Intervention in Yemen prevented a catastrophe

I had written an article for today stating that Yemen’s fate will certainly be divisions and a long-term civil war; however, luckily for me and for the Yemenis, the Saudi-led coalition launched its attack before yesterday and surprised us all. There’s now great hope that everyone, including the Houthi rebels and those in support of the isolated president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, will accept a peaceful solution.

The rebels have reached the very bad conclusion that they can impose a new reality and govern Yemen whilst violating and ignoring all agreements and deals they’ve signed. They’ve put the president, the prime minister and the rest of the legitimate government members under house arrest. After the president and some government officials escaped to Aden, the Houthis decided to pursue them and murder them.

These last few kilometers of the temporary capital were specifying the fate and legitimacy of the Yemeni regime. Yemenis were so desperate that they felt certain this will be the end of Yemen. However when the Saudi-led coalition launched the airstrikes, hope was revived that there will be a Yemen in which everyone participates as the coalition agrees to everyone’s participation in managing the state within the context of an arrangement which the United Nations sponsored.

What was awaiting us was a map of a divided Yemen with two capitals and two governments - a Yemen where armed groups, like the Iranian Houthis, al-Qaeda, terrorists, armed rebels affiliated with Saleh, southern separatist powers and tribal fighters, wreak havoc. Amidst this chaos, the Houthis in particular sought to dominate as much as possible of Yemeni lands and to impose the fait accompli that they are the most united and expansive power.

Their militias’ act of heading towards the strategic Strait of Bab al-Mandab and their attempt to seize it will mean halting Saudi oil shipments and those of the rest of Gulf countries.

Open wars

Before the Saudi-regional intervention, Yemen was taking a turn for the worse towards a deepened and long-term civil war among different parties. It’s by resorting to terrifying chaos that Houthis were intending to manage Yemen. They wanted to have the upper hand by launching a series of open wars. Chaos is a policy which benefits them considering the absence of enough resources to manage the country. They lack enough resources even if they succeed at controlling the oil sector. Due to their previous experience in the north, Houthis only care about military control.

Therefore, they never addressed the needs of the areas they seized considering that residents there are either peasants or governmental employees and the capital, Sanaa, was in charge of paying their wages. The situation in their areas and in other areas suffers from a humanitarian tragedy which the media does not cover. The U.N. has several times warned that famine threatens many Yemeni areas as resources diminish and the government’s work gets obstructed.

Before the Saudi-regional intervention, Yemen was taking a turn for the worse towards a deepened and long-term civil war among different parties.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Saudi intervention halted the Houthis’ and their allies’ expansion towards the east and the south and there’s now a new chance for Yemen. If the region’s countries and the international community do not benefit from this intervention and from putting an end to the collapse of Yemen, it will not be easy to prevent chaos which will make Yemen the fourth country, after Syria, Libya and Somalia, where wars flare up and where extremist groups revive.

What makes Yemen different from Syria, Libya and Somalia is that the international community agrees to its political regime. What’s happening now is the destruction of the regime which the U.N. and the region’s countries sponsored and which was established in a flexible manner that comprehends all political parties, including the Houthis, the general people’s congress and the southern powers. The war which the rebels launched aimed to sabotage the regime and impose a new reality. However this time, Saudi Arabia announced the end of negative neutrality and of keeping silent over the actions of Iran, declaring it’s time to empower a central government and a new state of Yemen.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Friday, March 27, 2015.
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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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