The Middle East beyond ‘Decisive Storm’
The Houthis are not a new problem for the region nor for Yemen, their threat dates back to more than a decade
The sudden Arab coalition operation to crush out the Houthi rebels in Yemen was shocking and seemed almost out of a Hollywood script; but it is absolutely necessary just as a ground incursion might prove timely and crucial to finish the job properly.
Any all-Arab action against terrorism, extremism, fanaticism and all forms of fundamentalism that plague the region is welcome, as long as we understand that it is very late and therefore needs to be followed through with more actions and much due diligence as well as long term strategic planning and reforms.
The Houthis are not a new problem for the region nor for Yemen. Their threat dates back to more than a decade but then it was confined to Yemen’s borders for a long time. With time and given all the changes the region has been going through, they grew and festered. For a while they were overshadowed by al Qaeda only to resurface with Iran’s more recent push as a major power thanks in part to its protégé militia and pseudo army Hezbollah as well as the Assad regime.
With the Houthis making major military advancements lately, reaching and controlling the capital Sanaa’ and setting up shop in key government facilities, and with the U.S. pulling out of Yemen, Saudi Arabia has become the largest loser from any more Houthi gains which can only translate into Iranian influence. The shocking element here is that Saudi Arabia has waited for a very long time before moving suddenly, fiercely and unapologetically with the determination to wipe out the rebels and push Iran to a safe distance back.
‘Justifiable target for aggression’
It would be a mistake to think that a Houthi advance is the only threat lurking in the region today. It is not the oldest or the most lethal threat. Nor is it the most justifiable target for aggression Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations can come up with.
Arabs bonding together against extremism is a good cause. Arabs fighting terrorism and protecting their citizens and their turf is equally a legitimate cause. However, those same Arabs ignoring the threat of other extremist groups, regimes and militias, and focusing only on Yemen and its Houthi threat would be committing a major oversight.
Arabs not stepping in to defend the Syrian population against their tyrant is a crime against humanity. Arabs not looking at the entire region and protecting it from dangers both internal as well as external is only a waste of effort and bad planning. If it shows anything, it shows that Arabs are first and foremost short-sighted and not good at strategizing or planning ahead. Therefore not the leaders their world needs and deserves.
Beyond the show of force, the Middle East needs leadership, decisiveness and fairness. The reality on the ground beyond this operation is more important than 'Decisive Storm' itself. We'll meet Arab leaders and whatever is left of the region there!
This article was first published in al-Nahar on March 30, 2015.
Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.