Hope for a new solution to the Yemeni conflict and an end to the war was short lived when the United Nations launched its project for peace which was approved by the legitimate government. Hope quickly evaporated when the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s team and the Houthis rejected the project and set impossible conditions to accept it. Their rejection confirmed that they want the war to continue.
During the past few months, the Yemeni opposition and governments allied to it ran a propaganda campaign accusing the legitimate Yemeni government that is in exile and Gulf countries that are allied to it of rejecting any political solution and insisting on the continuation of bombing and destroying major Yemeni cities.
Kuwait hosted negotiations on its soil that brought together the legitimate government delegation and the Houthi- Saleh delegation. Saudi Arabia has also hosted the rebel delegation a number of times despite it refusing to recognise the rebels’ legitimacy, and has also communicated with officials from Ali Abdullah Saleh’s camp. When the international envoy presented his project for peace, the group of Gulf countries and the legitimate government led by Hadi accepted it.
The war in Yemen has been ongoing for sixteen months now whilst the crisis there started more than five years ago. Those who believe that the war has been going on for too long must remember the war in Afghanistan because the two wars may be similar. The United States entered the war in Afghanistan fifteen years ago and is still fighting there.
Yemen and Afghanistan are similar countries in terms of their rugged terrain, the great role of tribes, foreign interventions and the fact that there is no central authority. Sana’a was like Kabul, the capital does not have much influence on other parts of the country because the central government has been weak for decades.
I do not mean that the war in Yemen will last for another fifteen years. However, there should be no illusion that the solution in Yemen is imminent unless all power is handed to the Houthis who are allies of Iran, and this is totally unacceptable. Coalition countries must think and operate on the basis that the solution is a long way off, and they should look for partial solutions that enable the Yemeni government to work in liberated areas that are under its influence.
Coalition forces are just ten kilometres from Sana’a airport on the ground, and the airport is only eight kilometres from the centre of the capital. The global intelligence company Stratfor notes that the capital is at risk of falling now more than ever. However, I do not expect that the forces of the Saudi-led coalition want to rush into battle because they do not want to turn Sana’a into a cemetery. Yemen is a neighbouring country and its people are our neighbours. No one wants to pass grudges on to future generations, and victory is needed but at the lowest possible price for both warring parties.
The Houthi’s increasing military activity including bombing and breaching the Saudi border with Yemen is propaganda and aims to convince Yemenis and Saudis that the war in Sana’a and Sa’ada is moving to Saudi Arabia. Houthi artillery and operations have reached villages on the Saudi border and there are hundreds of civilian casualties, but the real and important fight remains in Yemen.