StudiesHouthis losses and gains from implementing the Riyadh Agreement

The paper starts from the assumption that the full implementation of the Riyadh Agreement would put an end to divisions between the two parties. These divisions are a traditional source of Houthi strength and encourage them to avoid political solutions and pursue violence. The Houthis believe that with a little patience and time, they can achieve comprehensive control over Yemen.


Muhammad Abdullah Muhammad

Translation from Arabic: Riyadh Hammadi

Reviewed and edited by: James Root


Executive Summary


On November 5, 2019, Yemeni parties backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition signed the Riyadh Agreement under the patronage of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, which provides for power-sharing and the rearrangement of the political and security situation in the governorates outside the control of the pro-Iran Houthi group. It stipulated the formation of a new government consisting of 24 ministers, divided equally between the north and the south, within a month from the date of signing, which would exercise its duties from Aden. The agreement also provided for the reintegration and organization of all armed factions under the leadership of the Ministries of Defense and Interior, and for the return of forces loyal to President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) forces to their previous positions before the violence that erupted between the two sides in Aden in August 2019. The agreement also stipulated the settlement of the security and military situation in those areas, and the appointment of a governor for Aden and another for Abyan governorate.[1]

The signing of the agreement alarmed the Houthi group as its opponents seemed to have resolved to put aside their deep differences and devote themselves to the battle against it. But this concern did not last long. It was too late to address the rift between the two anti-Houthi parties, which led to armed clashes in Aden, Abyan, and Shabwa. In addition, many of the terms of the agreement are vague and subject to multiple interpretations. This loophole is the cause of the differences and led to failure to implement what was agreed upon.

We argue here that what constitutes a gain for the Saudi-led coalition and its associated Yemeni parties must at the same time represent a loss for the Houthis and their Iranian allies. Strengthening the position of the Yemeni government by strengthening its influence and improving the security and economic conditions in its areas of control would weaken the Houthis, who promote their success through the failure of the government. We also argue that ending the division in the anti-Houthi front will lead to direct military results in favor of the government, which will push the Houthis to accept political solutions.


This paper deals with the potential losses for the Houthi group that would come from the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement. This necessarily means identifying the group’s gains from the failure to implement the agreement. In drawing conclusions, we rely on an extensive historical background in which we answer the question: To what extent did national division play a role in the Houthi’s rise and how did it increase its strength?

The importance of this paper lies in its approach to the war in Yemen from the point of view of the Houthis concerning the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement. The Houthi group is not a party to the agreement, which was an emergency political measure signed to confront this common “enemy”. There is an indirect gain that may be achieved for Yemen through the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement by reducing the number of warring parties in Yemen to two: the Houthis on the one hand, and the internationally recognized government on the other. This provides a better path to peace, given that negotiations between two parties will be easier than negotiating between multiple parties with different orientations and goals.

The paper starts from the assumption that the full implementation of the Riyadh Agreement would put an end to divisions between the two parties. These divisions are a traditional source of Houthi strength and encourage them to avoid political solutions and pursue violence. The Houthis believe that with a little patience and time, they can achieve comprehensive control over Yemen.

Historical background

The Houthi group, also known as Ansar Allah, is a Zaidi religious and political revivalist movement. It appeared at the beginning of the 1990s when Zaidi activists established the “Believing Youth Forum”, a body tasked with reviving the religious heritage of the Zaidi sect to confront competing religious currents. Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi was one of the participants in this forum, and over time he and most others involved in the activity of the forum moved toward more radical politics.[2]

The references, activities, and methods of the Houthi movement are based on the political tradition of the Zaidi sect, which for centuries dominated the northern highlands of Yemen. The Zaidi sect is one of the three main sects of Shiites in the Islamic world, along with the Jaafari Imamis and the Ismailis.

