Rival camps from Yemen will convene in Geneva on June 14 to resume peace talks backed by the United Nations. But it's far from likely that the next round of talks will produce a long-term political solution to the conflict.
The country has fallen into chaos since Iranian-backed Houthi rebels drove out Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and swept across the country. In response, Saudi Arabia began a bombing campaign of the country to curb the Houthi's takeover and restore Hadi to power.
Peace talks were supposed to begin last month but were delayed over Hadi's demand that the Houthis pull out of several cities they have seized in recent months, including the capital, Sanaa.
"The reality is on the ground we've reached a stalemate between the warring parties," said CBS News Senior National Security Analyst Juan Zarate. "Because the Houthis maintain territory and they maintain power, in some ways, the upper hand on the ground. The Saudis aren't going to send troops in and you aren't going to see a Sunni coalition invade Yemen anytime soon."
"On the other hand," Zarate said, "the Houthis want legitimacy. They don't want to continue to be bombed and they want some semblance of order. So, the parties do have at least a reason to talk."
Still,he concluded the solution is "unclear" and that the situation is further complicated by the fact that the Yemeni civil war has become a proxy fight for influence between the Iranians and the Saudis.
"It's not just what the parties at the table will say and do. It's also what the external parties including the Sunni and Shiite powers will have to say about this," he said.
The U.S. has not yet said it will send an official representative to the talks, but it is possible diplomats from a number of countries on the margin of the Geneva conference will hold bilateral discussions. The U.S. has multiple interests at play in the Yemen talks, most immediately because of the threat posed by the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
"The reality is, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, though they have less territory now than they did, let's say two years ago, still control a bulk of territory Yemen. They control a major city in eastern Yemen, and are relatively comfortable because they're not fighting either with the Houthis or others at this point. And so they're in some ways in a prime spot, in a safe haven in Yemen," Zarate said.
Hadi, the ousted president, welcomed U.S. drone strikes against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and President Obama once cited Yemen as a model for U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Although there is still some ongoing unilateral direct action, Zarate said the pace has slowed.
"I think intelligence has gone blind to a certain extent because we're not on the ground," he said. Plus, many U.S. allies are distracted or concerned with their own power and survival.
"In some ways Yemen for the U.S. is a wicked problem because we've got the problem of al-Qaeda, we've got the problem of regional stability, we've got the fact that it's a proxy battle for the region, and there is no easy solution out," Zarate said. "There has to be a political solution, but the reality is they may have to fight it out a bit longer before we reach that solution."