Iran’s failed designs
One year after the launch of Operation Decisive Storm, Iran’s belief that it could impose a fait accompli in Yemen has been proven false. This military operation, led by Saudi Arabia, achieved its main objective of preventing Yemen falling into the clutches of Iran.
Tehran had hoped to take control of the Bab el Mandeb strait that separates Yemen from the Horn of Africa, and transform the lengthy Saudi-Yemeni border into an active threat to the kingdom and the wider Arab Gulf. Yemen is a strategic objective for Iran; from the southern Arabian peninsula, Tehran could launch new military adventures, even into Africa.
The recapture of Aden, the capital of the south, last summer was a major turning point in the battle against the Iran-backed Houthis. The alliance between the Houthis and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has been overcome by bickering over a forthcoming “cessation of hostilities” ahead of UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait, with each side seemingly believing it is in charge of decision-making any putative peace.
Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi issued statements recently seemingly downplaying the prospects of peace but the time has come for a negotiated settlement to this conflict. Do the Houthis — or Ansar Allah as they call themselves — want to reach a peaceful settlement or not?
So, rather than putting forward conspiracy theories about Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the United States and Israel, al-Houthi should look to the interests of his own people and all Yemenis and do what is right for the country. Even worse, al-Houthi has resorted to conspiracy theories and anti- Israeli slogans to draw attention from his group’s faltering progress and the disasters of the Houthi power-grabbing campaign, which has further impoverished the region’s poorest country.
What Yemen needs is a reality check rather than talk about conspiracy theories and false concern about the Palestinian cause. Yemen needs a political solution and a new political formula that better protects the country and its people, most of whom live below the poverty line.
Operation Decisive Storm was not just a military operation; it was also a political one. This sought to confirm that Arab interests must not, and cannot, be ignored in Yemen and that Iranian claims over the control of Arab capitals — Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sana’a — are premature.
Even if the two sides reach a peace agreement in Kuwait, Yemen will still face many challenges. At the same time, all sides must understand that Operation Decisive Storm will not stop until there is a political solution that ensures Yemen does not become an Iranian colony that can be used as a launch pad to threaten Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf countries.
There will be a place for everybody in a new Yemen, including the Houthis, who have faced historic injustice since the establishment of the republic in 1962. Still, this does not justify Ansar Allah seeking to carry out a coup and take control of the entire country or give that control to a foreign power.
Any political solution must take all components of Yemeni society into account but, at the same time, do what is right for the Yemeni people as a whole. Everybody must acknowledge the new reality in the country, from the deep divisions that split the Yemeni people to the proliferation of al-Qaeda.
The solution lies in every Yemeni political party and tribal force taking up its role in power according to its actual strength and representation on the ground, without seeking to dominate the others and monopolise power. The solution lies in Yemenis working together to serve the interests of all.