The long-standing presence of Zaydism in certain parts of Yemen depended on a state-like political organization called the imamate. The Zaidi concept of “imamate” refers to a dual public authority, both spiritual and temporal. The Zaidi Imamate has conditions, foremost of which is lineage. This means that the imam must belong to the Prophet Muhammad’s family, descended from Ali ibn Abi Talib and his wife Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet. For this reason, the Houthis are keen today to promote to the public that their leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, is a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

In the ninth century AD, the first Zaidi Imamate was established in northern Yemen. Over eleven centuries, the imamate alternated between continuity and discontinuity. It is useful to recall several reference dates for internal and external turning points and events that had a role in the process of forming the political, military, and ideological Houthis.

A summary of the most important dates:

1- The revolution of September 26, 1962, overthrew the theocratic Zaidi Imamate, and announced the establishment of the republican system. Although the Houthis did not appear in the Yemeni political scene until about four decades after the revolution, the group’s goals and ideology are strongly influenced by this event.[3]

2- The Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, led by Ayatollah Khomeini. The Houthis belong to the Zaidi sect, a Shiite sect that differs from the Shiite doctrine prevalent in Iran. But the Islamic revolution in Iran provided the Shiite sects in Iraq, Lebanon, the Arabian Peninsula, and Yemen with political inspiration. Furthermore, the Islamic government in Iran gradually supported these groups with money and weapons.

3- The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The U.S. invasion led to the dismantling of Iraqi state institutions and destroyed the strong wall that was standing in the way of the new Shiite wave that was ready to move with the inspiration of the Iranian experience. Iraqi Shiite groups welcomed the overthrow of the Ba’ath regime in Iraq and were the biggest beneficiaries of the American invasion.

However, the emerging Zaidi political movement in Yemen, led by Hussein al-Houthi, reacted to the American invasion in a completely different way. The movement showed its presence by calling for a demonstration in front of the U.S. embassy in Sanaa and raising slogans condemning America and Israel in mosques. Its activity centered in the Great Mosque in the old city of Sana’a, where local radio stations broadcast Friday prayers. This led to the Yemeni government’s arrest of dozens of the movement’s members.[4]

This was one of the first sparks that ignited the Saada wars. The demonstrations were not sparked by sympathy for Saddam Hussein’s rule, as their perspective does not differ from that of the Shiite groups in Iraq and Iran. What moved the Houthis was the need to win over the Yemeni public through anti-American and anti-Jewish slogans, inspired by the Iranian Islamic Revolution.

4- The six Sa’dah wars that took place between the Ali Abdullah Saleh regime and the Houthi rebels. The first war began in 2004 when Hussein al-Houthi (1959–2004) refused to surrender himself to the authorities, which had received information about destabilizing activities in the Maran area of Sa’ada governorate.[5] At that time, Hussein al-Houthi—the older brother of the current leader of the Houthi group—had gradually turned into an opponent of the central government and the regime of the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was killed by the Houthis in December 2017 after the collapse of their alliance.

The first round of the Saada wars resulted in the killing of the rebel leader, Hussein al-Houthi, by the Yemeni army in the Maran Mountains. However, the war renewed months later. Abd al-Malik al-Houthi—the younger brother of Hussain al-Houthi—received the banner of the Zaidi rebellion with the encouragement of his father, Badr al-Din al-Houthi, a Zaidi authority who died in 2010. Four wars followed, the last of which was in 2009.

5- The February 11, 2011, uprising, which erupted against the regime of the late Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthis joined the revolutionary process and participated in the protest squares in Sana’a and the capitals of the northern governorates. At the same time, they were playing their role as an armed rebel group against the state in Saada. That uprising forced President Saleh to hand over power to his deputy, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was voted for in February 2012 through elections with a single candidate.

