SHAFAQNA – On November 8, 2016, the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies published its first recommendations on Yemen conflict resolution in the Huffington Post.
Since Yemen’s war broke out in March 25,2015 it has become painfully obvious that no one party stands to assert military dominance over the other – not in the immediate term, and not without endangering the very socio-political fabric of the region.
However poor, under-developed and one might venture un-sophisticated Yemen might stand today, this war-torn nation of Southern Arabia holds the key to global energy security – notwithstanding its role in combating the institutionalisation of Terror as a sovereign entity.
For all its many faults and the many great efforts which would have to be spent towards Yemen’s reconstruction, the international community cannot afford to lose Yemen to chaos – not any more than it already did.
War, if anything, has served to exacerbate already strained socio-political and religious lay lines, putting the very fabric of Yemen’s national sovereignty under strain – for the benefit not of political restoration and constitutional continuity but Saudi Arabia’s hegemonic ambitions.
The UN Security Council no longer can afford to look upon Yemen’s war from a political standpoint; not without losing objectivity and thus betray the very principles it vowed to uphold. If Yemen was allowed to become a Saudi political project for the furthering of its own national interests and agendas: regional and global– Yemen, one must stress emphatically would allow for a grand energy monopoly to fall under the kingdom’s dominion.
World powers would become de facto pawns in Saudi Arabia chess-game, and it is likely sovereign independence will be sold to the altar of capitalism. Who will challenge the kingdom when it will tower over the world energy reserves, and commercial route?
It would be a mistake to think that Yemen’s Resistance Movement, as embodied by the Houthis stands a proxy of Iran. Such narrative we ought to remember was spawn by Riyadh to together justify and rationalise its royals’ decision to wage war against a nation which only sin has been to imagine itself sovereign over its political future.
And if in fact Iran has acted an inspiration, and a political anchor in Yemen’s rejection of Saudi Arabia’s imperialism and religious diktat, the Security Council would do well to remember whose ideology and financial powers rose Terror into existence.
Iran does not represent any tangible and immediate threat to the Middle East – Wahhabism is, Terror is, unfettered imperialism is. It is pertinent to note that while Saudi Arabia has often engaged into violent military conflicts over the decades, Iran has only ever acted in self-defence – proof one might argue that Tehran’s ambitions are not outwardly.
Another point to consider if one must insist on assigning Iran a nefarious character is that the Islamic Republic remains in fact an actor dedicated to the annihilation of Wahhabi-inspired radicalism in the region, while Saudi Arabia has acted a carrier of such ideology. For all the ire which world nations have thrown at Iran, the Islamic Republic never once stepped outside international norms. Tehran actually is the only power, with Russia to have defended Democracy as a matter of sovereign principle – even when such a stance meant standing by Erdogan’s Turkey.
The same cannot be said of the kingdom. Regardless how one chooses to look upon Riyadh’s Yemeni adventure, it remains evident that the kingdom has learnt to conduct War remotely, to the power of its chequebook, as opposed to the strength of its military capital. The use of a mercenary army to assert and project one’s political ambitions should rise existential questions indeed – especially if we consider how the so-called Islamic State (Daesh) carve itself a kingdom at the heart of nation-states.
Yemen has been attacked on too many fronts for any one party to assume that such destruction is not in fact by design – in which case we ought to ask whose game we are playing into by allowing destruction to further erode at Yemen’s sovereignty.
Yemen’s civilian infrastructures have been exploded, its military and security abilities have been severely downgraded and its economy collapsed into financial oblivion.
If Yemen presented a global security threat before 2015 by its inability to absorb, and rebuff Terror’s assaults on its institutions, War has guaranteed that it won’t even offer but a whisper should a takeover take place.
The question today is not whether President Hadi will be allowed to return to the presidency or not, but rather if we can afford for War to further empower radicals in the region.
Yemen is now awash with new shadowy actors whose ambitions are to rise an Islamic State in the heart of Arabia, atop the World Oil Route. More troubling still is the fact that state actors within Yemen, have played al-Qaeda as a powerful tool against the Resistance Movement to secure their own grasp on power. Such dealings cannot be tolerated without the risk of setting a dangerous precedent.
Accountability and balanced reasoning must prevail if we are to broker a workable and lasting peace in Yemen. Yemen most importantly of all must be allowed to design its own political future if we are to avoid past mistakes: Afghanistan and Iraq come to mind.
