When Operation Storm of Resolve was initiated in Yemen on March 26 this year, led by Gulf Arab states, its declared goal was to reinstate legitimacy in the country. There were varying reactions internationally to this action.
However, there was a consensus among most international observers that the operation may redraw strategic lines in the region for many political parties, and this was likely to be reflected in the political, military and economic relations between countries. Some considered it a turning point for Gulf and Middle Eastern geopolitics. This implies that the political framework in place in the past in this region may be redrafted to incorporate the interests and positions of many countries. The bottom line is that repercussions of the operation, four months on, will have an impact beyond Yemen.
Triumph in Aden has forced Al Houthis and troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to change their military tactics from offensive to defensive, until the stage of surrender and withdrawal, as was recently shown in the northern provinces of Baida, Ibb and Dhamar and, probably, Sanaa in the coming weeks. There are several indications that Yemen is on the threshold of a historical stage that would incorporate a new political system. There will be a different opposition, and public, agenda; and a central role for the average Yemeni citizen.
Yemens Arab Spring has finally borne fruit in the form of a spring that is not linked to a political or religious leadership or associated with a certain ideology or doctrine but rather highlights the role of the people in self-determination through defending themselves on their own land. And this has been proved by the Southern resistance in the process of liberating Aden. The Yemeni government- in-exile, for the first time, has come to appreciate the value of the citizen, and will not be able to ignore his/her will any more.
The situation in Yemen has heralded the Gulf states rise as a military and diplomatic force, with the ability to play a role in changing the political map of the region. This has coincided with the nuclear agreement with Iran, which was a victory for Tehran. The ambiguous nuclear deal pushed Iran into defined areas, which fortunately endorsed the new power of Gulf states. Iran is still standing on the other side. But this time, it is viewing the Gulf states from a different angle.
The diligent, theatrical performance by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was reflected in his article Choose your neighbours before your house, published after his visit to Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq, for talks on the Yemeni crisis. This demonstrated the paradoxical Iranian stance, and was aimed at gaining the approval of the international community rather than that of the Gulf states.
Zarif focused on the Iranian initiative, which ignores the facts in Yemen. It adopts a broad and vague approach, and does not include any details with respect to the legitimate government or Al Houthis. At the same time Zarif showed a tone of appeasement, directed towards the Gulf states.
Gulf-Iranian relations had marched out from the previous circle in which Iran took centre stage. Now Saudi Arabia and the UAE have taken the lead in planning the future of Yemen, at least in the short term. The recent visit by the US Secretary of State John Kerry to Qatar and the mutual visits between the Saudi foreign minister and the foreign ministers of the US and Russia confirm this new orientation that reflects a picture of consensus, and cohesion, among Gulf states rather than weakness or disintegration with respect to Yemen or other matters in the region.
Gulf presence in Yemen at this stage may gain credibility and greater respect from the Yemeni people, in contrast to the feeble attitude of Iran, which continues to embrace the policies of deception and counterfeiting in its political statements and media coverage with regard to Yemen. This may contribute to the weakening of Irans abilities to help resolve the conflict in Yemen in any possible political dialogue. Iranian media coverage of the recent military developments in the South portrayed Al Houthis and their allies as being victorious and being the defenders of the rights of people, facing what they call the mercenaries and the Saudi [and] Al Qaida attacks.
Yemeni citizens at this stage of the confrontation demand credibility and transparency from all internal and external parties for the sake of Yemens future. These citizens have suffered from misrepresentations, lies and deception.
Therefore, the element of trust is missing, which makes any future political dialogue between the parties extremely difficult. No party trusts the other, and any agreement concluded is likely to be violated. This was proven during the unity agreement in 1990; the partnership agreements between Saleh and the Islah party in 1997; the convention of national dialogue conference in 2014; and in the peace agreement and partnership that Al Houthis imposed by force to subjugate their opponents.
Giving the average Yemeni citizen the right to self-determination in accordance with international legal frameworks may be the appropriate thing for a new beginning in Yemen, and not imposing a new reality by force, whether military or political. Thats what Al Houthis and Salehs troops had tried to do and failed, and this is what must be avoided by the coalition and the legitimate government headed by President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Dr. Haifa Al Maashi is a senior researcher at b'huth, and a previous professor at Aden University.
Originally published in Gulf News August 16 2015.
Image credits: Wikimedia, Aysegul Tastaban