There's no easy solution to Yemen Crisis

There is no easy way out of the Yemen crisis. Arab nations have set their sights on protecting the Bab al-Mandab strait from Iranian influence. The Bab al-Mandab is the strip of water through which much of the world's oil shipments pass.

There's no easy solution to Yemen Crisis

Mehvash Ayeshah Hashmi

Over the time Yemen has become such a searing hot cauldron of crisis and conflicts that anybody who tries to meddle in its affair is sure to burn his fingers. As it happened with Saudi Arabia, when they woke up as usually late from their deep administrative slumber and looked around with their sleepy eyes. They thought that with a few air strikes by their imported fighter planes they would be able resolve the problems in their southern neighbourhood once and for ever. Their ill-conceived strategy, however, has backfired as yet and far from resolving the crisis, they have rather further aggravated it.

For long Iran has been in the forefront in fomenting troubles in the Iraq and Levant region. For instance, continuous Iranian support for Sectarian regimes in Post US-invasion Iraq; or for that matter, Iran’s open involvement in Syria to help the corrupt government of President Bashar AL-Assad, who belongs to the Alawite minority, an off-shoot of Shiite Islam; and the increasingly sectarian nature of violence in some areas of the country that has deepened the existing Sunni-Shiite tension in the Middle East.

Yemen crisis came as an opportunity for Iran to play its sectarian card in the Arabian Peninsula. Although the real and meaningful interaction between the Houthis and Iran began only after the Houthis took control in Sana'a. Direct flights between Tehran and Sana'a started in March 2015 after a gap of 25 years and several bilateral agreements were signed between the two.

In fact, the wily former President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled Yemen with iron hands for over 22 years, is more to be blamed for the present crisis. He has been continuously instigating Houthis, who are mostly in the region of the far north of Yemen and have little popular support in the rest of the country, to rebel against the Hadi government and helped them create a situation to make Yemen ungovernable by his successor, President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

In 2014, Houthi rebels had swept into the capital city of Sana'a and forced Hadi to negotiate a "unity government" with other political factions. However, the call for an unity government proved to be just a “lame excuse” to increase the pressure on Hadi government and finally at one point, Houthis attacked the presidential palace and private residence and took the entire capital under their control and put the president under the siege in a coup d’état, also known as September 21 revolution. Hadi had to resign along with his ministers in January 2015. He fled to Aden, proclaiming it as the country's temporary capital and declared himself Yemen's legitimate president. He called on his still loyal government officials and military personnel to rally in support of him. He also called for military intervention by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), including the imposition of a no-fly zone. Meanwhile, Houthis, too, declared their government after dissolving Parliament and installing an interim Revolutionary Committee led by Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a cousin of Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.

With a view to stop the Houthis’ forward march and also to stop Iran from sowing the sectarian strife at its southern tip Sauid Arabia, along with its coalition partners, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan, has decided to give full support to the Yemen's beleaguered President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

“Operation Decisive Storm” has involved extensive daily air strikes against Houthi and Saleh forces mainly in and around Sana'a, Taiz, Hodeidah, Saada and Aden. Despite almost 3,000 air strikes, the overwhelming majority by Saudi Arabia, killing many Houthi and Saleh forces and resulting in the large-scale destruction of their weaponry, the Houthi/Saleh ground dominance has not been meaningfully dented.

Here, it is imperative to understand that all these Arab nations have not had sudden change of heart and become so generously sympathetic to Hadi government. Rather they all have an eye on one of the main apples of this discord, Bab al-Mandab strait, a narrow waterway linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which much of the world's oil shipments pass. They do not want it to fall under the control of Shiite Houthis and thereby in the control of Iran. That is one single most important reason that the entire Sunni Arab states have joined hands to ward off Iranian influence in the strategically placed Yemen.

However, in spite of all the support of coalition forces, including those of the United States and United Nation, for Prsident Hadi, these external interventions have done nothing so far to improve the civil war like situation inside Yemen. Rather it has only worsened the condition. The situation has become so bad now that the US and the UK had to close their embassies and evacuated their staff. The besieged capital city of Sana'a has remained under the control of Houthis.

In the entire episode of Yemen crisis, the most surprising part was the sudden emergence of a third trouble monger, Yemeni group of the Islamic State militants. As if the presence of the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was not enough, the appearance of the Islamic State, which has openly declared war against Shias and consid them heretics, is symptomatic of some deep rooted game that is being played in the region. Out of nowhere, on 20th March, the Islamic State made its debut entry in the country with a bang of violence. It claimed its direct hands in four suicide bomb attacks at some Houthi mosques, which resulted into killing of more than 130 worshippers.

Now the looming danger is that Yemen may turn into the region of an open proxy war between Sunnis and Shias. If ever it happens, it would take the entire Middle East in its range of fire and then, there will be no easy control of this vicious sectarian chain of violence. Even the rest of the world can’t remain immune to its dangerous influence and far reaching implication.

Neither the Houthi takeover of Sana’a nor the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes are the part of the solution. It is time for the United Nation to be pro-active and support Gulf council’s efforts to create peace in the region. It is also worthwhile to deploy the UN peace-keeping forces in and around the contentious region of Bab al-Mandab strait to insure that it doesn’t fall into wrong hands. There is no other easy solution to the present crisis in Yemen.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 11 Mayıs 2015, 11:50