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Yemen: A Glimmer of Peace

Yemen: A Glimmer of Peace

A few hours ago, a ceasefire went into effect in the strategic Yemeni port city of Hodeida. The deal raises the prospect of peace after four years of bloodshed in Yemen, and could ease what is now the world's worst humanitarian crisis.



The ceasefire was signed last week in Sweden, where the UN brokered the first meeting between representatives of Yemen's internationally-recognized Saudi-backed government and those of the Iran-linked Houthi rebels who have taken over most of the country – including Hodeida – since 2014.

The deal requires both sides to cede Hodeida to UN monitors and to exchange 16,000 prisoners of war.

This is unquestionably good news: until just days ago, the Saudi-UAE coalition and Yemeni government loyalists were preparing an assault to retake the city, putting at risk a port that handles some 80 percent of Yemen's food and medicine imports. With millions of Yemenis starving, the UN had warned of an impending humanitarian catastrophe and revived earlier efforts to find a path to peace.

One important factor that may have nudged the Saudi-backed Yemeni forces in particular to negotiate is that the October murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi caused Western governments to reconsider their support for the Kingdom's involvement in Yemen. Saudi forces, which have been supported by the US, are accused of human rights violations. Just hours after the ceasefire was signed, the US Senate voted to cut US support for the Saudi campaign in Yemen. While that won't take effect until next year, the prospect of losing US backing was surely something the Saudis couldn't afford to ignore.

Still, it remains to be seen whether a broader peace can be reached after a four-year war that has displaced 2 million people and killed some 20,000 civilians.

Each side has firm demands: the Houthis want political representation in Yemen and a substantial amount of autonomy for regions where they predominate. The government and the Saudis could probably agree to that, but only if the Houthis, who've shot rockets across the border into Saudi Arabia, disarm completely. Unsurprisingly, the Houthis are loath to surrender their firepower.

Cutting across that basic divide are myriad other regional and sectarian divisions within Yemen that would need to be resolved for peace to hold.

As of now, the warring parties and the UN are set to begin addressing those issues at the next round of peace talks, scheduled for January. At a minimum, the Hodeida ceasefire will have to hold until then. That alone would be good news.

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When Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday — plunging the country into chaos as it faces once-in-a-generation public health and economic crises — he became the fourteenth Italian to vacate the prime ministership in three decades. (For contrast, Germany has only had three chancellors since 1982, and France has had five presidents.)

But Conte, who had no previous political experience until he was tapped for the top job in 2018, is not so much throwing in the towel as he is taking a massive gamble that President Sergio Mattarella will again appoint him to head Conte's third coalition government in less than three years.

The recent dysfunction is unique even within the context of instability-prone Italian politics. How did Italy get here, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

What did you think of Xi Jinping's speech at the virtual World Economic Forum?

Well, his last speech at the real World Economic Forum in Davos, I remember being there four years ago, and given that Trump had just been elected, Xi Jinping gives this big, "We want to stand up and be leaders while the Americans are doing America first." And generally speaking, was probably the most important speech of the week. People liked it. This is a pretty different environment, not so much because Trump has gone, but rather because support and belief in Xi Jinping is pretty low. I will say one thing that was generally well responded to was the call not to enter into a new Cold War. Anybody in the business community generally supports that. There's so much integration and interdependence between the US and the Chinese economies that when Xi Jinping says, "We need to find ways to continue to work together," I mean, this is the pro-globalization audience he's speaking to. They generally agree. But otherwise, the message fell pretty flat. So, the idea that China is going to be globally useful on issues of leadership, especially when it comes to anything that might threaten Beijing's sovereignty, they check global norms at the door. And a few examples of that, when Xi called for support for the rules-based international order, that's in obvious contrast with China's violation of the one country, two systems framework in Hong Kong. And they said, "Well, that's a domestic issue." Well, actually that's not what your agreement was with the British handover. And just because you're more powerful doesn't mean that norm doesn't matter anymore.

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Over the weekend, some 40,000 people in Moscow and thousands more across Russia braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Angry farmers take Indian fort: In a major and violent escalation of ongoing protests over new agriculture laws, thousands of Indian farmers broke through police barricades and stormed the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on Tuesday. At least one protester died in the chaos, while the government shut down internet service in parts of the capital. Farmers and the government are still deadlocked over the new laws, which liberalize agriculture markets in ways that farmers fear will undercut their livelihoods. The government has offered to suspend implementation for 18 months, but the farmers unions are pushing for a complete repeal. Given that some 60 percent of India's population works in agriculture, the standoff has become a major political test for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP party.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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