The transfer of power was governed by the Gulf Initiative and its executive mechanism. The Gulf Initiative is a document signed in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on November 23, 2011, with which Saleh agreed to peacefully step down from power.[6] The initiative provided for the equal sharing of the government between the parties to the 2011 crisis, namely: the General People’s Congress, which has been the ruling party since its establishment in 1982 headed by Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the Joint Meeting Parties, an opposition coalition that includes the Islamic Reform Party, the Yemeni Socialist Party, and several other small parties. Three other emerging powers were not included in the Gulf Initiative: the Houthi rebels in the north, the separatist Southern Movement, and Al-Qaeda.

The failure to implement the Gulf Initiative has led to a turbulent Yemeni reality, which is a mixture of state fragility and a political and security vacuum, with an unprecedented state of division and distrust. These conditions continued to deteriorate until the moment when the Houthis turned against the internationally recognized authority, on September 21, 2014. This was helped by a set of circumstances resulting from the political and national failure during the transitional period.

The Houthis used the word “revolution” to describe all of their movements that ended with the seizure of Sana’a, as the word had become popular with the influence of the Arab Spring. Nevertheless, before that date, the Houthis did not give this description to their armed rebellion in Saada.

Division paves the way for the Houthis to Sana’a

A severe state of national division, which culminated in 2011, paved the way for the Houthis to control Sana’a. This division eventually led to the all-out war that has troubled the country for seven years and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

In the period between March 2013 and January 2014, Sana’a witnessed what was called the “Comprehensive National Dialogue Conference.” The dialogue conference was established based on what was stated in the Gulf Initiative and its implementation mechanism. It aimed to determine the future of the state, the political system, and several contested national issues. All active currents in Yemen participated in the dialogue, including the Houthis and the separatist Southern Movement, despite their opposition to the Gulf Initiative, which the Houthis considered a “betrayal” of the 2011 revolution.[7]

While the civilian representatives of the Houthi group at the National Dialogue Conference presented their opinions about all the issues under discussion, the armed groups affiliated with the Houthis in the governorates of Saada, Hajjah, and Amran were waging violent battles to dislodge local opponents in preparation to go toward the capital.

The psychological gap between the signatories to the Gulf Initiative was deep. On the one hand, the Joint Meeting Parties—along with military and tribal leaders loyal to the Islah party—saw themselves as the true representative of the forces of the revolution against Saleh and what they call the “remnants of the old regime.” On the other hand, the General People’s Congress, headed by Saleh, saw itself as a representative of “constitutional legitimacy” and a defender of the state and regime against what it called saboteurs, agents, and spies.

It was clear that while the two sides signed the Gulf Initiative, each of them retained its viewpoint, intentions, and hostile rhetoric. In the face of massive internal and international pressures, all parties resorted to pretending to abide by the terms of the initiative. The transitional period was marked by the daily exchange of accusations of obstructing and spoiling the political process.

The National Dialogue Conference ended with a final document called “The Outcomes of the Comprehensive National Dialogue,”[8] an academic blueprint for a virtuous state on paper only. Outside of the conference halls—which took place at the luxurious Movenpick Hotel in the capital, Sanaa—the whole country was boiling like a cauldron. The political situation was tense, accompanied by a serious economic collapse and security unrest throughout the country. The Houthis were seeking to achieve their own program in controlling the areas with weapons.

In the first stage, the Houthis took control of the governorate of Saada, and fought battles to control areas belonging to the governorate of Hajjah. Then they headed to the city of Amran, the northern gateway to the capital. Al-Qaeda was sweeping cities and government centers in southern Yemen (Zinjibar, Jaar, and Shuqrah) and some areas of the north (Qaifa areas in Radaa), and carried out bloody suicide bombings and regular assassinations of army and security officers. Some of these assassinations targeted civilian Houthi leaders and others close to the Houthis, such as Member of Parliament Abdul Karim Jadban, Dr. Ahmed Sharaf Al-Din, and later Dr. Muhammad Abdul-Malik Al-Mutawakel and journalist Abdul-Karim Al-Khaiwani.

