17.02.2015 Author: Viktor Mikhin

Yemen: The Struggle Lies Ahead

20140921001033599909-originalThe Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) condemned the coup in Yemen, the Kuwait Times reported, with a reference to a statement from the Council. “The coup marks a grave and unacceptable escalation of violence and endangers the security, stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yemen,” the GCC said in a statement. The GCC called on the UN Security Council to intervene and put an end to the “coup which has placed Yemen and its people in a dark tunnel.”

Recent developments, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper, have caused the GCC’s concern that Yemen, which is located near the oil-rich Saudi Arabia, could become a failed state.

Earlier, Shiite Houthi rebels announced that they had seized power in the country, dissolved the parliament and formed a temporary presidential council as the government. The presidential council is composed of 5 people. Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi resigned, after Houthi rebels demanded that he give them posts in his cabinet. In the beginning of February, the rebels presented an ultimatum to the political parties in Yemen for overcoming the crisis of power with the purpose of forming a new government, but the talks, held under UN mediation, were unsuccessful.

In a statement, the rebels referred to their decision as the beginning of a new era, which would lead Yemen to “safe shores.” In his speech, the leader of the rebels, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi defended the formation of the presidential council which consolidates his power as serving the interest of all Yemenis. “This historic and responsible initiative is in the interest of the country… because it fills a political vacuum.” Interestingly, the formation of the council, according to the rebels, will hinder the threat from Al-Qaeda which is strongly influential in the eastern and southern parts of the country. “If Al-Qaeda takes control of the country, it will plot against our brothers in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf,” warned Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.

In fact, influential Sunnis and representatives of political parties from South Yemen do not recognize the transfer of power in the country to the Houthi insurgents. It may be recalled that the Houthi belong to the Shia sect of Zaidi: The group is named after its founder and former head, Hussein Houthi, who was reportedly killed by the Yemeni army in September 2004.

In connection with this, the UN Security Council issued a statement expressing concern about the dissolution of parliament and the creation of the Presidential Council. “If the UN-led negotiations are not immediately resumed, the members of the Security Council are prepared to take further steps,” Liu Jieyi, the Chinese Ambassador to the UN, told reporters (China is the President of the Security Council in February). The Security Council also called for the immediate release of Yemeni President, Prime Minister, and cabinet members from house arrest.

At the same time, an interesting and very contradictory situation is developing for Washington. “The US Department of State, for its part, also condemned the dissolution of parliament,” said press-secretary Marie Harf, but added that, “Washington will continue to cooperate with the forces in Yemen fighting terrorism.” And, for example, US media reported, citing official sources, that due to recent events, the United States has been forced to suspend operations against Al-Qaeda militants in this country. The Washington Post quotes the words of a senior official of the Washington administration, who said that those organizations of the Yemeni government, with which the United States used to cooperate in the fight against Al-Qaeda, are now under the control of Houthis. “Now we do not have the opportunity to work with these agencies,” said the staff member, adding that as a result Al-Qaeda in Yemen has received a respite. President Barack Obama, however, boldly stated that this does not mean operations against the militants of Al-Qaeda in Yemen have stopped altogether.

Judging by the statements of President Barack Obama, he is not inclined to change his strategy in Yemen in the foreseeable future. Speaking in India, while on a state visit, he expressed confidence that the US will continue to act against Al-Qaeda in Yemen: “We have repeatedly demonstrated that we can put pressure on terrorist groups, even when we have to operate in difficult conditions.”

But at the same time, Washington does not want to help the Houthi rebels in their struggle against Al-Qaeda. So, then, with whom in Yemen are US politicians planning to cooperate? It is well known that, under international law, a foreign third party cannot undertake military strikes without the consent from official authorities. But for Washington, this “Supreme leader,” international law, apparently, doesn’t mean a thing. In relation to this, it may be recalled that the rising of the Houthi was also related to the fact that US drones have killed and injured many civilians. For the drone does not ask, as even the Fascists did in their time, in the occupied countries: “Ihre Dokumente (Your documents?)” In Yemen, about which the Pentagon’s illiterate military are simply unaware, every boy who reaches 10 years of age is armed for security reasons. And the drone considers all Yemenis with weapons to be Al-Qaeda militants, destroys them, and then the same semi-literate President Barack Obama widely broadcasts the glorious successes in the fight against militants. One simply wonders how politicians and bureaucrats in a 21st century Washington administration do not know the basic manners and customs of the people they shoot with their drones, thereby only increasing the number of adversaries and enemies of the US. The level of Barack Obama’s competency can be hinted at in his recent statement that Yemen has become an example of success in the war against terrorism.

The economic situation in Yemen is deteriorating daily, in these conditions of constant struggle and strife. Many government employees are not receiving their salaries. The financial cost of the political crisis, which has lasted for more than six months, is estimated at $5 billion, and is associated with a 50% reduction in oil exports. And the reduction in crude oil and petroleum production by a half threatens with a monetary crisis. From this it becomes clear that the main struggle in the country will be for control over the oil areas. It is not by chance that the governor of the oil-rich province of Marib held lengthy talks with heads of the local tribes and announced that military camps would be created around the oil-producing enterprises to repel possible Houthi attacks.

It is quite obvious that the current situation in the country is very confusing, contradictory and complex. It is possible that local political forces could resolve their own conflicts and create a unified, thriving Yemeni state. On the other hand, we must not forget that for a long time there were two governments on territory of the Yemeni state, and now there is a strong tendency to split the country into two parts. In addition, the United States provokes strong emotions, and actively interferes in the internal affairs from a distance, both in miles and in mentality; and Saudi Arabia, nearby, stubbornly wants to subordinate Yemen to its unconditional influence. Considering all these facts, one can assume that the current stage of confrontation is not over and there is an entire struggle ahead.

Victor Mikhin, member correspondent of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.