The Security Council ought to look upon Yemen and consider the fact that Yemen’s very socio-political make-up ought to be used as a mean to strengthen its democracy-building process as opposed to forcing it to abide by western standards.
For example: Yemen’s tribal set up could be played as a strength rather than a roadblock to democracy, if only played right – putting the emphasis on accountability, or within a decentralisation governing process.
Yemen needs not be another failed -state. Yemen needs not become another Saudi satellite when it could be used to promote democracy at the heart of monarchical Arabia, and thus help foster positive change and dynamics in a region awash with radicalism.
Yemen’s instability represents too much of a liability for anyone NOT to address it.
Yemen needs to be recalled within the international fold if we hope to defeat the rise of Terror as a new form of sovereignty – this requires for a peace to be brokered, a peace which sits beyond the promotion or safeguard of Yemen’s political old guard.
Both former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and resigned President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi represent Yemen’s corrupt elite, the deep state. Both have been a gangrene on Yemen – for loss of a better word.
It would be foolish to believe that Hadi will transition Yemen into the future when he, himself represent an era which collapsed and perverted Yemen’s institutions – that, and the fact that his vice-president, Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar has been closely involved with the Muslim Brotherhood and radical elements in Yemen.
Promoting Hadi’s return equate to enabling al-Qaeda by legitimising its political standing. This should remain the Security Council’s main focus: fostering a solution which would lock radicals out of power altogether.
YEMEN’S LOOTED FUNDS
While individuals within Ansarallah have greatly benefited from the war in that chaos and necessity made it possible for venture capitalists to exploit Yemen, and thus rob its people from their personal and national wealth the Security Council will need to use discretion in its efforts to recuperate and trace Yemen’s looted funds.
It is fair to say that the bulk of Yemen’s wealth has been pillaged by the old guard – this elite which former President Saleh rose to sustain his hold on power. Sanctioning the Houthis as a political movement on account their stance antagonizes Saudi Arabia only serves to outlaw Yemen’s right to political and religious pluralism – directly playing into radicals’ sectarian and politically reactionary narrative.
First and foremost, Saleh and his acolytes ought to be held accountable – that would imply investigating Hadi and his Cabinet since most actors have played a hand in the looting of Yemen.
It would be more productive to put an end to corruption moving forward rather than seek reparation – unless of course we freeze all unlawfully attain assets across the board. If not the UNSC would de facto become an accessory to political supremacism.
Yemen’s biggest threat remains Terror. Eradicating Terror from Yemen will require political courage and a great deal of vision in that the UNSC would need to rise above the political fray to think long-term stability, as opposed to immediate political gain.
Saudi Arabia hardly qualifies as an ally against Terror when it has played its ideology to assert control, and command allegiances.
YEMEN’S POLITICAL FUTURE
Peace will remain a faraway concept if the UNSC continues to deny the de facto political reality Yemen finds itself living under. Rather than outlaw the Houthis it would be easier to integrate them in mainstream politics and engage them in the country’s reconstruction.
Shun politically, economically and socially for decades under Saleh’s regime the Houthis yearn for a seat at Yemen’s table, which seat they are in fact entitled to if we are serious about democracy. It is Saleh who stands a threat to Yemen’s future since he continues to insist on pursuing control.
The Houthis are not an impediment to peace. It is integration and normalisation they seek – enabling such ambitions could prove beneficial as it will make space for new dynamics to be fostered.
YEMEN’S HUMANITARIAN AND FINANCIAL CRISIS
It is impossible to look upon Yemen today and not recognise the terrible suffering which was imposed on a people in the name of control. It would be ludicrous to argue that Yemen’s war is anything else but the pursuit of Saudi Arabia’s imperial ambitions – however kindly one wishes to package it.
From the humanitarian blockade to the transfer of Yemen Central Bank to Aden, it is Yemen’s institutional obliteration we have seen played out. The UNSC has yet to challenge this reality.
Standing by President Hadi has become a fool’s errand – one which could carry severe repercussions if we consider how damaging such a stance has been for the UN’s credibility as a keeper of the rule of law.
An agreement needs to be brokered based on terms which are both feasible and fair. We cannot await for capitulation – unless of course the international community is willing to live with the consequences of such an action: the empowerment of Saudi Arabia as a supra-national entity whose coffers can manifest political reality against nations’ sovereign will.
This paper is part of a research study on conflict resolution in Yemen sponsored by the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, an affiliate of Shafaqna News Association.
By Catherine Shakdam – Director of Programs for the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies