Qatari camp thwarts ceasefire efforts in Yemen
ADEN –Hours after the announcement by the Arab coalition of a ceasefire agreement, military confrontations between the Southern Transitional Council (STC) and government forces broke out again in the Yemeni governorate of Abyan.
The agreement reached in Riyadh called on the two sides to avoid escalation, hold a meeting in Saudi Arabia to discuss the implementation of a peace deal brokered last November and resume the work of political and military committees.
While the Yemeni government and the STC welcomed the coalition’s statement, well-informed political sources told The Arab Weekly that ceasefire efforts had been rejected by influential military and political leaders in the Yemeni government belonging to what has become known as the “Qatari camp.”
Military and political leaders, according to the unnamed sources, continued to send more reinforcements towards Abyan, which has been wracked by fierce battles for weeks.
Military sources, who asked not to be named, also told The Arab Weekly that government forces suffered heavy losses as a result of their attempt to achieve a quick victory in Abyan, Tuesday, in response to the STC forces’ success in taking control of the remote island of Socotra in the Gulf of Aden earlier this week.
The latest violent confrontations took place in the areas of Sheikh Salem and Al-Tareya, where a military race of attrition has been taking place.
The new developments come as all parties remain unable to declare clear-cut victory in the battle that observers say revolves around the STC’s efforts to recover the Shakra region and the attempts of government forces, supported by elements of the Muslim Brotherhood, to enter the city of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan governorate.
The confrontations in Abyan coincided with a media campaign launched by political and media figures affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood criticising the Arab coalition and calling for the formation of a new one led by Turkey or reconciliation with the Iran-backed Houthi militias.
The former governor of Socotra, Ramzi Mahrous, who fled to Oman after his escape from the island following the STC’s victory there, accused the Arab coalition and Saudi forces of assisting the STC in taking control over Hadiboh, the largest city in the Socotra archipelago.
Mahrous, who belongs to the “Qatari camp” in the Yemeni government, appeared on a Doha-funded channel broadcast from the Turkish city of Istanbul, suggesting links with the Muslim Brotherhood axis that has been working to sow division within Yemen’s anti-Houthi camp.
The intention of the Islah Party and the “Qatari camp” to bring the conflict to new governorates in southern Yemen, including Mahrah and Hadhramaut, was confirmed earlier in the week when Ali Salem Al Huraizi, a former undersecretary of the Mahrah province who has been accused of working as a Qatari agent, attacked the Arab coalition and accused Saudi Arabia of preparing to hand over Mahrah to the STC.
Political sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, warned that the Muslim Brotherhood, represented in Yemen by the Islah Party and the “Qatari camp,” is planning to hand over liberated areas in Bayda and Marib to Houthi militias, in an effort to replicate the STC’s strategy after their takeover of Aden.
According to Yemeni sources, the “Qatari camp” and its allies handed over Al Jawf governorate and the Naham region to Iran-backed militias in response to the STC’s control of Aden in 2018.
There are now fears that a similar scenario will play out, especially after news of government forces’ withdrawal from military zones in Qania and Sarwah, leaving tribesmen alone in a confrontation with Houthi rebels.
Sources told The Arab Weekly that weapons from the stores of the National Army in Marib had been transferred in recent days to camps established by former Transport Minister Saleh al-Jabwani in the city of Ataq in Shabwah.
If such news is confirmed , it could mean that the “Qatari camp” and the Muslim Brotherhood are planning to focus their efforts on the military fronts in southern Yemen, leaving the northern governorates to the Houthis, in what could be a muted agreement between Ankara and Tehran.