As long as Iran does not stop meddling in Yemen, there will be no end to the war

Using the Houthis is an intended strategy in Iran’s proxy war on Saudi Arabia and its allies.
Sunday 01/04/2018
A tribesman loyal to the Houthi movement carries a cardboard model of a missile during a gathering in Sana’a.(Reuters)
Playing the Houthi card. A tribesman loyal to the Houthi movement carries a cardboard model of a missile during a gathering in Sana’a.(Reuters)

Seeing the many official statements from this capital city or the other calling for a quick and peaceful resolution to the crisis in Yemen, one is inclined to think there is an international interest in ending that military and humanitarian catastrophe. That interest, of course, would aim at reaching settlements that guarantee a minimum level of stability in a country of great geostrategic importance to both the West and the East

So far, however, it’s been all rhetoric. The international community has yet to come up with efficient solutions that can guarantee both Yemen’s security and that of its Gulf neighbours. The world is either unable or not ready to come up with an adequate one. Declarations made following the recent visits of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz to the United Kingdom and the United States focused on the need to stop the military machine but had nothing to say about how to achieve that.

It is clear Western capitals understand the reasons behind the 3-year-old Arab coalition’s war in Yemen. They also know that the coalition might have wasted time at the beginning of the crisis by not intervening in an appropriate manner to preserve the Gulf initiative that had laid down a road map to fix the situation.

From the beginning of the crisis in Yemen in 2011, and even before, the Houthis held a political and religious discourse that was typically Iranian. There was an obvious animosity towards the Gulf countries and there were calls to “continue the revolution for the recapture of the Two Holy Sites.”

The Saudi-led Arab coalition was boldly confronting real strategic threats to security in the Gulf. The military option was a last resort. In 2013, Riyadh sponsored internal negotiations to come up with a solution locally. The recommendations produced by that dialogue were literally shot down, which triggered an armed response.

Further public and secret negotiations in Kuwait, Muscat and other capitals produced nothing. It was obvious the Houthi side was not master of its decisions. Its choice of a no-solution policy was obviously dictated by Iran. In the Iranian plan, Yemen is to be part of an empire with Baghdad as its capital.

Everybody talks of a peaceful solution. Even Saudi Arabia is saying the purpose of Operation Decisive Storm was to bring all sides to the negotiation table and that talks are the only mechanism for a durable peaceful settlement.

Lately there have been efforts by Britain. British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson was recently in Saudi Arabia and Oman for discussions about the crisis in Yemen. A British diplomat, Martin Griffiths, replaced Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as UN special envoy to Yemen.

These happenings may be signs of a new approach to the Yemeni crisis that many world capitals would be willing to back. Both British Prime Minister Theresa May and former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke of the need for a solution in Yemen when they met with Crown Prince Mohammed in London and Washington, respectively.

Finally, the Yemeni ambassador to the United Kingdom, Yassin Saeed Noman Ahmed, revealed that the British Foreign Office was conducting intensive negotiations with parties interested in Yemeni affairs.

The hush-hush of those efforts, however, cannot overcome the din of Yemeni reality. All those clamouring for a peaceful solution know very well that Iran is not interested in such a solution. They all agree that it was Iran that supplied the Houthis with the ballistic missiles launched on Saudi Arabia and they even condemned Iran’s role in a UN Security Council resolution that was diligently vetoed by Moscow.

As long as Iran is a major actor in the Yemeni crisis, there will be no end to the war. Yemen figures prominently in daily declarations by Iranian diplomatic, military and security sources and using the Houthis is an intended strategy in Iran’s proxy war on Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Given the rising anti-Iran sentiments in Washington and its allied capitals, the horizon for a peaceful solution in Yemen is fast receding. The fate of the Yemeni crisis is contingent on the outcome of the looming showdown between Iran and the Trump administration. Regardless of the nuclear deal, Washington and its European allies are talking about halting Iran’s ballistic missiles programmes and stopping its influence in the region. Tehran seems to be aware of what is being prepared for it, hence its missile response on Saudi Arabia.

Taking advantage of the Saudi crown prince’s visit to the United States, Iran tells whoever is concerned that it won’t let go of the Yemeni card. The Iranian empire project must go on and no peace chatter will stop it, the mantra goes. Since its violent birth, the mullahs’ republic has been feeding on violent confrontations. The point behind all this violence is to delay its own inevitable implosion.