The positions of the state, the Yemeni armed forces, and the various political parties were clear and decisive regarding the activities of Al-Qaeda. For example, the Yemeni army conducted successful ground and air military campaigns between 2013 and 2014 against militants in Abyan, Shabwa, Lahj, and Al-Bayda.[9] On the other hand, the government’s stance toward the Houthi expansion by force of arms was weak and confused in legal, political, and moral terms, especially during the transitional period.

In that period, the Houthis contributed to presenting a double image of themselves in Sana’a. While they focused on the discourse of victimhood and the desire for justice from the six Saada wars, they continued to carry weapons and aspire to achieve an ancient political and religious goal.

By the end of 2014, the political formula emerging from the Gulf Initiative was dying out. By entering Sana’a on September 21 of the same year, the Houthis dealt the initiative a fatal blow. The Houthis entered Sana’a amid an atmosphere of lethargy, astonishment, and sharp division between parties. Since then, Yemenis have not yet agreed on a unified account of what happened that day.

Nearly three months after seizing the capital, the Houthis imposed house arrest on the transitional president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. But weeks later, the president was able to flee to Aden. Houthi forces decided to follow him to Aden, in late March 2015, forcing President Hadi to flee to the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

On March 26, a Saudi-led military coalition announced a massive operation in Yemen called “Decisive Storm.” The coalition said its operation in Yemen was in response to a request made by the internationally recognized Hadi government. Coalition airstrikes targeted the Houthis and Yemeni army forces, who were said at the time to be loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The coalition classified Ali Abdullah Saleh as an enemy and accused him of conspiring with the Houthis, Iran’s ally, who planned to take over Yemen and threaten the security of neighboring countries.

Initially, the biggest challenge facing the Saudi-led coalition was securing a foothold inside Yemeni territory from which to attack the Houthis. It succeeded in this militarily from the first months. After fierce battles, the Houthis were expelled from Aden and the southern Yemeni governorates. The coalition also financed an armed resistance against the Houthis in the city of Taiz, which divided the city into two parts. The UAE and Bahrain also sent land units and air cover to keep the Houthis away from oil and gas-rich Marib. While there were some successes in the operation’s first year, the alliance continues to have political and administrative weaknesses that continue to this day.

The Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, consisted of nine Arab countries, some of which participated in a small way. Over time, the number of countries participating in the coalition has shrunk, and consists currently of Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and the UAE. The UAE has also changed the nature of its presence in Yemen since it decided to withdraw its ground forces in 2019.

Since the Houthis, during their move to seize the capital, crushed on their way political forces, interests, and military, civil and tribal leaders, it is natural that these forces, interests, and leaders were the first to welcome the Saudi alliance. The most prominent forces that were overthrown by the Houthis—along with the transitional President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi—were the Islah party (the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen) and its allies from the army led by General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who fled to Saudi Arabia in September 2014 after his defeat by the Houthis in the north of the capital. Before that, the Houthis had finished striking the tribal leaders of the “Al-Ahmar” family in their strongholds in the Hashid tribe, and pushed them to flee Yemen.

Thus, one of the parties to the Gulf Initiative moved to the side of the “coalition”, which also included factions from the Southern Movement and Salafist groups that participated in the fight against the Houthis. The Houthis settled in Sana’a as a de-facto authority and temporarily pacified former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his party, the second party to the failed Gulf Initiative.

Important leading figures in President Saleh’s party supported the Arab coalition and joined President Hadi in Riyadh. The rest of the Popular Congress Party found themselves fighting in one trench with their former enemies, the Houthis. In 2016, the two parties formed a governing body called the “Supreme Political Council.”[10]

In 2017, this alliance was broken and the Houthis attacked and killed President Saleh. A large number of Saleh’s supporters joined the ranks of the Saudi coalition. At the beginning of 2018, the coalition attracted Brigadier General Tariq Saleh, the nephew of the late President Saleh. Tariq had fled Houthi-controlled areas and was assigned to establish military formations in Mocha and the western coast overlooking the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab.

