SHAFAQNA – This May Shafaqna had the privilege of interviewing several Houthi leaders and high ranking military officers, among whom Mohammad Abdulsalam, the group’s spokesperson. Our aim was to paint a clearer picture from the ground up. For all the coverage the Western press has volunteered over the past year, too many misconceptions remain as to why the Houthis are fighting the Saudis, and what Riyadh stands to gain from bombing Yemen into a stupor.
Yemen’s war the Saudis have claimed has been a war fought in the name of political restoration, and institutional legitimacy. Truth is Yemen’s has been a war of colonialization – a war which has been fought and waged to promote imperial powers’ interests in Southern Arabia.
In this grand struggle for territorial and political independence the Houthis of Yemen have risen themselves the custodian of Yemen’s popular will – the last rampart before complete abdication.
Shafaqna conducted a series of interview with Yemeni officials to offer readers a better understanding of the situation.
SHAFAQNA to General Ali al-Ahmed – General, you formerly served under Gen. Ahmed Ali Saleh in Yemen’s elite corps: the Republican Guards. As a military man, and an officer how do you assess today’s military quagmire?
Gen. al-Ahmed – Let me begin to say that Saudi Arabia does not have the upper hand in Yemen … not even the south which the Saudi-led coalition claimed to have under its control, is what you can qualify as peaceful. By waging war at Yemen, Riyadh has reignited those tensions and those tribal lay lines President Ali Abdullah Saleh had managed to bring under his authority. Even if we claim victory tomorrow Yemen will have a long road to travel on before it can call itself a nation-state again. Politics aside I would say that Saudi Arabia’s main goal in Yemen has always been to destroy Yemen’s military power. President Saleh is a military man who understands the importance of a strong military to support, and lead a strong nation. Riyadh has no real army, no real military power safe from the one it has bought out. Yemen in that sense posed a threat too great for the kingdom to ignore, and so war was declared.
SHAFAQNA – Can there be peace then?
Gen. al-Ahmed – There will be peace of course … wars do not last forever, but it will not be the peace many might expect. It will not be a peace where you have a clear winner and a clear loser. Alliances are much too intertwined and overlapping for peace to be a simple diplomatic, or even political exercise. I worry the people will pay the price, while officials get to divide power and Yemen’s wealth. I’m old … I see things differently those days. I see how the Yemenis were betrayed by their officials and how Yemen here has a chance to reclaim its future.
SHAFAQNA to Mohammad Abdelsalam – Peace talks have stalled again and again, why that is and what to the Saudis expect from such negotiations?
Mohammad Abdelsalam – you might need to ask them this! I’m not sure they do know what they want at times as they often go back on their words and promises. Yemen is complicated, many divergent interests are tugging and pulling, and this has prevented a breakthrough to happen. And then of course the Houthis have several red lines … the surrendering of weapons and withdrawal back to Sa’ada.
SHAFAQNA – Can you tell us about the return of al-Qaeda in Yemen and America’s involvement in the war?
Mohammad Abdelsalam – When you say al-Qaeda I say Saudi-bought mercenaries … Riyadh wants to destabilize Yemen by using terror. There’s nothing new there but it’s the way the media have talked about it which is very hypocritical. And then of course there are the Americans and their arrival in Yemen – this is a violation of Yemen’s national sovereignty. There is no other way to look at it. The US is in violation of international law.
Yemen stands against a coalition of super-powers. Still we have resisted and we have pushed back. Historically Yemen was never invaded. We intend to keep it that way.
SHAFAQNA to Amr Hamza (political analyst) – What do you make of the presence of radical militants in South Yemen?
Amr Hamza – Radicals … when you use the word radicals those days you could be talking a lot of different people. It’s really a question of perspective. You have Saudi Arabia’s takfirist, and then you have bought mercenaries, and then you have US black ops operatives. They are all more or less working towards the same goals – destabilizing Yemen to forward their agenda. The problem of course is that many people have many different agendas.
Yemen is facing a problem far bigger than this war. It is the politics behind the war which worry me more than the war itself.
Note: This interview was conducted by Catherine Shakdam thanks to the support of AJKF