The Political Process of Yemen’s Crisis: Reasons behind Inefficiency of Previous Yemen Peace Initiatives

Hossein Ajorlou

Following developments in Yemen, which saw Ansarullah fighters rise to power after former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, resigned his post, Saudi Arabia took a measure against the norms and principles of international politics by militarily intervening in that country. Under the pretext of supporting the legal government of Hadi, Saudi Arabia has been massacring Yemeni people and destroying the country’s infrastructure in cooperation with some other Arab countries, especially the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Bahrain. Ansarullah and the Yemeni army have put up strong resistance against the aggression and have succeeded so far in preventing Saudi Arabia from achieving its goals in Yemen.
An important issue related to the crisis in Yemen is the support accorded by such big powers as the United States and the UK to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The final result of this support has been their cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in laying land, air and maritime blockade on Yemen. So far, several rounds of talks have been held between parties to the Yemen conflict through mediatory efforts of some regional countries as well as international organizations. They included negotiations in the Swiss city of Geneva in addition to political talks in Oman’s capital, Muscat, and Kuwait City, but all of those talks ended in failure due to certain reasons, which include:
1.Saudi Arabia’s excessive demands: In all rounds of talks, Saudi Arabia has tried to impose unacceptable conditions on Ansarullah, including disarmament of Ansarullah fighters and a return to power of Hadi’s government. Such conditions have consistently caused negotiations to grind to a halt.
2.Ansarullah’s doubts about the opposite side’s intention to achieve real peace: Generally speaking, every time that suitable conditions were in place for negotiations, attacks by forces loyal to Hadi as well as aggressive acts by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates escalated in a bid to gain a trump card for use during the peace talks. As a result, Ansarullah fighters have always had doubts about the intention of the opposite party for achieving real peace. Therefore, they have frequently announced that no negotiations could be possible as long as the blatant aggression by the Saudi-led coalition is going on.
3.Trump’s anti-Iran strategy: After being elected as the US president, Donald Trump ratcheted up his country’s anti-Iran policies to new levels. One of those policies was to reduce Iran’s regional influence. Believing that Yemen’s Ansarullah movement was an effective tools in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s regional policy, Trump increased support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in their war to weaken Ansarullah. During the past two years, this issue has thwarted almost all efforts made to initiate a political process in the war-torn country.
4.UAE’s effort to dominate southern Yemen and the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb: After getting involved in the Yemen crisis, the United Arab Emirates has been pursuing its own strategic goals, such as dominating the southern part of Yemen and the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb. This issue has, at times, led to differences between Abu Dhabi and Riyadh. It seems that by increasing geopolitical dynamism in southern Yemen, the UAE aims to secure its foothold there and this is why it has opposed any peace process in Yemen.
5.Continued arms sales by Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia is among the biggest buyers of military hardware in the world. Therefore, any kind of military confrontation provides a ground for this country to buy even more weapons. On the other hand, since Western countries and Russia are constantly in need of markets to sell their arms, they have been less willing to see reduction of tensions in Yemen. On the whole, the willingness to sell more arms seems to be a major factor that has led to the continuation of the crisis in the impoverished Arab country.
6.Mohammad bin Salman needs external crisis to establish his succession: Although Saudi King Salman has practically established the position of Mohammad bin Salman by appointing him as the crown prince, he needs an external crisis to achieve his goals in view of political structures within the Saudi family and the Saudi society. His goals include dismissing those Saudi princes, who are not in line with him; purging the army and the National Guard; suppressing opponents; and establishing his own standing with the leaders at the White House as an anti-Iran element. It also seems that in view of the measures that he has taken in the course of the past years, this crisis has been of great help to him. This issue has been also one of the reasons for the continuation of the crisis in Yemen, which has prevented formation of political processes there.
7.Military quality of Saudi Arabia: The four-year-old crisis in Yemen has been a powerful litmus test for the military might of Saudis. This well-equipped army, along with the Emirati army, enjoys the most advanced weapons, but has not been able to achieve much in the face of a military force, which lacks advanced equipment and only relies on the efficient Ansarullah manpower. The end of Yemen’s crisis with this result would prove low combat quality of the armies of these two countries. For this reason, one can claim that in order to avoid such a fiasco and loss of credit for their armed forces both within their borders and at international level, officials of Saudi Arabia and the UAE will seek to end the war under conditions, which will allow them to have minimum, yet remarkable achievements.