The deadlock in Yemen

Since its start, not much was expected from the U.N.-sponsored peace conference on Yemen

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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Since its start, not much was expected from the U.N.-sponsored peace conference on Yemen which was held in Geneva at the behest of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Talks focused exclusively on negotiations between the Yemeni forces fighting for power while representatives of concerned countries were sidelined. The opposition, more specifically Houthi militias and ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, considered it an opportunity to become an internationally-recognized legitimate party. Meanwhile, the legitimate Yemeni government found itself compelled to remain on good terms with the United Nations as it will need the latter’s help later on.

It would be a falsehood to mislead Yemenis into thinking that the world desires a peaceful solution for them

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

However, the outcome of the Geneva talks will have no repercussions in Sanaa and will not halt the collapse of the Yemeni government. This fragmentation comes as the result of the multiplicity of forces and conflicts, the political vacuum and the absence of a central government. Yemen is heading toward a civil war complemented by an additional conflict between external powers, similar to the Somali conflict. In fact, the Somali civil war broke out in 1991 and continues to rage until now. Neighboring countries intervened and the United States sent forces but failed to secure an end to the fighting. In the end, all parties abandoned Somalia and few cared about its people who were left to fight the flames of conflict alone.

From bad to worse

Yemen’s situation is going from bad to worse and will not improve if the fighting parties do not accept a political solution that will unite them in one system with similar rights. It is the same GCC-EU proposal that the Houthis accepted three years ago then decided to forgo at Iranian instigation. There is in Yemen now, despite the apparent infighting, many forces whose majority did not engage completely in the ongoing conflict.

Alongside the three main forces, Houthis, Saleh and the legitimate government, there are southern separatist forces faced by other forces, northern tribal forces and of course lurking al-Qaeda elements who will try to seize territories in much the same way ISIS in Syria and Iraq has done.

The Houthis and Saleh will not govern Yemen because of the ongoing fighting. Each party initially felt it was winning by spoiling the chances of the other, especially the Houthis. They had many advantages in the former government, before the coup, as well as influence exceeding their political clout. However, their involvement in the power play and their desire to take over the country spoiled the whole plan. No one will make any gains in an atmosphere of chaos. Over time, if the Yemeni parties fail to reach an agreement, Yemen’s war will be forgotten like Somalia.

Crises and raging fires

The region is full of crises and raging fires. It would be a falsehood to mislead Yemenis into thinking that the world desires a peaceful solution for them. In parallel, whoever thinks that Iran, Russia and Western nations will remain permanently supportive is also at a height of self-delusion. If the crisis extends for one or two more years, Yemenis will realize that everyone walked away to deal with other issues and that even the U.N. secretary-general and his envoy will no longer answer their calls, in a situation similar to what Somalia faced.

We urge the various Yemeni leaderships, whether legitimate or militia, to think of the future. Fearing a permanent state of collapse, we urge them to seek a political solution that will unite all parties in a viable and sustainable system. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to repair broken glass.

This article was first published in Asharq al- Awsat on June 26, 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.

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