In Other News – Yemen Truce, Ukraine Grain Shipment and Counteroffensives – 8/4/2022

August 4, 2022

Yemen Truce Extended

The Yemeni government and Houthi rebels agreed to another two-month extension of a truce first agreed upon in April and extended in June. This series of deals has been the first significant cessation in the seven-year conflict that has killed more than 150,000 people and has displaced millions.

The original truce called on the groups to halt military operations as well as allow fuel shipments into the country’s main Red Sea port controlled by the Houthis, provide weekly commercial flights to and from Yemen’s primary international airport, and further talks on opening roads to the government-controlled areas such as Taiz and other cities. The new truce extension includes commitments by both parties to intensify negotiations on reaching an expanded agreement. Experts suggest that cross pressure on all parties has helped create the environment for the truce. Iran, seeking to resurrect a deal with the U.S. on its nuclear ambitions, has pushed its Houthi allies to the bargaining table while the anti-Houthi coalition has seen its leader, Saudi Arabia, suggest that it wants to exit the conflict.

Despite the progress, all sides have advised caution on the idea that this would lead to a permanent peace. While the general parameters of the truce have held, outside monitors counted more than 1,800 violations including shelling and drone strikes since April. Analysts note that the Houthi’s have continued to recruit during the cease-fire and are prepared to continue military operations should it fail. Houthi forces have also been slow in opening roads to the besieged city of Taiz. Factions within the coalition are themselves divided over whether south Yemen, their current power base, should secede entirely. While the deal has allowed relief for some of the Yemeni population, significant progress is still needed on a comprehensive political settlement. Success will require continued attention to problems affecting the Yemeni people while also creating a structure for long term agreement.

First Ukrainian Grain Shipment

The first Ukrainian shipment of grain since the Russian invasion has proceeded under a deal to resume the country’s agricultural exports. The deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, may provide some relief for global food shortages and subsequent price surges while also benefitting Ukraine’s beleaguered economy.

The vessel, carrying 26,000 tons of Ukrainian corn, left Odessa on Monday and sailed to Turkey where it was inspected by officials from Ukraine, Russia, and the U.N. The July 22nd agreement, which is initially set to last 120 days, allows Ukraine to resume grain exports which could provide at least $1 billion in revenue. In the last seven years, the country has averaged more than 40 million tons of grain exports annually. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ukraine’s agricultural exports in 2021 “totaled $27.8 billion accounting for 41 percent of the country’s $68 billion in overall exports.” Ukraine reportedly has 17 more vessels, which had been loaded prior to the invasion, ready to follow.

Questions remain about how much of its harvest Ukraine will be able to successfully export. Prior to the invasion, the country could export 6 million tons of grain per month. Under the current agreement, Ukraine can send three shipments per day, but to reach the previous level, the country would need each of those vessels to carry 60,000 tons or more than two times the initial shipment. The U.S. Institute of Peace noted that the current rate of transport is insufficient for the 20 million tons of grain the country has ready for export. Still, any increased supply to the global market will help the millions of people facing hunger, including Syrian refugees in Lebanon where the first shipment will arrive.

Counteroffensive in Southern Ukraine

Movements by Ukrainian and Russian forces suggests an imminent collision of forces in southern Ukraine. Russia appears to be amassing units near the city of Kherson where Ukraine’s counteroffensives, empowered with new weapons from Western allies, have recaptured territory and threaten Russia’s hold on southeastern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s efforts in the region of Kherson, a provincial capital and a strategically important city, have yielded steady success, moving closer to retaking the city itself. Ukraine’s access to long range artillery, in the form of High Mobility Artillery Rock Systems, has given it the ability to hit Russian ammunition deports and command posts, depleting Russian forces and pushing supply lines further from the front. Ukraine has successfully used artillery to destroy bridges and railways that Russia needs to supply its forces in Kherson. Control of Kherson would allow Ukraine to push Russia back across the Dnipro River, which splits the country in two.

Recapturing Kherson and the surrounding region could be a turning point for Ukraine. While it holds symbolic value as the first major city to fall in the invasion, Kherson also provides significant strategic benefit. Ukrainian control of Kherson would deny Russia its long-held goal of a land bridge to Crimea while simultaneously cutting off Crimea from needed power plants and water reservoirs. Ukraine would also regain access to significant agricultural and industrial resources in the region. Holding Kherson would also allow Ukraine to more easily defend the port of Odessa, where grain shipments have recently resumed. As an added benefit, Ukrainian control of Kherson also carries an implicit threat to Russian-held Crimea. “The threat of the transfer of the war to the territory of Crimea is already becoming a reality for them,” a Ukrainian military official said Monday.