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Acting Governor of Hodeida Mohammed Ayash Quhaim with members of the UN mission. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

A dispute over Houthi withdrawals from critical ports in Yemen is threatening the success of a deal negotiated late last year with the country's internationally recognized government.

Why it matters: The Stockholm agreement, considered a breakthrough when announced in December, was intended to improve Yemen’s dire humanitarian situation and build confidence between the government and the Iran-backed Houthis. But scant progress has been made, raising concerns about the UN’s ability to broker a permanent peace between the warring parties.

Background: For the past 5 months, Yemen's government has pointed to the Houthis’ reluctance to withdraw from the Yemeni ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Rass-Issaas as evidence of their insincerity.

Where it stands: The Houthi withdrawal finally began last weekend, and UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths briefed the Security Council on Wednesday on its progress.

  • Yemen’s government declared the withdrawal a sham, on the basis that it was prevented from monitoring and verifying the operation in “violation” of their agreement, leaving Houthi loyalists in charge.
  • The UN views any Houthi pullback as vital to ensuring the flow of humanitarian aid. It would also allow for removing mines from around the ports and responding to a derelict oil tanker anchored off Salif that could explode at any time.

What’s next: Yemen's government has been left in a difficult position after the withdrawal, worried about the UN's ability to act as a neutral arbiter and the threat posed by Houthi forces positioned just outside Hodeidah.

  • Objections aside, the government is likely to withdraw as planned a few kilometers back from where they are currently stationed in Hodeidah’s outskirts, while pressing for neutral port management by professional staff and law enforcement officials employed before the Houthi takeover in 2014.
  • The UN's ceasefire statement has already been contradicted by reports of clashes between the Yemeni government and Houthi forces in Hodeidah. Absent an enforcement mechanism for the UN to hold violators accountable, the violence could quickly escalate.

The bottom line: Unless the special envoy can guarantee the neutrality and safety of the port, the most critical part of the Stockholm agreement is in danger of collapse.

Fatima Abo Alasrar is a senior analyst at the Arabia Foundation.

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Steve Schleicher, an attorney for the prosecution in Derek Chauvin's trial, began closing arguments on Monday by describing in detail George Floyd's last moments — crying out for help and surrounded by strangers, as Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

Why it matters: The jury's verdict in Chauvin's murder trial, seen by advocates as one of the most crucial civil rights cases in decades, will reverberate across the country and have major implications in the fight for racial justice.

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Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

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2021's expected earnings blowout begins

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

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