Breaking the silence in Yemen

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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Ten months after the war began in Yemen, there are three powers now stationed in the country: the government and the Arab alliance in one front, Houthis and ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh in another front while al-Qaeda is the third front. What has changed since then is the failure of the Houthis and Saleh to take over the authority in the country as the legitimate government has returned to Yemen after it had lost every inch of it.

Ten months may not seem long in the duration of wars. However, they are enough to conclude that Yemen will not be left for the Iranians to control via its proxy, the Houthis, and will not be left to submit to Saleh’s personal ambitions of seizing power. Practically speaking, the war changed the map of power on ground just enough to give us a glimpse of Yemen’s future. Exhausted rebellious groups may have to raise their white flags later.

The time may be appropriate now to test the Yemeni powers’ desire to reach a peaceful solution outside Swiss hotels

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The time may be appropriate now to test the Yemeni powers’ desire to reach a peaceful solution outside Swiss hotels, which are now occupied with receiving delegations from other conflict zones. What got me thinking about this is what my colleague Mustapha al-Noman, also a former Yemeni ambassador, wrote in the Okaz newspaper about what he called “the third Yemeni party.”

Noman, whom I met during the recent Davos forum in Switzerland, thinks that there is a number of respectable Yemeni figures who are not part of the conflict and who can play a positive role in limiting the crisis via mediating to end it.

His diagnosis of the Yemeni crisis is that warring groups, in general, may not have the political skills required to communicate and reach an understanding over a solution that takes everyone to safety and helps devise an acceptable political plan.

‘Third party’

“The third Yemeni party” consists of Yemeni leaders who’ve stayed out of the crisis and who can form a bridge between the different parties. They are people like Major General and former chief of staff, Hussein al-Masori, former deputy prime minister, Ahmad Sofan, former minister, Mohammad al-Tayyeb, Noman himself and others.

Can such a party succeed at creating dialog and carrying messages that may produce a political solution before the war completes its first year? It doesn’t harm to have active parallel, diplomatic, military and independent negotiating efforts.

What matters is arriving at a solution which can be implemented whenever possible, regardless of how far the alliance has progressed in Yemen, in order to end the rebellion, implement U.N. Security Council decisions which achieve Yemen’s unity and stability and establish a viable system.

It’s not necessary to wait for raising the white flags when there’s a desire to achieve these aims. In the end, the purpose of the war is achieving peace via the return of legitimacy to power.

There’s no doubt that the war in Yemen, with all the pains it caused, has prevented the rebellious team consisting of the Houthis and Saleh forces from seizing power. They would have turned Yemen into an arena for revenge and tribal and sectarian struggles if they had succeeded at controlling the country.

If Gulf countries hadn’t intervened, Yemen may have ended up exactly like Somalia where failure to intervene led to civil wars and famine. The civil war there has been ongoing for about 20 years now.

Yes, there’s a Saudi-Iranian war taking place in Yemen albeit of a different kind. For Iran, which nurtures the Houthis, its interest is to create chaos and use Yemen to target certain segments of Yemeni society and Saudi Arabia.

The only interest of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is to achieve stability in Yemen because this also ensures their own stability. This is something which Saleh could not comprehend a year ago. He thought if he topples the Yemeni government, Gulf countries will shut down their embassies in Sanaa, pack up their bags and go home. This is why he ventured with all the funds and weapons he looted and led the rebellion against the legitimate government by allying with Iran’s militias.

He was taken by surprise when Saudi Arabia acted in support of the legitimate government and launched a huge war against him. Houthis, as a militia linked to Iran, have been assigned a difficult task, and if it hadn’t been for Saleh’s forces, they wouldn’t have made it past the city of Omran. The Houthis’ seizure of Omran tempted Saleh’s forces to rebel in the capital, Sanaa, and march towards Aden.

This war has altered concepts as well as the map, and the rebels are now aware that the alliance has the determination and ammunition to resume the fight at a time when Saleh’s situation has taken a turn for the worse. This will force him and his leaders to go into hiding after a life of dignity he lived in his castle.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 02, 2016.
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.

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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