Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1243, (23 - 29 April 2015)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1243, (23 - 29 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

‘Restoring Hope’ in Yemen

As operation Decisive Storm ends, writes Medhat Al-Zahed, Operation Restoring Hope raises speculations about how the Yemeni crisis will be resolved

Al-Ahram Weekly

Saudi coalition spokesman Brigadier-General Ahmed Al-Asiri told a press briefing in the Saudi capital, Riyadh on Tuesday, “[The coalition] has ended Operation Decisive Storm based on a request by the Yemeni government and President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.”

Al-Asiri was keen to affirm the success of the military operations. According to a Saudi Defense Ministry statement widely quoted by the country’s news agencies, “the goals of  Operation Decisive Storm have been achieved.”

Sounding defiant, Al-Asiri said that a new operation labelled Restoring Hope is to begin whose target is rebuilding Yemen while continuing to oppose the rebels. However, he did not rule out future strikes which might be undertaken to the same “counter-terrorism” objectives.

In his press briefing, Al-Asiri emphasised that security measures will be implemented by naval and ground forces to protect Saudi Arabia’s southern border and stop any further operations by the Houthis.

The inspection of ships in Yemen’s regional waters will be maintained in accordance with the UN Security Council 2216 resolution, the spokesperson added.

Earlier this month, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Houthi militants and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, his son and their allies.

Surprisingly, a few hours before the press conference on Tuesday, the news was that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman ordered the Saudi Arabian National Guard to take part in Riyadh’s campaign against Houthi militants in Yemen.

The bombing by a Saudi-led coalition of 10 Arab countries began on March 26, paralysing Yemen, the Middle East’s poorest country, and leaving hundreds dead and thousands injured.

The announcement of the halt of Operation Decisive Storm was made late on Tuesday. Until Al-Ahram Weekly went to print, it was coupled by reports of peace initiatives being worked out.

For their part Egyptian diplomats have been working closely with their Jordanian and Algerian counterparts on exploring peaceful options for Yemen.

An initiative involving a ceasefire, withdrawal of various militias from the cities and the resumption of national talks may put Yemen on the road to peace once again.

Acocording to Yemeni sources, the Egyptian initiative aims to end Houthi expansion in Yemen, a condition that the Saudis and the Emiratis set for calling off the aerial campaign.

President Hadi is assumed to return to power, but he may delegate his authorities to the recently appointed vice president, Khaled Al-Bahah. A former minister and prime minister, Al-Bahah is widely trusted by Gulf officials as well as most Yemenis, including the Houthis.

So far, it seems that Egyptian diplomatic efforts have not run into Iranian opposition. In fact, one of Iran’s closest allies, Hizbullah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, recently called on Egypt to stop the bombing of Yemen, adding that all “honourable” efforts for peace are welcome.

The Iranians, of course, would like Operation Decisive Storm to stop ahead of the pullout of militia, but diplomats believe that a compromise can be reached  through simultaneous action by all those involved, or through successive steps within a tight timetable.

Everyone seems to want a way out of the crisis, and even the Houthis seem to realise that they have gone too far. Former president Ali Abdallah Saleh, without whose help the Houthis would not have been able to seize Sanaa and other strategic towns, is exploring fresh options. Short of a potentially costly ground campaign, the coalition forces have no desire to drag out the conflict much longer.

Saleh will emerge as a key figure in any upcoming settlement. Without his loyal troops offering their services to the Houthis, the latter will have to go to the negotiating table.

A high-level delegation of Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) is currently visiting Cairo. The delegation includes two secretaries of the party, Al-Borkani and Abu Bakr Al-Qirabi, who may soon visit Riyadh to discuss details of a possible deal.

Saleh, a wily politician who ruled the country for over three decades, recently welcomed a UN Security Council resolution calling for the withdrawal of militias and the resumption of dialogue. Some say that if the resolution is amended to give him and his supporters the same guarantees previously offered by the Gulf, Saleh may throw his weight behind a deal.

A delegation of the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), led by Mohammad Al-Mekhlafi, engaged in Cairo talks with the Arab League Secretary General, Nabil Al-Arabi. Following the talks, Al-Arabi issued a statement stressing the need for a political settlement in Yemen.

On Monday, YSP officials met with members of several Egyptian leftist and democratic parties, including the Socialist People’s Coalition, the Egyptian Communist Party, and Tagammu.

According to YSP officials, the Houthis are likely to seek peace if Saleh opts for dialogue. The YSP officials mentioned that the Yemeni army’s loyalties are divided between Saleh, Ali Mohsin Al-Ahmar and the chiefs of the Hashed tribe.

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