Nevertheless, the parties in favor of the alliance had divergent interests and goals. Once the Houthis were expelled from Aden in August 2015, contradictions gradually surfaced. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with their royal political culture and traditions, had to deal directly with a precarious Yemeni reality. The scene had become complicated after the collapse and disintegration of the institutions of the central Yemeni state, which was formed in 1990 by the union between the Yemen Arab Republic (in the north) and the Democratic Republic of Yemen (in the south). The Gulf leaders did not have the political skill and knowledge that would allow them to control a poor and densely populated country—between 25 and 30 million people—who had a political culture and historical experience completely different from that of the Gulf.

A second division strengthens the Houthi front

It is difficult to understand the value of the “Riyadh Agreement” without a review of the historical context that produced it. In Aden, May 2017, the STC was established, backed by the UAE, with the vague complicity of Saudi Arabia. This step was the culmination of a dangerous path that began after the Houthis were evacuated from Aden.

The main goal of the STC is to restore the state of the south to its borders before the Yemeni unity in 1990, although there is no political bloc that claims to represent the north as the STC claims to represent the south.[11] It was strange for Saudi Arabia to allow the UAE to sponsor this separatist entity, which contradicts the declared goals of the coalition, including preserving Yemen’s unity, stability and territorial integrity. The STC adopts the hard-line Emirati policy against the Muslim Brotherhood. This position, in addition to other factors, meant a clash with the Islah party in the southern governorates, especially in Aden.[12]

Over time, President Hadi (who is of southern origin), the Islah party, and its military allies have become an undeclared team closely linked to Saudi Arabia. This team has a positive attitude toward Yemeni unity in contrast to the STC and Salafi leaders.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE officially refuse, until today, to acknowledge the existence of a difference in their policies in Yemen. However, it is easy to notice that managing the war file with two contradictory visions at sensitive points is one of the main causes of the failure of the coalition. This contradiction in the vision has been reflected in the performance of the coalition on the ground.

Between 7 and 10 August 2019, the camps loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi were attacked, dismantled, and expelled from Aden, and suffered a severe defeat by the forces of the STC. It is worth noting that the Islah party has a special influence in these camps. By August 26 and 28, forces loyal to Hadi had regained control. From Shabwa, Hadi forces launched a counterattack toward Abyan, reaching the entrances to Aden, and penetrating a number of neighborhoods in the city. On August 29, President Hadi’s forces were about to regain their lost positions in the temporary capital, Aden, but Emirati warplanes launched airstrikes that forced them to retreat.[13] The Houthis were the biggest beneficiaries of the Emirati strikes.

What happened in Aden is considered by some a second coup against President Hadi and the internationally recognized Yemeni government. The coalition says that it is fighting in Yemen at the invitation of the government and in accordance with international law. Nevertheless, the grim fate of the provinces that managed to liberate from the Houthi’s grip is stark evidence that the coalition will not achieve any military achievements against the Houthis.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi quickly stopped hostilities between their local allies in Aden and Abyan. The Yemeni belligerents received a call for urgent Saudi-sponsored negotiations, which resulted in the Riyadh Agreement. Initially, the goal of the agreement was limited to containing the tense military situation in Aden and Abyan, and returning the situation to what it was before the confrontations. However, the ambitions rose toward reaching a deeper solution to the problem plaguing the anti-Houthi front, represented in the sharp difference in projects, visions, interests, and external connections. This is clearly evident in the chaotic multiplicity of armed factions.

The goals of the Riyadh Agreement have become greater than the ability to achieve them through voluntary consent, in the absence of a strong supreme will to ensure that the parties implement the terms of the agreement. While Saudi Arabia has a strong influence on the parties to the agreement, it seems to prefer maintaining a friendly relationship with everyone as long as they are not openly hostile.

