Thursday,19 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)
Thursday,19 October, 2017
Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Multi-fronted flux in Yemen

The situation in Yemen is in flux on many fronts and at many levels following the breakdown of the Kuwait Agreement, reports Ahmed Eleiba

Al-Ahram Weekly

The situation in Yemen is in flux following the breakdown of the Kuwait Agreement designed to promote an accord between the Yemeni government in exile in the Saudi capital Riyadh and the rebel forces that control the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

The changes are occurring on many fronts and at many levels. The country has been thrust back towards a military solution as the Saudi-led coalition has resumed its bombardment of schools, hospitals and residential districts in the capital and in the city of Saada, a stronghold of the allied forces of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthi rebel movement.

At the same time, another military drive is on the move targeting Al-Qaeda in Abyan to the east of Aden in the south of the country. The Yemeni national army, with air support from the Saudi-led coalition, has succeeded in recapturing Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan Province, and Jaar, its second-largest city.

Meanwhile, in Sanaa the Yemeni parliament, still loyal to the former president, swore in the new Supreme Political Council (SPC) on Monday that is to govern the areas under Houthi/ Saleh control.

Ahmed Asiri, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, told the press that the coalition’s leadership had not been informed of any new negotiations, alluding to a statement by UN special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed who said that “talks would resume later” in the wake of the breakdown of the Kuwait Agreement.

Asiri implied that as long as the diplomatic option was not available, the military course would prevail.

In response to the intensification of the Saudi-led bombardments, Houthi forces launched missile attacks into the Najran area of Saudi Arabia. Some of the missiles were intercepted by Saudi defences, while others struck their targets, including a water pumping station.

The developments terminated the Houthi-Saudi dialogue that was believed to have been proceeding at the security level in parallel with the Kuwait talks. Although this track had inspired some optimism, it is believed that it failed before it had any impact on the conflict.

With the resumption of the hostilities, it is unlikely to resume, and this has been made still less likely by the mutual Saudi-Houthi recrimination. One of the most important military locations targeted last week in Saada was the Hoda Centre, used by the Houthis as a military training camp according to Asiri.

However, according to the Houthis the Centre was a school. At least ten children were killed and almost 30 injured in the Haydan School in north-west Yemen, the international NGO Doctors without Borders (MSF) reported, after the airstrike.

In another development, Yemeni Vice-President and Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Yemeni Armed Forces Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar made a surprise appearance in Maarib on Sunday to inspect army units and contingents of the popular resistance forces on the Nehm front in the north of the country.

He told the troops that he would soon be entering Sanaa and would meet them again in Sanaa and Shabwah.

 In the south, the Saudi-led coalition announced that it had won a new round in the war against Al-Qaeda in Abyan, with coalition forces driving terrorist forces out of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan, and Jaar the second-largest city in that governorate.

Ahmed Mohamed Al-Humayqani, well-informed of the details of the military campaigns in Yemen, commented on the ability of the Yemeni army to fight against the Houthi-Saleh forces and the Al-Qaeda militias at the same time.

In a telephone interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, Al-Humayqani said that “large numbers of troops from the Yemeni National Army have received training in Maarib, Al-Anad and other bases. They can rival the strength of the militias, and they are prepared to engage in combat on more than one front.”

Asked whether the Yemeni troops fighting Al-Qaeda on the ground were supported by coalition forces and US drones as some reports have indicated, Al-Humayqani said that “the coalition is present in the air and on the ground and in naval operations in Yemen. Al-Qaeda and the Houthis are two sides of the same coin. Rumours of US intervention in the military operations are totally unfounded.”

Al-Humayqani added that there were three types of Al-Qaeda militia operating in Yemen. “The first includes those belonging to the organisation, which is not active in Yemen at present. Then there is the ‘political Al-Qaeda’ that is acting on behalf of the deposed former president. The third group is made up of sundry highway robbers, drug-traffickers and murderers.”

The Saudi-led coalition command has reported that 40 militiamen belonging to Al-Qaeda have been eliminated and dozens more wounded in the operation to cleanse Abyan of Al-Qaeda operatives.

The authorities in Aden have announced that an Al-Qaeda commander has been captured in the Mansouriya district of the city. The man, identified as Aboudi, is believed to have been responsible for a number of bombings and assassinations in Aden and has been described as the “most dangerous” Al-Qaeda operative in Yemen.

On the political front, attempts to formalise a stronger Houthi-Saleh relationship as the negotiations in Kuwait broke down also has not proceeded without a hitch. The recently formed SPC did not win unanimous consensus in the parliament in Sanaa, despite the fact that many MPs are loyal to former president Saleh since they belong to the General People’s Congress (GPC).

Meanwhile, the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansur Hadi has vehemently condemned the Houthi-Saleh move to form the SPC. Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, in Cairo this week to meet senior Egyptian officials, stated that the Yemeni government “is pressing ahead with the liberation of the capital Sanaa and other areas from the control of the coup militias.”

In a meeting with members of the Yemeni community in Cairo, he added that “the barbarian war waged by the Houthi militias and the forces of deposed former president Saleh has caused an increase in the suffering of citizens at home and abroad and the collapse of the Yemeni economy.”

Abdel-Aziz Al-Majidi, a researcher on Yemeni political affairs present at the meeting, told the Weekly that “the prime minister stressed that the government is moving forward with the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and that there can be no weapons outside the control of the state. He said the situation should be resolved through dialogue, but any dialogue that does not lead to the restoration of exclusive government control over arms is futile.”

Describing the recent steps on the part of the Houthi-Saleh alliance as “a way of reproducing the crisis,” Al-Majidi added that the meeting in Cairo had also broached the subject of the nature of any future government in Yemen.

“It is no longer possible to accept a group that speaks in terms of its divine right to rule. That type of logic is obsolete. Yemenis will no longer accept anyone who shackles their freedom. Government must be through the ballot box,” he said.

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