Wed, Mar 07, 2018 - Page 9 News List

The world is at war, but most conflicts are not between nations

Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yemen, Afghanistan and Ukraine — the globe is scarred by violence

By Jason Burke  /  The Observer

Armed opposition groups continue to receive logistical support and funding from the US, Turkey and several Gulf nations. A Kurdish group has seized a swath of territory in the northeast.

Successive efforts at peace negotiations have all failed.

Why has the war lasted so long?

The Syrian war has always been immensely complex, fought out along national, sectarian, ideological and ethnic divides. This alone would have guaranteed a lengthy conflict, even without the involvement of regional and international actors.

The UN has been marginalized by power politics. The US has stood back.

The result has been massive suffering and a broken nation which, even if peace can be achieved, is going to need up to 1 trillion US dollars to reconstruct itself.

The toxic effects of the conflict have been felt across the world.


The chaos, and resulting war, in Yemen is now in its seventh year.

The immediate roots of the conflict lie in the aftermath of an Arab Spring-inspired uprising in Yemen, the Arab region’s poorest nation, that forced veteran Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down in favor of his deputy Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi in 2011, but other causes lie deeper.

Yemen, once a British colony, has never been stable and was only united after brutal conflicts in the 1990s.

For more than a decade before the crisis of 2011, corruption, unemployment, food shortages, a powerful tribal system, entrenched separatism in the south and the involvement of regional powers had combined to maintain high levels of instability.

Jihadi fighters had long been a force in Yemen, developing into a powerful local al-Qaeda affiliate.

A popular backlash against US counterterrorism operations, which included drone strikes, and overspill of militants from Saudi Arabia exacerbated a complicated situation.

This meant Hadi was faced by huge challenges on taking power.

Chief among them was insurgency led by the Houthi, a minority Shiite rebel group based in the north of Yemen with a long history of rebellion against the Sunni-dominated government.

The insurgents seized Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, in January 2015, forcing Hadi and his government to resign.

This prompted regional involvement which has led to a humanitarian crisis putting millions at risk of starvation.

A coalition of Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia — which received US, British and European logistical and intelligence support — launched air strikes against the Houthi. It has also blockaded Yemen to stop Iran smuggling weapons to the rebels.

Tehran denies the charge.

Why has the war lasted so long?

Fiendishly complicated tribal and sectarian dynamics ensure that no single faction is strong enough to win, while external involvement ensures all can stay in the fight.

The conflict has drawn in more than a dozen nations and is linked to broader regional contests for power.

A federal deal might bring peace, but that seems unlikely right now.


Should the DR Congo slide back into the kind of conflict seen in the vast state between 1997 and 2003, it is likely that the intervening years of very relative calm will be forgotten.

The six-year war, that started more than 20 years ago, was prompted by the fall of DR Congo president Mobutu Sese Seko and exacerbated by the involvement of all regional powers, many attracted simply by the opportunity to loot the nation’s mineral and metal resources.

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