At the Yemeni level, the agreement regulates the relationship between the internationally recognized government and the STC. Although the STC has not abandoned its demands for secession, it has postponed them in line with the agreement.

The Houthis did not pay much attention to the agreement, not because they were not concerned by its provisions, but because they realized that the chances of its success were nil. Commenting on the agreement, Muhammad Ali al-Houthi, a member of the so-called “Supreme Political Council” in Sana’a, wrote on Twitter: “The agreement, although it does not concern the people, is between the two sides of the agents of the aggression, but it confirms the illegality of the aggression over Yemen.”

The agreement was welcomed by the United Nations and most countries in the world, excluding Iran. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Al-Moussawi, commented, “The Riyadh Agreement between the Hadi government and the Transitional Council is incomplete, and will not contribute to solving the Yemeni crisis and its problems.”[14]

Houthi losses from implementing the agreement

Failure to implement the Riyadh Agreement means for the Houthis new gains on the ground. Throughout the period that followed the signing of the agreement, the Houthis have achieved military victories through which they have extended their control over northern Yemen. This would not have happened if the agreement had found its way to full implementation and armed forces of the government and the STC were united.

By 2021, the Houthis had escalated their attacks toward the oil- and gas-rich city of Marib. In the final months of 2021, they had already taken control of most of its districts, most recently Harib and Abdiya, and the districts of Juba and Jabal Murad. In September 2021, they regained control of three districts in Shabwa governorate at once; Ain, Usaylan, and Bihan Al-Olaya, areas that they had lost in 2018.

Based on the foregoing, by presenting the gains that the Saudi-led coalition and the Yemeni government could have reaped by implementing the Riyadh Agreement, we can derive at the same time the most important losses that may befall the Houthis. These are the most important:

  • The Houthis enjoy unity in organization, leadership, and discourse. These are three core elements that the broad front backed by the Saudi-led coalition lacks. The Riyadh Agreement sought to remedy this deficiency.
  • There are flaws in the agreement, including that it divided power between the two parties on a regional north-south basis. This is happening for the first time since the transitional period that followed Yemeni unity on May 22, 1990. If the Riyadh Agreement is implemented, it will rob Houthi propaganda of the most important elements of its power: the failure of the coalition and the legitimate government to manage and secure the “liberated” provinces.
  • The implementation of the Riyadh Agreement would weaken the Houthis politically by improving the overall performance of the Yemeni government. The agreement stipulates that it return to exercise its duties from the temporary capital, Aden, “in a smooth manner that allows the management of its resources.” This would reduce the pace of economic deterioration, and stop the national currency—outside the Houthi-controlled areas—from continuous collapse.
  • The Riyadh Agreement affirms Yemen’s unity, both verbally and by integrating Southern separatists with pro-unity “patriots” in a joint government. The ministers of the STC were sworn in according to the protocol of the Republic of Yemen, which they do not recognize in the first place. All of these appearances would reduce the credibility of the Houthi narrative, which speaks of a conspiracy behind the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to divide and weaken Yemen and occupy its islands and ports.
  • The Houthis derive some of their legitimacy in their areas of control from the continuous comparison with the deteriorating security conditions in the areas under the control of the internationally recognized government. In these areas, crime of all kinds is widespread, especially in Aden, Abyan, Lahj, and the liberated part of the city of Taiz. Implementation of the Riyadh Agreement—which provides for security sector reform and regulation under the leadership of the Ministry of Interior—would be a step in improving this situation.

Why will the Riyadh Agreement make peace possible?

Immediately after the signing of the Riyadh Agreement, optimists about the Yemeni issue saw it as an end to the intractable contradictions that continued to widen the distance between Yemenis affected by the Houthis and the desired peace in their country.

