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Opinion: After Yemen Intervention, a Negotiated Peace | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A member of the southern tribal militia loyal to Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi carries a RPG-7 during clashes in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen, on March 19, 2015. (EPA/STR)

The extent of regional and international concern over the war in Yemen has exceeded expectations. Anxious governments and international institutions have frankly expressed their views on the events. Most of them have voiced their understanding of the importance of protecting the Yemeni government, which has been subjected to a destructive process that would have inevitably engaged Yemen in a long-term and dangerous civil war, much like what is happening in Syria and Libya.

There was a lot of patience during past negotiations, and while concessions were made to those who reject the regime, it was all for the sake of achieving reconciliation. However when those who oppose the regime resorted to weapons, seized the capital and a number of governorates, and attempted to murder President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi—after subjecting him to house arrest at his presidential palace and detaining high-ranking government officials—the only option left was foreign military intervention. After all, the Yemeni government is a legitimate government with no military power to protect itself as it confronts a gang that has bluntly expressed violent intent.

This is what pushed most regional governments and superpowers to support the military move in Yemen. Attacks were only launched after meeting all the required conditions and legal justifications. The operation began after the establishment of a coalition, which expresses the stance of concerned countries, including regional institutions, such as the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The offensive has attained the support of the US and Britain, while the United Nations had earlier recognized Hadi’s legitimacy after the rebels chased him to the temporary capital of Aden, threatening to kill him. Most countries have therefore openly supported the military campaign, dubbed Operation Decisive Storm.

Some, such as Iran and Hezbollah, opposed the attack. This was expected considering their ties to the Houthis from the very beginning. However, generally speaking, this military campaign is one of the few politically, diplomatically and legally organized campaigns ever, and this is what led the states that had doubts at the start of the campaign to declare their support the next day.

Although the fighter jets bombed military posts that had been previously singled out, and targeted rebel forces, the political solution, as formulated by the UN envoy to Yemen, was not ruled out. The main aim is not to get rid of the Houthis or other opposition forces. The aim is to protect the Yemeni state, its regime, institutions and political figures and to protect the people and the country from the chaos of fighting and civil war.

The military campaign has a political role as well. It is to push all parties towards a solution under the UN umbrella and according to what UN Security Council members have agreed on. The armed rebels must realize that the transitional Yemeni government, which does not have significant military power, is in fact legitimate and that there is a large military force that is willing to protect it if needed.

The second chapter after the military campaign is political and it’s about the return of all parties to negotiations and the search for a political solution which does not exclude anyone.

Yemen was and still is a matter of concern for the United Nations. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar, who’s been working non-stop since the start of the crisis, has been regularly submitting his reports to his overseers. He had supervised the reconciliatory solution by assigning the transitional government and an interim president to hold elections for Yemenis to choose whomever they wanted to lead them.

Isolated former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthi rebels decided to challenge the reconciliatory plan and resorted to force in order to sabotage the political process and seize power. They deployed their armed members in several cities and governorates in order to subjugate the Yemeni people by force. Those who understand the Yemeni case can understand and support the efforts of the UN and the need for Saudi Arabia—the largest country neighboring Yemen— and the rest of the GCC, who are directly affected by Yemen’s security, to militarily intervene to support legitimacy.

Those who try to make the battle look like it’s a war with no international plan and no legitimacy only care about keeping the fighting going in a country that suffers from a lack of resources but has an abundance of arms and is on the verge of a civil war.