Iran’s expansionism keeps Yemen at war

Yemen’s predicament is not over. It will go on as long as there is no change on the fronts.
Saturday 20/07/2019
Supporters of the Houthi movement take part in a protest marking the annual al-Quds Day (Jerusalem Day) on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Sana'a, Yemen May 31, 2019. (Reuters)
Supporters of the Houthi movement take part in a protest marking the annual al-Quds Day (Jerusalem Day) on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Sana'a, Yemen May 31, 2019. (Reuters)

The stalemate continues in Yemen at all levels. Perhaps the best expression of it is what the Houthis have been doing in northern Yemen since they laid their hands on Sana’a on September 21, 2014.

The first thing that strikes a visitor to Sana’a is the prevailing sad atmosphere. During the last 10 years of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule, Sana’a was becoming a place where it would be possible and nice to live. Recent visitors to the city, however, report there was nothing but misery in the venerable, ancient city.

An enormous injustice has befallen Sana’a inhabitants. What did Sana’a do to deserve this injustice?

Surely, Sana’a does not deserve this fate, which is the expression of the victory of the culture of death over the culture of life. Sana’a symbolises the depth of the Yemeni impasse, especially now that there are no signs for an end to the Houthi occupation of the city.

The United Nations, through its envoy Martin Griffiths, made a big mistake when it gave Houthis’ presence in Sana’a a sort of legitimacy and changed the nature of the crisis by limiting it to a conflict between the so-called legitimacy camp represented by interim President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi on one hand and Houthis on the other.

That mistake deepened the Yemeni predicament and the tragedy of Sana’a and other cities, including Taiz and Aden. This is because the Houthis cannot be a solution to the crisis and neither can the legitimacy camp. As proof, suffice it to point out that the legitimacy camp has not achieved any significant breakthrough for years.

Soon, the Houthi occupation of Sana’a will be blowing out its sixth candle. The situation on the ground, however, will remain unchanged as long as the legitimacy camp remains incapable of achieving a major military breakthrough.

There is no doubt that Operation Decisive Storm, begun in March 2015, has achieved many results. It stopped the spread of Houthi control to all parts of Yemen. One should not forget that the Houthis, who are ultimately just an Iranian tool, had, after seizing Sana’a, made a dash towards Aden and Mocha Port.

The Arab alliance made great efforts to reclaim Aden and prevent Iran from claiming control over Mocha Port near Bab el Mandeb Strait, a strategic waterway and the entrance to the Suez Canal.

When the Houthis took control of Mocha, Iranian arrogance had no limits. More than one official in Tehran boasted about Iran having control over the Strait of Hormuz and Bab el Mandeb. When Houthis were kicked out of Mocha Port, the Iranian regime was deprived of a major blackmailing card.

Operation Decisive Storm has achieved part of what was needed. The greatest mystery, however, is still unsolved. Why has the United Nations provided political and international cover for Houthis’ presence in Sana’a?

When the rebels captured Sana’a, Hadi agreed to sign an agreement with them that has been blessed by UN Envoy Jamal Benomar.

What Griffiths is doing is carrying on with that agreement, a deal the Houthis ignored even though Hadi was keen to provide them with many services and favours because he had nothing on his mind but revenge on Saleh, as if the whole Yemeni issue was a personal score for him to settle.

Not only did the Houthis obtain recognition from the United Nations for their legitimacy that they concretised through the Stockholm Agreement, they immediately placed the interim president under house arrest in Sana’a. Hadi escaped in February 2015 and moved to Aden. The Houthis proceeded to settle an old score with Saleh, assassinating him in December 2017.

Yemen’s predicament is not over. It will go on as long as there is no change on the fronts. The Houthis are going to manoeuvre by any means to remain in Hodeidah.

Perhaps the most serious aspect of the threat is that there is no indication that the legitimacy camp can deal with the coming challenges. It has placed itself on the sidelines of events politically and militarily while the whole region is boiling.

The Yemeni question is not confined to Yemen but has become closely linked to developments in the region and will depend on the outcome of the US-Iranian confrontation.

In the meantime, the people of Sana’a will suffer injustice as will the whole of Yemen where hunger, disease and ignorance have made significant inroads. Sana’a, in particular, surely deserves better than Houthis, who owe much of their success to the unholy secret alliance they had made with the Muslim Brotherhood.

As time goes on, the Brotherhood appears to have no intention of achieving any military breakthrough but rather finds its interest in keeping the military deadlock intact.

Yemen’s fate is really hanging on the outcome of the major battle taking place in the region. As long as the Iranian regime exists, the Houthis will remain in Sana’a and the people of Sana’a will live a life they do not deserve.

Yemen deserves much better than this. Abdelmalik al-Houthi is only one of the faces behind the Yemeni tragedy. The so-called legitimacy camp is another and the third one is the UN envoy’s unwarranted insistence on the assumption that it will be possible to remove the Houthis from Hodeidah and place the port under the control of an international force.

Not long ago, the legitimacy camp could have achieved a major breakthrough if it had had a crucial victory on one of the important military fronts. Alas, that didn’t happen and now everything seems to be hanging on what is going on in the region, on the outcomes of the US-Iran confrontation and on the resulting situation in Iran at the end of this confrontation.