In a supposedly ‘landmark’ development, the U.S secretary of state John Kerry and his Saudi counterpart announced, in the last week of August, the new plan, having a “fair and sensible approach” about restarting negotiations in Yemen—a country facing worst humanitarian crisis due to the indiscriminate bombing by the Saudia led coalition forces, using U.S. sold bombs and aircrafts. Ironic though it sounds, Saudia Arabia—a country that has been declared responsible by the UNO for the majority of civilian deaths caused by its umpteen air strikes—is still to play a “central part” in facilitating this process. “The cases monitored by the (UNHCR) Office indicate that air strikes were the single largest cause of casualties,” stated the recently published report of the UNHCR. “The prolonged duration of the conflict has strongly heightened the disastrous risk of a systemic collapse of Yemen”, it added further. The findings reported in the UNO report and the fact that Saudi Arabia is to broker peace indicate not only how non-serious a plan this really is but also that the U.S., the self-proclaimed champion of democracy, has no regard for human rights violations caused by its ally.
The spuriousness of this “new ” plan can be gauged from the fact that while the chief strikers (Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies) were “properly consulted” and taken into confidence with regard to the new plan that inevitably requires the Houthis to surrender, the Houthis were not involved, nor were they invited to discuss their country’s future. Even the so-called “internationally recognized” government, which is sitting in exile in Saudia, was not represented in the talks that took place among the U.S, Saudi Arabia, U.K. and other Gulf allies, leaving the space wide open for the Saudia led coalition to design their imperialist designs.
As such, as against the Yemenis’ protests against Saudi led attacks, and instead of putting pressure on Saudia to prevent it from targeting civilian targets, Kerry called on the Houthis to stop shelling Saudi Arabia, pull back from Sanaa and transfer their weapons to a third party in exchange for their inclusion in a unity government. Although the new plan does meet the Houthis’ demand for a national unity government, de-weaponization and the so-called “third party” are the factors that would not only create ambiguity but also seem to be pointless at best.
Needless to say, and in an unsurprising a manner, just when the “new plan” was revealed, Houthi rejected it and refused to hand over their ‘Ballistic Missiles’, which Kerry said, erroneously though, were “threatening Saudi Arabia and the U.S.” However, while the plan has been rejected in part by the Houthis, within this plan are hidden Saudia’s tacit acknowledgement of failure to reverse the Houthis’ position of strength and take control of key areas. The primary reason for Kerry’s visit to Saudi Arabia is that Saudi authorities are no longer in a position to continue the war, but are instead resorting to various political and diplomatic means in order to at least achieve some of its goals in this fruitless war on which it has already spent billions of dollars to become victorious.
The formation of a quadrilateral committee consisting of foreign ministers of the U.S., Britain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates in Jeddah means failure of all military and political measures taken by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen during the past 18 months and also a few months of political negotiations in Kuwait. During about 99 days of talks in Kuwait, the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, tried his best to impose Saudi Arabia’s will on Yemenis, the most important of which was establishment of a new government led by the country’s resigned president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi; withdrawal of Ansarullah forces and those affiliated with the People’s National Congress, which is led by Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, from their positions; and that the final agreement should be signed in Saudi Arabia. Yemenis did not give in to these humiliating conditions as a result of which negotiations in Kuwait were wrapped up inconclusively and the war intensified once more.
However, now Kerry has to somehow modify many of his demands in the plan, because Yemeni forces have already penetrated deep into Saudi Arabia’s southern Najran region, firing rockets at southern corner of Saudi Arabia, and can target their missiles at the installations of Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil company, Aramco (read: a rocket fired from Yemen hit a Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) power station in Najran on Friday, spilling diesel from a punctured tank into acrid black lakes coating the surrounding streets).
While this explains why Saudi Arabia and its regional and extra-regional allies have finally come round to the idea of a national unity government, there is still a lot of ambiguity surrounding the plan. For instance, it is not yet clear as to what Saudia and the U.S. think of the ‘unity government.’ The Houthis and Ansarullah forces seem to be working towards the establishment of a unity government to use it as a means to take Yemen out of Saudi Arabia’s control. On the contrary, this government appears to Saudia Arabia yet another opportunity to extend political influence. With such varying perceptions and divergent interests involved, the biggest challenge for Kerry is to reconcile these conflicting positions.
The U.S., while it has reduced its direct involvement in the conflict but continues to sell weapons, has also pushed Saudi Arabia to accept some of the demands of the fighting forces due to increasing criticism of Obama administration for military cooperation with the Saudi-led coalition against Yemen. That is to say, within the U.S. there is ample realization that the war of atrocities in Yemen that has so far cost $14 billion in damage and economic loses is actually being fought against civilians rather than any potential or actual ‘terror network.’ With reports emerging regarding total absence of Saudi strikes against Al-Qaeda or ISIS militants in Yemen, the war has actually taken an imperialist turn against the Yemenis, forcing even the UN officials to call for an open “investigation” into civilian deaths.
With Yemenis being asked to accept the “new plan”, which is nothing but a virtual invitation to give in to Saudi Arabia’s imperialist whims, and with attacks within Saudi Arabia increasing, what we can expect to see happening in the near future is Saudi Arabia having to concede more concession, which the House of Saud is traditionally disinclined to give, and leave the space well open for the Yemenis themselves to decide their future among themselves, for as long as the ‘killers’ continue to dictate terms of peace, true peace would remain an illusion only. As such, were the Saudis to remain stubborn about extending their occupation of Yemen, this would only lead to yet another crisis: fully fledged civil war within Saudi Arabia, signs of which are quite visible even today.
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.