25.09.2014 Author: Alexander Orlov

Yemen can Ignite the whole Middle East

6876854At the end of last week after breaking through the defenses of the Yemeni security forces around the capital, groups of armed Houthi rebels entered Sana’a and began moving towards the center of the city. They launched strikes at the building of the security forces and the national television, claiming the lives of up to 70 people; however they decided not to assault the government quarter.

During the weekend street battles continued with the use of heavy weapons between Houthi militants and the al-Islah political movement involving special forces of army units. Sana’a International Airport was closed for 24 hours and many foreign airlines stopped all flights to the Yemeni capital. There was no Internet or mobile phone connection. In fact, the country was on the brink of civil war.

However, the negotiation process on solving the situation in Yemen is ongoing. Meetings of government delegations with the participation of UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser Jamal Benomar and the leader of the group “Ansar Allah” (Houthi political organization) A. Husi continued to take place in spite of current developments. However, the Houthis despite significant concessions by the Cabinet of ministers on all of their demands, including the forming of a government from ministers-technocrats and the radical reduction of prices for petroleum products, are constantly putting forward new demands.

According to several sources, the former President of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh is pushing Ansar Allah to prolong the negotiations. Allegedly, he is hoping that this will allow the Houthis to receive a significant number of Yemeni soldiers and officers and permit the Houthis to capture new strategic positions in Sana’a. Moreover, Iranians supporting Ansar Allah are also delaying the process. At the same time, they are controlling the Amran province despite condemnations from the UN Security Council.

The conclusion is that the goal of the Houthis and Tehran which is behind them is to overthrow the current regime and president A. Hadi, even by the use of force if no other option is available, and by no means do their plans include the changing of the current government or the reduction of prices on petroleum products. This seems to be true since immediately after the signing of the ceasefire agreement between the Houthis and representatives of President A.Hadi in the province of Al-Jawf, Ansar Allah units were transferred to Sana’a.

Apparently, both Iran and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh stand to benefit from the disruption of the Yemeni initiative CCASG and the decisions of the National Dialogue Conference. Firstly, this will allow them to establish their own authority in the country, and Tehran would be able to deliver a powerful blow to Saudi Arabia in the south-western direction. Iran is already tired of the constant intrigues by Riyadh in regard to Iraq and Syria, the attempts to disrupt agreements on the Iranian nuclear program with the United States and other members of the international Group of six world powers. Therefore, it is likely that Ali Abdullah Saleh and Iran plan on playing the Houthi “card” to their advantage.

Noteworthy is the fact that A.Hadi and the government are not putting forward to the UN Security Council and its Sanctions Committee the question of the “subversive” role of Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthi leaders, preferring to appeal to the leading countries of the Security Council and CCASG. Most likely, they have no facts to prove this “subversive role”, and evidence of gun battles may not be enough, since the Houthis could blame al-Islah and soldiers.

As the current situation in Yemen directly threatens the security of Saudi Arabia and could end with the victory of pro-Iranian forces in Yemen, at least in the central and the northern part of the country, the US with the active support of Britain and Saudi Arabia, will likely try to initiate discussions on Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthi leaders in the UN Security Council themselves, without a formal complaint from Sana’a. There is a clear tendency in Washington and Riyadh to substitute for the sanctions committee established specifically for this purpose by Resolution 2140 of the UN Security Council. After all, the committee has only started its work and intends to send representatives to CCASG countries. Furthermore, a statement is to be adopted identifying the names of candidates for inclusion into the sanctions list.

It seems that Washington is in such a hurry that it is even willing to act outside the established procedures of the UN and the Security Council. Although no one has vested in them the authority of a judge or prosecutor to include any Yemeni officials on the sanctions list before a decision is made by the Special Committee set up for this particular purpose. This means that the situation in Yemen is quite bad, and the present regime may soon be overthrown, which is not part of US plans.

The US got stuck in creating an anti-terrorist coalition in Iraq, having in advance excluded Russia, Iran and Syria from the process. This could lead to IS militants carrying out a retaliatory attack; in this case Baghdad will fall, and then Saudi Arabia will be threatened by the offensive of the Islamists from the north. The loss of a key ally in the Persian Gulf region represented by Saudi Arabia would mean losing the war against Russia for global energy dominance, which was started by the Americans in Ukraine in the spring of 2014, since those plans have failed, and now the complete collapse of the Middle East is looming ahead in regions mostly rich in hydrocarbons. And all of this is worsened by Riyadh’s hysteria, which seems to think that Iran has everything to do with these current developments, ostensibly seeking to destroy the Saudi kingdom and establish full Shia dominance over oil and gas resources in the region through its Shia allies from Yemen to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria, the Eastern Province of Saudi and Bahrain. This cannot be ruled out, if Obama does not stop his adventurous-aggressive course. As the saying goes: “You reap what you sow.” The US itself started these processes in 2011 by triggering off the “democratization” of the Arab world and Eastern Europe by way of artificially inciting “colour” revolutions. That is why now Washington simply has no idea on how to stop all of this without losing face.

On September 23 Yemeni news agencies reported that the Houtis took control of Sana’a, since they put roadblocks on all the major road of the city. We are practically speaking about a possible coup d’etat

Alexander Orlov, political scientist, expert in Oriental studies, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outloook.