The new UN envoy’s almost impossible mission with the Houthis

Mashari Althaydi

Published: Updated:

Does the new UN special envoy have a plan for Yemen that differs from that of his predecessors’? Asharq Al-Awsat has learnt from high-ranking sources that the most important features of the new plan of UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths includes “withdrawing arms and planning a transitional phase that includes Houthi participation in the government and ends with elections.”

These general points for the new plan on which the new peace envoy is working on falls within the general context of the political solution that’s based on relevant international resolutions, the Gulf initiative or the Yemeni national dialogue. The Houthis and Saleh’s party were present in Yemeni national dialogue discussions.

Perhaps some people, including myself, denounce the idea that Houthis should have any place in Yemen’s political future and believe this group should not be engaged with at all as its ideology must only be dealt on par with that of Nazis and other fascist movements following World War II: via prohibition and prosecution.

Any apparent Houthi flexibility seeking talks is merely a ruse for gaining time

Mashari Althaydi

This is a fair and rational request that takes into consideration protecting Yemen’s future on the long term. However, if we are to realistically look at the matter, disarming the group and depriving it of its military capabilities will turn it into a toothless tiger. More importantly, the group’s legitimacy, according to its followers, is linked to the permanence of war and the sanctification of divine weapons within the efforts of the “Hashemite Quranic march.”

I think the Houthis’ core remains inflexible and does not accept dialogue or else it would immediately break. Just like his predecessor, the Mauritanian Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed eventually realized, British envoy Griffiths will also come to realize that he’s chasing a Houthi smokescreen.

Any apparent Houthi flexibility seeking political talks instead of resorting to the language of weapons and to the threats of Abdulmalik al-Houthi, Abu Ali al-Hakeem or their new prime minister, the extremely dreamy Mahdi al-Mashat is a tactical flexibility that is only meant to gain time. The Houthis’ doctrine is aggressive and is based on gobbling up others and is certainly invasive – anything else is mere talk.

As the foreigners say, we tell Mr. Griffiths: “Good luck!”

This article is also available in Arabic.


Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy

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