The month of November witnessed an increase in the intensity of military operations in several strategic positions in Yemen, especially in the strategic oil-rich governorate on Marib, where the most important refineries and power plants are located. It also witnessed intensive attacks in the governorate of Taiz, and the withdrawal of UAE-backed allied forces from their defensive positions around the seaport of al-Hudaydah, which was subsequently seized by the Houthis.
Moreover, Saudi forces withdrew from their position in the military base of al-Burayqah in Aden, the Houthis occupied the US embassy in Sanaa, which had been shut since 2015, and missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia intensified. The military escalation and intensive missile attacks did not spare the Yemeni capital Sanaa, which has been subjected to a barrage of intensive missile attacks since 26 November, with the special operations unit carrying out a series of assassinations against al-Houthi leaders, to the point where the situation in Yemen has come close to total collapse in the political, economic, and financial spheres. The exchange rate of the Yemeni rial collapsed as it lost two thirds of its value and reached 1600 rials to the dollar. This heralds a catalogue of dire and devastating consequences that may lead to plunging the country into famine now that food prices have recently risen sharply.
This escalation has coincided with the UN report on the real famine from which 8 million Yemenis are suffering, and with another report by the UN Development Programme, which warned that by the end of 2021 the death toll of the war, which by next Ramadhan will have entered its eighth year, will have exceeded 377, 000.
This reality explains the statement of the Yemeni Shurah Council’s Chairman Ahmed Obaid Bin Dagher who accused the alliance of changing their objectives, the “Legitimacy” of having lost its leadership role, and the army of fighting with its minimum capabilities. Bin Dagher summed up the situation Yemen has come to by saying that, “the republic and the unity are being subjected to a deliberate and financed systematic destruction, and dismantling policies aimed at dividing and tearing the homeland and society apart.” He concluded “the military option ended in a stalemate and the humanitarian and living conditions have become catastrophic.” This implies the presence of clear indications suggesting an intention to turn the page of armed struggle and accept the reality and the borders drawn up by the military battles on the ground.
All this has come in the context of America kick-starting the Iranian nuclear file, bringing Iran back to her initial functional role before the “Arab Spring”, and downsizing the activity of her surrogates in the region. It has also come against the backdrop of bin Salman’s pledge to change the face of Saudi in the next five years; in other words, the objectives of the Yemeni war are close to serving their purpose, which are reflected in federalising Yemen, terrifying and restructuring Saudi, and restoring Iran to her former function.
This is why on Thursday 30 November, and during an interview with the London-based Elaph newspaper, Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak linked the failure of UN envoys to Yemen to the “Iranian role”, which harnesses Yemen as part of its project in the region and to enhance its negotiating position. He also linked it to the lack of effective international pressure on the Houthis to compel them into opting for peace, and slammed the role of UN envoys to Yemen, which in his opinion is futile in the absence of an international will to generate a solution. He said, “none of the international envoys represent their personal willpower but rather the international willpower; hence, a significant part of any failure an international envoy faces will be down to the extent of support he receives, and the extent of influence wielded by the international powerbrokers to tackle the factors impeding peace.” This accentuates indirectly foreign intervention and imposes the dictates of the influential and relevant power, namely the US. Yemen has had four UN envoy since 2011, the last of whom was Hans Grundberg, who assumed his mission few months ago following the failure of his predecessors, Griffiths, Ould Cheikh, and Benomar, in achieving lasting peace. This is corroborated by what Saudi Foreign Minister Faysal bin Farhan told France24 channel on 14 November 2012, namely that his country, “is committed to ending the struggle in Yemen”. He reiterated the Saudi project calling for a ceasefire and blamed the surrogates of Iran, i.e., al-Houthi and Hezbollah, for the continuance of the struggle by saying, “but the Hezbollah-backed Houthis refuse to respond to these calls, despite the fact that they still stand. On the other hand, the Houthis continue to attack the city of Marib and to fire ballistic missiles on the kingdom.” The Saudi minister hinted at the desire of his country to move through the Saudi-Iranian talks towards “tackling vital issues preoccupying Saudi”, and indicated that ironing out the issues troubling the countries of the region was linked to “reaching a final agreement on the nuclear file.”
By reading the statements of Saudi and the Yemeni “Legitimacy”, we deduce a tendency to exert pressure on the Houthis, portray them as the extremist party threatening peace, link them to Hezbollah, denounce their political vision which is built on “clinging to the divine right to rule”, absolve the “Legitimacy” of responsibility to divide Yemen, and point the finger at the Houthis. Such calls cropped up during the speech of President Hadi on 30 November marking the 53rd anniversary of independence, in which he said, “this militia should be compelled to peace and national consensus…. And it should awake from the delusions of political hegemony and ethnic and lineal superiority.” For his part, Yemeni Foreign Minister was quoted as saying during the Rome Med – Mediterranean Dialogue currently held in the Italian capital that peace in Yemen necessitated from “the Houthi militia to forsake the divine right to rule and adhere to equal citizenship as a constitutional clause and an essential condition for permanent peace in Yemen.”
The omens of this approach emerged in the US in the shape of a report compiled by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and published by Marib Press website; it stated that the Houthis constituted the obstacle impeding the efforts aimed at settling the Yemeni crisis, that the militias confirmed their consistent intransigence, and they are nowadays toying with the slogan of Peace to bide time and stage further terrorist operations.
The report also stated that putting the Houthis back on the terrorist list “met the criteria” and that the Houthis’ status was a topic of debate by the US administration, adding that the Houthis’ dominion over the Yemeni western coastline could threaten the shipping of 6 million oil barrels a day via the Red Sea. This alluded to a warning to Europe and her interests in Bab al-Mandab designed to lure her into supporting the American solutions, especially now that the Ethiopian struggle has erupted.
As for the military withdrawals from the battlefield, they were interpreted by the spokesperson of the Arab Coalition Forces, Colonel Turki al-Maliki, as being “a redeployment process concordant with the strategic plan of the coalition”, without giving any elaboration on the strategic plan, which could be deduced from the American political demands from the coalition to undertake confidence-building measures to execute the final agreement on Yemen. This is expected to end the struggle by granting the Houthis some of their demands, namely lifting the air and naval siege imposed on Sanaa’s airport and the seaport of al-Hudaydah, securing their financial status and the energy security in Marib by sharing the oil revenues and taxes, and by pledging to secure the demands of bin Salman, namely providing Saudi with American protection, dissipating Saudi’s security fears, ending the threats of the Houthis, and supplying Saudi with sophisticated weapons against ballistic missiles and drones, as well as securing the status of the strategic Taiz governorate, which is deemed the southwestern access to Sanaa, where the “Giants Brigades” have been redeployed.
Moreover, the sweeping attack launched by the Houthi forces on Marib, which according to a statement by the Houthi Movement led to the death of 15,000 Houthi militiamen in the past six months, has brought the Houthis out of their mountainous strongholds to the open and flat spaces in Marib and Bijan and Shabwa, facilitated the task of the coalition forces, weakened the Houthis, and encouraged some tribes and parties, and southern Yemeni movements to rally around the coalition forces to fend off the Houthi attacks. This sent a message to the Houthis stipulating that the cycle of violence would only end if political concessions were made and foreign dictates were observed through the Saudi-Iranian understandings concluded at the Baghdad meetings. This approach is perfectly compatible with the context sought by America and her policies calling for accepting the influence of the fait accompli and the division on its basis.
Copyright © LCIR 2021