Optimists claim that the Riyadh Agreement, if fully implemented, can lead to peace through the following:

  • Defeating the Houthis militarily will eventually mean wresting the capital, Sanaa, from their control. The agreement provides for the unification of all military formations in southern Yemen and their incorporation into the structure of the Ministry of Defense, which would more effectively direct them in the war effort against the Houthis.
  • Effective military pressure on the Houthis will end their further control of lands and cities. This method is the most successful in weakening the Houthi propaganda that plays a crucial role in mobilizing fighters, and is the shortest way to persuading them to enter into serious negotiations to reach a comprehensive peace at the national level.
  • The union of the anti-Houthi parties in one entity and under one leadership would effectively reduce the parties to the conflict in Yemen to two parties: the Houthis on the one hand, and the internationally recognized government on the other. This will make negotiations easier than between multiple parties with different orientations and goals.

A summary

The implementation of the Riyadh Agreement would weaken the Houthi group and create strong incentives for them to move toward a comprehensive peace process. There is still an opportunity for the coalition, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to strengthen joint action.


  • Saving the Riyadh Agreement from permanent failure by taking advantage of the atmosphere resulting from the recent military changes that prove that the Houthis are a constant threat to all parties to the agreement.
  • Holding multi-level dialogues under the auspices of the coalition countries and the United Nations, to bring together the viewpoints of the signatories to the Riyadh Agreement on issues and items in dispute in the text of the agreement, its annexes, and its implementation mechanisms.
  • Determining clear and fair criteria that identify those who have failed to implement the Riyadh Agreement. Saudi Arabia and the UAE should declare a unified position toward those obstructing the agreement, and jointly bear the consequences of this announcement in coordination with the United Nations and countries interested in the Yemeni issue.
  • Creating the conditions required for the agreed-upon Yemeni government to activate its role in addressing the collapsing economic situation.
  • The final failure of the Riyadh Agreement will mean the failure of peace efforts or stopping the war in Yemen. Therefore, the United Nations, the international community, and all those keen on achieving peace in Yemen must help the Yemeni government to remain as a coherent center of power in the territories outside the control of the Houthis.


Notes and sources

[1] – To view the text of the Riyadh Agreement:

[2] In this regard, we can return to an interview with Muhammad Azzan, the most prominent founder of the Believing Youth Forum, on the Al-Arab newspaper website:

[3] The Houthi Group from a Local Perspective: The Resurgence of Zaydism – Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies,

[4] The number of detainees reached 800 people, according to IRIN in 2008, quoting Hassan Zaid, a Zaidi politician sympathetic to the Houthis who was assassinated at the end of 2019 in Sanaa:

[5] The War in Saada: From a Local Rebellion to a National Challenge – Carnegie Middle East Center:

[6] BBC Arabic, Saleh signs in Riyadh the Gulf initiative to solve the Yemen crisis,

[7] An editorial published on the Ansar Allah website on November 26, 2011 entitled “The Gulf Initiative – Betrayal to the People, the Land and the Country”, the article link:

[8] To read the document, see:

[9] The Yemeni army completely controls Zanzibar and Jaar after the expulsion of “Al-Qaeda”, see:

[10] The decision to form the Political Council, as stated on the website of the Yemeni news agency “Saba”, which is under the control of the Houthis, see:

[11] To view the objectives of the Southern Transitional Council:

[12] – “The battle in Marib and Shabwa doubles the crisis of confidence between the Islah Party and the Alliance,” Hakim Muhammad, the Arabia Felix Center (AFC) for Studies

[13] – About these events, the author’s analysis can be read in the Sana’a Center for Studies, dated September 22, 2019:

[14] The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs questions the feasibility of the Riyadh Agreement, Al-Mayadeen TV website,

This paper is part of the “Riyadh Agreement Project,” implemented by the Arabia Felix Center for Studies (AFC), with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). The aim is to understand the factors that prevent the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and provide realistic recommendations to the concerned parties. This project will include studies and other policy papers that will be published successively.

Muhammad Abdullah Muhammad

Contributing Researcher at Arabia Felix Center for Studies

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