Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Gulf Leadership Confronting the Houthis | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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It is a coincidence that Kuwait is hosting the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] summit at the same time that the Jabal Dokhan region along the Saudi Arabian border is in flames. The fear of the Iraq-Iran war spreading to the Gulf led to the Gulf States forming the GCC thirty years ago in order to establish a common defence against any external aggression.

Today there is a problem that may not [initially] appear to be dangerous, and that is the Houthi rebellion in Yemen and this movement’s infiltration of Saudi territory. Observers of the movement believe this reflects the hidden intentions of Iran.

What can the GCC do against the Houthis?

In my opinion, Yemen failing to resolve this battle will send a signal to Iran that it is capable of threatening the safety of the GCC by replaying this rebellion [in other Arab countries] and expanding the scope of the confrontation. I do not wish to exaggerate the military value of the Houthis, but we are facing the threat of the Iranian trend, rather than a battle in a remote area of limited strategic value.

It is natural that the officials in Iran and the GCC do not speak about the indirect confrontation that is taking place between them, or on or near their borders, but the majority of indications point to this. Iran expanding the scope of the confrontation in the region to include Egypt, the Gulf region, and southern Saudi Arabia – completing the set of chaos – is not a fantasy, which is what is said by those who fail to understand what is taking place and refuse to be convinced that Iran is capable of all this.

The GCC leaders are meeting in Kuwait, and there are many issues on the agenda, controversial and others, yet the Houthi problem remains top of the agenda, because this is the purpose for which the GCC was established thirty years ago; namely to confront the Iranian threat. It is not required that they launch a collective war against the militias in Northern Yemen, but rather that they firstly acknowledge the disturbing situation, and secondly issue a clear declaration of support for Yemen against the rebels, and finally initiate a project that aims to support the Yemenis to confront the Houthis themselves.

Yemen is fighting three wars; the country has been in a state of war against the Houthi rebels in northern Yemen for four years; there is also the southern secessionist campaign, not to mention the fact that many Al Qaeda leaders and members have swapped the mountains of Afghanistan for the mountains of Yemen. Therefore supporting Yemen and preventing its collapse, whether this is due to external plans or is a coincidence due to three wars taking place simultaneously, will also protect the entire Gulf region, not just Yemen alone. Sanaa cannot face the chaos in Somalia – its maritime neighbour; fight against the Al Qaeda organization, which the US troops failed to defeat; and maintain unity with the South, whilst at the same time fighting a group that is affiliated to Iran ideologically and with regards to its arms.

If the Gulf admits to these realities at the Kuwait summit, then the project to rescue Yemen must be top of the agenda. From here, Yemen can be explicitly aided militarily, politically, and economically. Openness means extending huge military support to Yemen, and this must be done publicly, rather than these countries making statements that they do not wish to interfere in Yemen’s internal affairs. This will not be interference as long as it comes from the legitimate authority [Yemen], and in fact it is the duty of these countries to extend their support to protect the legitimacy of a country that is being targeted externally.