How Resolution 2216 thwarted Iran’s plans in Yemen
On the night of the U.N. Security Council’s session to vote on a resolution regarding Yemen, Iran was actively buying time
On the night of the U.N. Security Council’s session to vote on a resolution regarding Yemen, Iran was actively buying time, suggesting ideas to reach a ceasefire and return to negotiations.
Iran’s Russian allies tried to market the idea that the Iranians were saying they were capable of convincing the Houthi rebels to negotiate and engage with a Yemeni government, therefore peacefully ending the crisis.
The idea of a peaceful solution is tempting to the extent that even rivals cannot reject it. If it’s really possible to achieve a solution that ends the war, then this is of course better than resuming the fighting and achieving a peaceful solution later - considering that all fighters on ground are Yemenis.
The Iranians went a step further when their foreign affairs minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Houthis had agreed to engage with the government, hinting that they’d given up their demands to dominate it.
There are two problems with the idea of the Iranians speaking on behalf of the Houthis.
Painful military relapse
The first problem is not the idea itself, but the intentions of the rebel groups. The Houthi movement and the militias of the deposed leader Ali Abdullah Saleh - who the war was launched against - are now being subjected to a painful military relapse and they are trying to reorganize themselves, gather their forces and bring more support at local and foreign levels.
The idea of stopping means one thing: for the alliance it means to halt the daily air strikes launched from Saudi airspace. The act of stopping shelling would grant the rebels a chance to breathe and to reorganize on the ground.
It will enable them in the areas they have seized to later resume their plan of controlling Yemen - which they were close to achieving, before the airstrikes against them began when they were at the gates of Aden, the last of major cities confronting them.
The U.N. Security Council resolution 2216 is important on many levels as it imposed an arms embargo against Yemen’s Houthi militias and blacklisted the country’s deposed president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The Iranian suggestion
However, I think what’s more important is that the Security Council indirectly rejected the stopping of the shelling - i.e. it was against the Iranian suggestion.
Therefore, it strengthened the legitimacy of the alliance attacks, being carried out under the slogan of ‘Operation Decisive Storm’ and who is the core of the military operation that aims to impose the agreement reached upon U.N. sponsorship and which the rebels themselves agreed to and signed before staging a coup against it.
The second problem in the Iranian suggestion is Iran itself. What made matters worse was Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s promising statement to Arab Gulf countries in which he stated he had contacted Iranian officials urging them to bring Houthis to the negotiating table.
We wish he hadn’t done that as Iran, for more than 2,000 years, has never been a party in Yemeni affairs and it does not know the Yemenis. No one wants to host it as an involved party now, as everyone is aware that Iran’s aim of supporting the Houthis is to be an efficient partner in deciding Yemen’s fate and turning the country into another Lebanon, Iraq, Syria or Gaza so it can use it to reach compromises regarding its own affairs.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries certainly do not want that and will confront it. If the Houthis and deposed president Saleh are serious about a reconciliation, then they know who to turn to - to the Gulf Cooperation Council who represents the regional and familial system that’s closer to Yemen.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 16, 2015.
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.