Yemen: Civil War as a Driver of Regional Arms Dynamic

Release date: 2023-07

 Yemen has been at war since 2014. But decades of conflict between the north and the south and the Sa'ada wars between 2004 and 2010 had already led to a heavy militarization of Yemen. With the Houthis nationwide expansion of power, the arms dynamics within the country changed significantly. The civil war internationalized into a proxy war between Sunni Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, and Iran, resulting in the armament of various local actors. However, due to the geostrategic and religious dimension of the war, local developments have also led to massive regional investments in military technology, further fueling the arms race. Internal power shifts and the war have led to a weaponization of key stakeholders (Yemeni Army, Houthis, Joint Forces, STC) by external actors (KSA, UAE, Iran). Developments in Yemen also had a huge impact on the armament of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which see Houthis' territorial conquests as a threat to their own security; the war changed and increased their proliferation of military technology. For (Neo)realism, it seems puzzling that the drivers of the arms dynamic affecting the entire region are mainly found in the "black box" of Yemen - a finding that would appear puzzling to (Neo)realist International Relations approaches prioritizing the systemic-level explanations of state behavior and portraying arms buildup as a phenomenon driven primarily by states' quest for security in an anarchic and threatening international environment.

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