profit in Washington, DC, dedicated to Yemeni arts and heritage. From 2011 to 2015, she wrote the blog “Yemeniaty,” which helped explain political developments during the Arab Spring and the civil war. She has been published both in Arab and Western think tanks. She has also made appearances on France24, BBC World Service, CNN, Aljazeera, Al-Araby Television, and C-SPAN, among other outlets.
Dr. Andrea Carboni
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Global Studies of the University of Sussex
Andrea Carboni is a postdoctoral research fellow at the School of Global Studies of the University of Sussex (United Kingdom). He is also a humanitarian analyst for Mercy Corps. He earned his BA and MA in European and International Studies from the University of Trento (Italy) and holds a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Sussex. His research interests include the politics and the institutions of contemporary Yemen. He previously worked as a researcher for the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) and as a freelance consultant for several research institutions in Africa, Europe and the United States.
Research Fellow, Yemen Policy Center; Protection and Advocacy Officer, Peace Track Initiative
Azal Al-Salafi is a Research Fellow at Yemen Policy Center, and Protection and Advocacy Officer at Peace Track Initiative. She practiced corporate law and worked on cases with the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris, France and then shifted her career focus towards human rights, entrepreneurship, and socio-economic development fields with a focus on migration potential. She focuses her research and work on pathways of protection, feminist foreign policies, socio-economic scenes and their impact on human rights and peacebuilding.
Azal holds an LLB in International Law from Girne American University of Cyprus and MA in Human Rights and Democratization at the Global Campus of Human Rights with a Focus on the MENA Region at the Saint Joseph University of Beirut.