Beware of Iran
Iran does not want Saudi Arabia to emerge victorious in Yemen
Iran does not want Saudi Arabia to emerge victorious in Yemen, even if this leads to a civil war in Yemen and the destruction of the country as well as its Houthi allies. The kingdom must therefore be vigilant as it receives Iran’s messages and proposals via mediators to achieve peace in Yemen. We must not believe the Iranians, as everyone who has dealt with them has been harmed at some point.
Last Wednesday, the Yemenis and Saudis were the most shocked by the announcement of the end of Operation Decisive Storm and the launching of Operation Renewal of Hope. The Saudis want to stop Iranian regional expansion, while the Yemenis want to be liberated from the Houthi coup. Saudis and Yemenis thus felt there was danger when they heard the announcement of the end of Operation Decisive Storm.
They did not hear out military spokesman Brigadier General Ahmad Assiri as he confirmed that military operations would not stop but rather shift focus. They did not hear similar statements from analysts.
Iran will accept a divided Yemen as long as it has a foothold thereJamal Khashoggi
Iranian promises, and Omani and Egyptian mediations, have been circulated via media outlets but not officially announced. Most of these mediations’ points are based on Saudi demands for the return of legitimacy, the withdrawal of Houthi forces and those of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh from cities and military headquarters, the resumption of dialogue and holding elections, in addition to other measures aimed at achieving peace and a pluralistic Yemen.
So far, no Saudi source has confirmed or denied any of this. Perhaps this shows Riyadh’s lack of trust in Iranian promises. However, even if the kingdom no longer trusts Iran, its welcoming diplomacy does not completely cut ties with anyone, even with the Iranians, and it keeps the door half open for the other party to come to its senses.
As usual, Iran has not disappointed Saudi Arabia’s expectations. On the same night, Houthi and Saleh forces resumed their aggression and heavily shelled the headquarters of two brigades that had switched allegiance to the legitimate government. Houthi and Saleh forces then stormed the headquarters, but the Saudi-led alliance responded with shelling and so the war resumed.
Perhaps more airstrikes will occur by the time this article is published. This means that Operation Decisive Storm is still on even if it is now called Renewal of Hope, and it may even take a more ruthless turn.
Iran is in denial as it can hardly believe what is happening around it: a huge defeat in Yemen, and the beginning of defeat in Syria. Tehran has been achieving victories since Baghdad fell to the Americans in 2003, so it now seems to them that a divine spirit is directing them from Tikrit to Qusayr, Saada and then Aden.
To move from denial to awareness and then acceptance, we must expect a lot of Iranian evil. Riyadh will not halt its gunfire because doing so would mean dividing Yemen. Saudi Arabia wants a united Yemen in which the people decide their own fate and make their own choices via peaceful means and national dialogue. However, Iran will accept a divided Yemen as long as it has a foothold there.
Even if Operation Decisive Storm expels the Houthis from Sanaa and destroys Saleh’s military capabilities, a civil war will still destroy Yemen and will be a victory to Iran because the latter wants Saudi Arabia to bleed via Yemen. Riyadh, however, says it does not want war in Yemen or with Yemen, and that its happiest days would be when the Houthis lay down their arms and negotiate over their demands, rights, a constitution and elections.
There’s a huge difference between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the moral level. The latter attempts to conceal this difference by making false statements about peace and negotiations while its president brags about his fleets reaching Aden and the Mediterranean Sea.
Iran’s follower, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, threatens that if Saudi Arabia “sends 1,000 fighters to Syria, we will send 2,000.” This is a dangerous Iranian escalation that may push the entire region to a crisis.
It is clear that Iran needs a shock to wake up and smell the coffee. Yemen is the first of these shocks, and the Iranians may thus wake up and demand a public or secret meeting in which they suggest another major deal from last week’s proposals: Yemen in exchange for Syria, or Syria in exchange for Iraq, or some other policy from the middle ages.
However, the Saudi negotiator will respond: “These are independent countries and their people are free. We can’t negotiate on their behalf. Go and speak with the Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenis yourselves.”
The Saudi negotiator’s statement will be enhanced by a ground force that will make the Iranian politician realize the emptiness of his rhetoric, and of his allegation that he is fighting for the sake of the vulnerable as he sleeps and wakes between Saleh and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, two tyrants who reek of blood.
The Iranian will then promise the Saudi negotiator that Tehran will seriously think of withdrawing from Syria and let its people decide their fate. He will give reassurances that he will inform the Houthis of the importance of withdrawing from Sanaa and from military headquarters and ministries.
Just hours later, the Saudi will receive an intelligence report, supported by footage, of an Iranian ship trying to sneak into a small Yemeni port to deliver arms, and of a jet arriving in Damascus carrying Al-Fil rockets, which are efficient in destroying cities and murdering civilians. The Saudi will thus be angry and swear to never negotiate with an Iranian again.
Decisiveness is a must for Iran to wake up. Operation Decisive Storm or Renewal of Hope must continue and expand, as most of the Islamic world has had enough of Tehran’s absurd adventures. If it resumes its diplomatic storm and decisiveness, Saudi Arabia will find that more parties support it.
Tehran will change as there are faint voices that have had enough of war and myths, and want Iran to be another Turkey, a country with an industrial and economic renaissance that provides jobs for youths.
They can see how history has opened a door for their country to make a leap into the future and exit the past. Perhaps a rational Iranian is saying: “There’s no need for a lost battle in Syria, so let’s seal a deal with the Saudis entitled ‘peace in Yemen, peace in Iran and the entire region’.”
This article was first published in al-Hayat on April 26, 2015.
Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.