Mistakes committed in Yemen

Houthis were not, and are still not, considered a political party

Jamal Khashoggi

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Let us imagine that the Houthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh are defeated and leave Sanaa. Let us imagine that a new agreement is reached between Yemeni belligerent parties, and President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his ministers return to Sanaa. By then we would be back to the starting point, when Yemen was already in the midst of turmoil caused by Saleh. However, we would not be at war.

Let us go back to May 2012 when the late Abed al-Karim al-Aryani, the Yemeni politician who headed the national dialogue committee, announced that the Houthis were accepted to participate in the committee tasked with setting up the famous roadmap that aimed to elect a new president, constitute a new parliament, pass a new constitution and build a civil state. That was the first mistake committed by Yemen and Gulf states sponsoring the initiative.

Houthis were not, and are still not, considered a political party. They did not even participate in the popular revolution that toppled Saleh because they did not believe in its goals. They wanted their own project based on a fundamentalist Zaidi legacy that Yemen had eliminated in the aftermath of the 1962 revolution.

One can say every political regime has its own way of ruling, and that the Houthis cannot be rejected even if they still carry the same project. How, then, can the new roadmap help Yemen build its civil society while they are still present? How can Yemen carry this out while Houthis still have weapons and cells inside the state, and are increasingly tightening their grip over the country, its civil institutions and its army in coalition with Saleh?

The Houthis are hoping we will repeat these mistakes, leading to the failure of the political transition process, and enabling them to lead another ‘divine’ coup

Jamal Khashoggi


Four more mistakes led to the current situation in Yemen, including the rejection of the Arab Spring in Yemen, and dealing with it as conspiracy and a chaotic plan. It reflected the aspirations of the Yemeni people, especially the youth, to equitable governance that was pursued by the country since the launch of the 1948 revolution that rejected tyranny claiming legitimacy by divine right.

This divine right is a pillar of Zaidism, which kept power in the hands of Hashemite families for 1,000 years. Their reign was associated with injustice, poverty and ignorance, especially in the era of Hamid al-Dine. This injustice triggered the bloody revolutions of 1948 and 1962. The one of 1962 turned into a civil war that lasted eight years.

Subsequent military rule under Saleh did not bring fair governance, yet his example was repeated by Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, and other Arab republics.

It is impossible to expect a breakthrough in the negotiations in Kuwait, as they are taking place between Yemenis who want a fair state based on partnership, and Saleh, who represents the old regime. Any party against the Arab Spring and its demands in Yemen after the war must be rejected, including the Houthis.

Taking advantage

Another mistake was that the Gulf states and Yemen were hesitant about the political transition process, which caused stagnation that enabled the Houthis and Saleh to carry out a military coup. This has led to Western powers seeking non-democratic solutions in Yemen.

Yemenis have been circulating a project, said to be American, which would lead to the “Iraqization” of the country, dividing it into quotas between the Houthis, reformists, the southern separatist movement, and forces affiliated with Saleh. It is enough to look at Iraq to reject this bad idea.

Another mistake was the immunity granted to Saleh as part of the deal that saw him step down. This enabled the coup against the legitimate government. We must help Yemen build state institutions with new leadership that has nothing to do with the former regime. One more mistake was the marginalization of the reform movement, without which a modern Yemeni state cannot be built because it is one of the main engines for fair governance.

The Houthis are hoping we will repeat these mistakes, leading to the failure of the political transition process, and enabling them to lead another ‘divine’ coup.

This article first appeared in Al Hayat on May. 07, 2016.
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. Twitter: @JKhashoggi

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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