Breaking Yemen's military stalemate is key for Geneva talks

Both sides in the conflict are heading to Geneva with an irreconcilable agenda

Mohamed Chebarro
Mohamed Chebarro
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Anything short of a clear and verifiable victory for either side in Yemen will not pave the way for a political settlement in the upcoming Geneva talks.

The Houthi militias and deposed President Saleh will not be persuaded to return to the previously agreed power-sharing agreement unless they are squeezed militarily and feel their fortune is about to turn.

Hence the Geneva meeting risks becoming a platform that undermines the Arab coalition and raises the Houthi and Saleh's profile as victims on the international stage.

The Houthis and Saleh are unlikely to discuss the implementation of the U.N. Resolution 2216, as many believe that more than 70 days of Saudi-led air strikes has not led to great losses that would have allowed for the Resolution’s implementation; if the Houthis and Saleh still feel strong, why would they disarm or even discuss sharing power?

After more than 70 days of continued air strike to degrade pro-Saleh and Houthi militias, the Yemeni army did not usher the way yet for all parties to return to the negotiating table.

Both sides in the conflict are heading to Geneva with an irreconcilable agenda

Mohamed Chebarro

Some believe that Houthis and Saleh are emboldened by the bombing of the past three months and the air campaign has militarily failed so far to dislodge them from their bases. They also believe the campaign has failed to see the Houthi grip on power eroded in their northern strongholds or even the capital Sanaa.

Civil war

Also, the 70-plus days of raging street battles in most southern Yemeni towns did not deliver a clear and verifiable victory either.

Local resistance fighters allied to the government of exiled President Hadi did not manage to tip the balance of power in Hadi’s legitimately elected government, despite close air support by the Arab force coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

Nor did the air drops of weapons and ammunition to pro-Hadi resistance fighters deliver the city of Aden back to the legitimate government.

Resolution 2216

Resolution 2216 will remain an umbrella for the continued air war until further notice. If the Geneva meeting turns out to be a platform for Houthis and Saleh to demonstrate their power and ability to remain in control of land, and through this have the keys to any future settlement for the Yemeni crisis, Geneva could become a burden for the coalition rather than an advantage.

Houthis, Saleh and their patron Iran does not yet seem in the mood to announce defeat and or readiness to even bargain. In their strategic calculations Tehran officials see that the frontlines are static in military terms, and no political breakthrough is noticed in the form of massive Yemeni parties and tribes abandoning Saleh and the Houthis' ship, yet.

Therefore resolution 2216 for Houthis and Saleh is a merely on paper and could be emptied of any impact on the ground. For them, the international community’s efforts are so far lacking enough teeth to peel off Houthis and Saleh gains. The resolution cannot turn back the clock to the Sanaa take over last September or the departure of President Hadi from Aden in March.

In their mind, the role of the U.N. as the facilitator of lengthy power sharing negotiations in Sanaa helped them fortify their power base and allowed them plenty of time to negotiate with one hand and to continue a physical power grab with the other.

The best outcome that one could hope for in the Geneva talks is another humanitarian truce.

This is bound to reiterate that the coalition is not waging war a against the Yemeni population, even though it would allow Houthi and Saleh militias to have a breather and prepare for another round of fighting.

International community

For the international community, the Geneva meeting will be another forum for the major players to show they have not lost all their relevance as demonstrated clearly in the Syrian, Iraqi and Libyan crises.

The Geneva meeting is for the U.N. a demonstration of its ability and relevance in today’s Middle East to convene meetings for talks with the lowest of expectations for both the international community and the warring parties.

Both sides in the conflict are heading to Geneva with an irreconcilable agenda.

One side believes itself to be the legitimately elected government and the inheritor and defender of a peace process underpinned by the GCC peace initiative created since Saleh's removal from power after 33 years in office.

The other side believes itself to have fought six wars against the central government in the hope to gain a greater role in Yemeni power-brokering mechanisms.

Mohamed Chebarro is currently an Al Arabiya TV News program Editor. He is also an award winning journalist, roving war reporter and commentator. He covered most regional conflicts in the 90s for MBC news and later headed Al Arabiya’s bureau in Beirut and London.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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