Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
It's Time for UN to Shift Mission in Yemen
By Nicola Nasser
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, October 6, 2015
Peace in Yemen will continue to be elusive unless the United
Nations shifts its mission from sponsoring an inter-Yemeni dialogue to
mediating ceasefire negotiations between the actual warring parties,
namely Saudi Arabia & allies and the de facto representatives of Yemenis
who are fighting to defend their country’s territorial integrity and
independent free will, i.e. the Huthi - Saleh & allies.
its 70th session while celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the
United Nations is unlikely to reconsider its stand on Yemen, but it must
do, at least to provide a face – saving exit strategy for Saudi Arabia if
not to stop a snowballing severe humanitarian crisis in the country.
The United Nations Mauritanian special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh
Ahmed will sooner than later face the fate of his predecessor Jamal
Benomar, who resigned his mission last March acknowledging its failure.
The Saudi insistence on dictating a fait accompli on Yemen is
undermining the UN efforts to bring about a political solution, which was
made impossible by the Saudi – led war on Yemen.
The UN sponsored Yemeni – Yemeni talks in the capital
of the Sultanate of Oman, Muscat, and elsewhere will continue to be
deadlocked. They are a non-starter. The Saudis have held their Yemeni
allies captives of their dependence on Saudi financial, political and
military support without which they could not survive internally.
The UN and Arab League recognition of them as the legitimate
representatives of Yemen was counterproductive. They are viewed by most
Yemenis more as Saudi puppets than legitimate delegates of their people.
Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is recognised by the UN and the Saudi –
led coalition as the legitimate president of Yemen, arrived in Aden last
week aboard a Saudi military aircraft and his safety was secured during
his three – day stay there by military bodyguards from the United Arab
Emirates. The arrival of his prime minister Khaled Bahah a week earlier
was not different.
Conferring UN and Arab League legitimacy on
them serves only to turn both organisations into biased parties to the
conflict if not partners to it or at least accomplices and compromises
their credentials as mediators.
The Huthis are portrayed by the
Saudi – led propaganda as a sectarian fanatic and violent intruders into
the Yemeni society or as agents of Iran who are waging a proxy war in
Yemen, but the Huthis are not aliens. Their ancestors ruled Yemen for some
one thousand years. They represent more than one third of the country’s
population. Their role could have been strengthened by Iranian support and
weakened by their religious speech, but nonetheless they are
uncontroversial native integral component of Yemen’s national history and
Similarly, their ally in fighting off the Saudi – led war
on Yemen, ex – president Ali Abdullah Saleh, is part and parcel of Yemeni
political infrastructure. More than a three – decade ally of Saudi Arabia,
when Saleh resisted a Saudi transition plan he hardly survived a bombing
of his Friday prayers. Despite his individual ruling style and a wide
spread corruption of his governance, he is credited with building a state
infrastructure, a national army, a tolerable pluralistic political life
and a relatively civil freedoms that were the envy of his Arab compatriots
in the north who are still living under the Middle Ages systems of
government and, more importantly, making the unity of Yemen a fact of
life. When his representative credentials are questioned by his former
Saudi allies it is noteworthy to remind them that his “al-Mutamar” party
still controls the majority of the last democratically elected Yemeni
The “external” Iranian interference in Yemen and
Iran’s sectarian support for “Shiite” Yemenis, in addition to a self –
proclaimed role in defence of a controversial legitimacy of a Yemeni
president, are the main raison d'être cited by Riyadh as the casus belli
of the Saudi ongoing six – month old war on Yemen.
and realpolitik facts refute such Saudi claims and render them as merely
thinly – veiled justification for installing a puppet regime in Sanaa by
the brutal and inhumane force of an external invasion.
Saudi war on Yemen could be a “rite of passage” for the Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC), particularly the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but not the
Saudi Arabia as claimed by Rami G. Khouri (1).
Long history of
Saudi military intervention
Long before there was an “Iran threat”
or a “Shiite threat,” the Saudi ruling family never hesitated to interfere
in Yemen militarily or otherwise whenever Yemenis showed signs of breaking
away from Saudi hegemony towards a free will to determine their lives
In the 1930s the Saudis engaged in a war on the
Mutawakkilite Imamate of Yemen and succeeded in annexing the Yemeni
provinces of Asir, Jizan and Najran to their kingdom, thus creating a
border dispute that was not settled until 2000, but the current Saudi war
on Yemen seems to reignite it.
Then, they occupied the Yemeni port
of Hodeida on the Red Sea and attacked the Yemeni capital Sanaa. Yemen at
the time was a similar conservative “kingdom” bound, like the Saudis, by
treaties with the British colonial power.
From 1962 to 1970 the
Saudis interfered militarily on the side of the “Shiite” Yemeni
“royalists” whom they fought in the 1930s against republican
revolutionaries who sought to usher Yemen into the twentieth century out
of the Middle Ages. The Saudi military intervention led the Pan – Arab
leader of Egypt Gamal Abd al-Nasir to rush to the rescue of the Yemeni
republicans, thus regionalising a Yemeni internal affair into an Egyptian
– Saudi war among the “Sunnis.”
