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When might the Houthis accept the Saudi initiative?

Abdallah Nasser Otaibi

Published: Updated:

Saudi Arabia has long believed in and called for internal Yemeni dialogue. Since the independence of Yemen and until 2011, the Kingdom has, again and again, sent diplomatic delegations to Sanaa with the aim of encouraging all Yemeni parties to engage in joint talks and negotiations that would kickstart the country’s journey towards progress and economic stability, just like its Gulf neighbors. Even after 2011, the Kingdom was a prominent supporter of the Gulf initiative aimed at uniting Yemenis, and firmly backed the outcomes of the national dialogue, which brought together Yemenis of all affiliations, sects, and political backgrounds.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia announced Operation Decisive Storm, pursuant to Security Council Resolution 2216, to restore the situation on the ground and bring it back to how it was prior to September 2014, as well as put the Yemenis back to the “dialogue table” so they can freely discuss their issues without any foreign interference. At the time, Operation Decisive Storm was neither an offensive, an occupation, nor an unjustified interference. It was rather a literal implementation of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which stipulates “the right to use force to deter an aggression and force the assailer by force of law to engage in joint peace talks.”

Today, another initiative backed by the UN and major world powers is again put on the table to gather Yemenis and unite their ranks, with the ultimate objective of rebuilding their country and improving their living conditions. However, the question remains, is it in the Iran-backed Houthi militia’s interest to accept and uphold this initiative?

The simple answer is no.

The more detailed answer is that Iran’s strategy to penetrate and extend soft control over the Arab region is built on three pillars. The first is arming its components and militias (Hezbollah, for instance) with funds and weapons, and keeping them partially outside the ruling class but still highly influential, so they can guide the country’s political scene without being involved in the day-to-day problems of poverty, hunger, and disease. In doing so, Iran ensures that its components (and only them) have the power to declare a “civil war,” which is a threat it can use whenever necessary against those who oppose its policies.

The second pillar is allowing liberal, secular figures to assume power, but exerting constant pressure on them through the country’s populace or militias, using the threat of armed violence is some instances and the fear of religious affiliation in others. This is the case in Iraq at present.

The third and last pillar is placing power in the hands of its militias, such as with the Houthis, and perpetuating a raging war so that Yemenis could neither hold the Houthis accountable nor punish them for impoverishing and starving the country, not to mention violating its sovereignty by handing it over to Iran. If peace were to be reached, the Yemeni people could very well do that to the Houthis.

Both Iran and its Houthi militia realize that peace in Yemen is the first step of the Yemeni people’s journey to uproot and eradicate them. This explains why one of their most prominent strategies in Yemen is to constantly fan the flames of conflict and preoccupy Yemenis with the daily miseries of war. For that reason, they invented their slogan (or raison d’être) based on the naivety of poor Yemeni farmers and peasants; “Death to America, Death to Israel,” because they know that true Yemenis would never harbor any enmity for Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis can only rule in war and turmoil; thus, their acceptance of the Saudi initiative now lies exclusively in the hands of “true Yemenis,” not in those of foreign Iranians.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Emirati news outlet al-Ittihad.

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