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Yemen: Looking for a Breakthrough

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Dr. Haifa AlMaashi

Director, Geo-strategic Affairs Division

Tag: Yemen Current Affairs ISIS
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The success of the triple attack led by coalition forces, the popular resistance and the legitimate army of Yemen to control the strategic Anad base and Lahij province after tightening control over Aden may pave the way for a new truce in Yemen. But this time it must be new in everything.

Truces in Yemen do not tend to stop the gunfire or prevent the killing of civilians. On the contrary, they intensify the fighting, as though they were secret codes for getting ready for a new battle. This means the war will continue, and shelling between belligerents will be back soon. The main focus behind any truce in Yemen should not be a time-out for fighters or feeding the hungry or postponing death for another day, because if this is the goal, then with the end of the truce hunger, death, destruction and chaos will resurface.

The ideal truce in Yemen must be the first step towards initiating a public political dialogue between the various factions themselves and their people outside the exclusive circles, to raise hopes for ending the war once and for all. If not, a truce becomes just a military tradition that is utilised to face the international community.

The rush of international actors and organisations to demand a truce in Yemen may not be simply for humanitarian reasons; it may include political concerns as well. The demands by some of these organisations, especially the United Nations, coincide with frequent steps by Al Houthi rebels and their allies to push various parties to hold a truce either through separate, undeclared negotiations or through shuttle diplomacy led by the UN envoy to Yemen, Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad. There are concerns that the last truce was a failure as it provided Al Houthis and their allies with a number of ways to save themselves after failing to take control of the south of Yemen, as their forces were routed by the popular resistance and the siege imposed by the coalition countries.

The Yemen war was, and still is, a litmus test for the various international human rights and humanitarian organisations. The war revealed many weak points in the roles played by these organisations, which can be extended to include their roles outside Yemen. There are 14 international relief organisations working in Yemen but the work of some is marked by the absence of clear standards to provide support and subsidies for the different provinces in Yemen. It is also unsustainable and is marred by political ties that sometimes may push some organisations to adopt certain positions when it comes to the provision and distribution of aid or even carrying out investigations of war crimes.

Unfortunately, some international human rights organisations use double standards when defining war crimes in Yemen. In a recent report, Human Rights Watch condemned the coalitions air strikes on the Mokha port and other areas in the north that killed and injured civilians. HRW senior emergencies researcher Ole Solvang threatened: If coalition members wont investigate, the UN should.

The report deliberately overlooked the massacres by Al Houthis in Aden: in Tawahi, Mansoura and Dar Saad that left hundreds of people dead and wounded. This shows a clear bias that led many observers in the Gulf and beyond to question the organisations impartiality. Surprisingly Solvang, two days after the aforesaid report was released, issued another statement that condemned Al Houthis crimes in Aden, specifically the massacre of Dar Saad the same massacre that HRW had decided to ignore.

If there are, as the UN stated, 21 million Yemenis in need of urgent humanitarian aid, there are millions in need of saving their lives from Al Houthis and troops allied to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The truce may not be the perfect solution for putting an end to the crisis in Yemen as long as Al Houthis and their allies continue to exploit it to strengthen their offensive abilities in clear breach of international charters; they do this in order to impose a fait accompli on Yemen.

A truce may be the easiest solution at present as it does not collide with the interests of several parties inside and outside Yemen, and is not subject to US or Russian veto, as illustrated by UN Resolution 2216, which was passed in April this year without being linked to any implementation mechanism on the ground.

Does this reflect international negligence or is there a deliberate attempt to thwart the Saudi and GCC role in Yemen that may extend to other crisis zones in the Middle East? Is it an additional bid by Iran to protect its new presence in the country after the nuclear deal?

Or is it the threat of Al Qaida and the evolution of Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) in Yemen (whether real or imagined) that guided the international community in its approach to the crisis?

Certainly, there is international consensus that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states alone cannot formulate the new equation to get Yemen out of the current impasse. Likewise, Al Houthis allies would be unable to engage in negotiations on their own and resolve the conflict in accordance with the vision of one party.

The real question that emerges here is whether there is any real intention on the part of the various parties in Yemen to search for a peaceful settlement to the crisis or are the negotiation sessions in Riyadh, Geneva, Muscat and Cairo and the truces proposed, merely tactics designed to strengthen the positions of each party at home and reveal the supporters of each party at the international and regional levels?

Although the Geneva negotiations were aimed at gauging the intentions of various parties, they unveiled the weak role being played by the UN as the international policeman.

A logical formulation for political dialogue in Yemen has not been reached yet and what has already taken place was just preliminary, failed rehearsals for real dialogue. The Yemeni peoples dialogue may be the only possible mechanism that can end the war and bring life back to normal in Yemen, provided that it gives equal opportunities for expression and self-determination for the Yemeni people in the North and in the South.


Dr. Haifa Al Maashi is a former professor at Aden University. She is our #yemen expert, and writes frequently on the unfolding conflict.


Originally published on Gulf News 6th August 2015.

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