History it seems is repeating
itself nowadays, but the Saudis have so far failed to embroil Iran in
Yemen as they did with Egypt then. Instead, the kingdom is itself plunging
deeper into the Yemeni quicksand.
“In 1977, then, Saudi Arabia
conspired (together with Salih) to the assassination of modernist
President Ibrahim al-Hamdi, who was determined to loosen the stranglehold
of the kingdom over Yemeni politics,” Tobias Thiel (2) of The London
School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) wrote on last April 2.
In the aftermath of the emergence of the Islamic Republic of Iran
into the regional scene, “the House of Saud expelled around 800,000 Yemeni
guest workers to punish the newly united republic for its stance in the
1991 Gulf War (Kuwait war), plunging the country into an economic crisis”
and “the kingdom simultaneously supported both sides – Sunni Islamists and
Marxist separatists – in the 1994 war of secession,” Thiel added. Both
those events had nothing to do with the so –called “Iran threat” or the
“Shiite – Sunni” sectarian rivalry; both were inter – Arab and inter
“Finally,” according to Thiel, “Riyadh has
backed the Salih regime against the mass protests in 2011 and has – as
elsewhere – tried to stifle the democratic opening.”
Saudi war on Yemen last March had regionalised a Yemeni internal conflict,
undercut short a Yemeni successful national dialogue sponsored by the
United Nations, undermined the territorial unity of the country, which was
then compromised only by the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) that
was isolated in the far south eastern part of Yemen, destroyed the
infrastructure of the Yemeni state, created a snowballing severe
humanitarian crisis and rendered the possibility of a Yemeni – Yemeni
political solution a mission made impossible by both the mutual bloodshed
and the Saudi insistence on shaping by brutal force the future ruling
regime in Yemen on Saudi terms.
Riyadh intervened militarily in
Yemen when the Saudi – led GCC initiative for a “transition” on their
terms in Yemen broke down in 2014. The Saudis planned the “transition” in
Yemen to be a show case that could be replayed in Syria where they have
been arming and financing a similar “regime change” for the past five
years. The failure of their “show case” in Yemen doomed their plan for
Historically, Sanaa and the northern rough mountainous
provinces failed all Arab and non-Arab invaders. The Ottoman Empire at its
zenith could not subjugate it. It is the bedrock of Yemen’s independence
and self determination. There the hardcore of the Yemeni anti-Saudi
invasion is entrenched and there this invasion will most likely meet it
The so – called “liberation” of Aden by Saudi and UAE
military intervention could serve only as a recipe for a perpetuated civil
war and regional capital of a divided Yemen. Hadi is unlikely to deliver
in Aden what he failed to achieve when he was in Sana’a.
March 22, the former UN special envoy Jamal Benomar, addressing the UN
Security Council via video conference, warned that, “the situation is on a
rapid downward spiral” that is “leading the country away from political
settlement and to the edge of civil war”. The status quo is “inviting a
protracted conflict in the vein of an Iraq-Libya-Syria combined scenario,"
he told an emergency UNSC session. Benomar resigned his UN mission
acknowledging its failure. His successor is more likely to come to the
same conclusion sooner than later.
The presence now of reportedly
between 5 – 10 thousand ground GCC troops in Yemen is proof that the
aerial onslaught had failed and that the so-called pro-government forces
are merely a Yemeni make – believe address for the thinly – veiled Saudi –
led external invasion.
The introduction of GCC ground troops into
Yemen is more a show of the failure of the so – called Yemeni pro –
legitimacy and pro – Saudi forces than a display of GCC military prowess.
Quoted by the Qatari News Agency (QNA) on September 18, the Saudi
Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, tacitly acknowledging his country’s
failure in Yemen, said that he “personally … suggested Israeli help as our
only hope to end the status quo … His Highness King Salman put this
proposal forward for further consideration."
Ruling out any open
Israeli contribution to the US-led war on Iraqi forces in Kuwait in 1991,
the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the US “leading from behind” in the
ongoing war on Syria is an instructive strong reminder that any Israeli
role in the Saudi – led war on Yemen will most likely be ruled out as
well, at least in public, because it would be definitely
It is high time that the UN moves to facilitate
an exit strategy for Saudi Arabia from Yemen.
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit,
West Bank of the occupied Palestinian territories (firstname.lastname@example.org).
September 16, 2015. Rami G. Khouri is a senior public policy fellow at the
Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the
American University of Beirut and a senior fellow of the Harvard Kennedy
(2) Tobias Thiel is a PhD Candidate at the LSE’s Department of
International History. His dissertation is about contentious politics,
collective memory and violence in post-unification Yemen. He has spent the
past three years in Yemen conducting field research.
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