Yemen After the KSA-Iran Agreement: From Dreams to Harsh Reality and How This Fed Houthi Behavior in the Current Crisis


20 February 2024



In 2014, Houthi rebels overtook Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, in a push for increased military and political power, starting Yemen’s long-lasting civil war. The chaos created by the Houthi insurgents jeopardized the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s (KSA) ambition for stability in the region, creating a situation more susceptible to Iran’s influence near its southern border, and thus resulting in the formation of a KSA-led coalition of Gulf states to counter the insurgency through military intervention. In the years following, Yemen has been in a constant “state of no war and no peace,” facing a continuous humanitarian crisis, significant economic decline, and the constant struggle of the official Yemeni government to counter Houthi expansion under the eye of the international community.

In March 2023, the KSA and Iran signed an agreement that represented hope for Yemen’s normalization and the direct negotiations between Iran’s proxy, the Houthis, and the KSA. Since this unique détente, violence between the parties have declined. However, the Israel-Hamas war seriously impacted the path to peace, revealing that the Houthis are a capable and credible threat to the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) in the Red Sea. The Houthis assert that they are supporting the defenseless Palestinians by attacking Israel-related ships, even if it is the international community that is primarily affected.

Understanding Yemen’s complex situation, the parties involved, and the consequences of the KSA-Iran agreement may provide valuable insights into recent Houthi behavior induced by the Israel and Hamas war.


Key Points:

  • Despite the optimism and hope brought by the Israel-Hamas conflict , it couldn’t bring lasting peace to Yemen due to conflicting interests and external influences.
  • Diplomatic initiatives between the KSA and the Houthi led to a ceasefire, yet the Houthi’s engagement in negotiations could be interpreted as a tactic “to buy time” to enhance their military capabilities.
  • In just a few years, Iran transformed the Houthis from an insurgent group to a powerful military organization that is capable of testing new military technology, tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), and threatening U.S. interests and allies in the Red Sea.
  • The Houthi’s leaders are seeking to take advantage of the Israel-Hamas conflict to advance their own political, military, and economic objectives, all to the detriment of the Yemenis.
  • An escalation in the Red Sea that reignites an international confrontation might deepen the humanitarian crisis for the Yemeni people.


Read the complete paper here.

View other USCENTCOM Combined Strategic Analysis Group (CSAG) papers here.


The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of a number of international officers within the Combined Strategic Analysis Group (CSAG) and do not necessarily reflect the views of United States Central Command, not of the nations represented within the CSAG or any other governmental agency.