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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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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How will artificial intelligence change the world and especially the job market by 2041? AI scientist Kai-fu Lee just wrote a book about precisely that, and he predicts it'll shake up almost every major industry. AI, he explains, will be most disruptive to many so-called "routine" occupations, but the damage may be reduced by shifting "empathetic" workers to jobs that require human empathy. Watch his interview on GZERO World with Ian Bremmer.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

The Atlantic CEO Nick Thompson believes in tech firms doing business in China because connecting with people there is a huge social good for the world. But in demanding LinkedIn de-platform certain people, he says, the Chinese government crossed a line, and "you can't justify that."

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Sectarian clashes in Lebanon: As Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, were on their way to a protest in Beirut Thursday, gunfire broke out, evidently between Hezbollah militants and those of the Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. The protesters were rallying against the ongoing state probe into last year's devastating twin blasts at a Beirut port, saying that state authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. They have called for the dismissal of Judge Tarek Bitar — who is leading the probe and on Monday issued an arrest warrant for a prominent Shiite parliamentarian linked to Amal. Each side has blamed the other for starting the violence Thursday, which killed at least six people, injured dozens more, and threw the entire city into a panic. In a grim omen, the clashes, which are among the worst in recent years, erupted along one of the old front lines (dividing Muslim and Christian neighborhoods) of the 15-year sectarian civil war that devastated the country up until 1990. With the country mired in economic and political crises, the people of Lebanon can't seem to catch a break: just last week the country was plunged into complete darkness when its decrepit power grid ran out of fuel. Meanwhile, Najib Mikati, who became prime minister designate in July after months of political deadlock, declared a "day of mourning," but civil strife continues.

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