Challenges Facing Kerry’s Plan for Yemen

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hamed Rahimpour
Expert on Middle East Issues

Only a few days after Yemen’s Supreme Political Council was established by the Ansarullah movement in cooperation with the General People's Congress and other Yemeni groups to run the country’s affairs, and after the council was endorsed by the country’s parliament and a general demonstration was held to show people’s support for the parliament’s decision in the capital Sana'a, US Secretary of State john Kerry arrived in Jeddah. Traveling to Jeddah on Saudi Arabia’s invitation, Kerry’s goal was to take part in the meeting of a four-sided committee, which in addition to him, includes representatives of the United Arab Emirates, Britain and Saudi Arabia, to offer a plan which aimed to show the way out of the ongoing Yemeni crisis. According to remarks made by the US secretary of state, the new plan, which was presented in the Jeddah meeting, has three main highlights: 1. rapid establishment of a national unity government in Yemen, which would divvy up the power among all involved parties; 2. withdrawal of Ansarullah forces from the capital, Sana'a, and other key regions; and 3. transfer of heavy ammunitions, including ballistic missiles, of Ansarullah and its allied forces to a third party.

The question, however, is why Kerry traveled to Saudi Arabia? In reality, Saudi statesmen are not insisting on the continuation of the Yemen war these days, but the country is 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 United States, 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 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 and can target their missiles at the installations of Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil company, Aramco.

In addition, the United States is greatly concerned about the rising civilian casualties in Yemen, especially among Yemeni children, because Saudi Arabia’s air raids have frequently targeted marriage ceremonies, hospitals and schools. On the other hand, the United States has sold a total of about USD 120 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia under President Barack Obama and this issue may cause legal problems for Washington in the future. As Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of Rai al-Youm and renowned Arab world analyst, has written, it was the United States, which prompted former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, to occupy Kuwait, because April Glaspie, then US ambassador to Baghdad, treated Saddam in such a way that he reached the conclusion that Washington was not opposed to Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait. Now, the United States has pushed Saudi Arabia toward erosion of its economic, human and political resources in Yemen. This is why Kerry’s plan should be considered as a beginning for Saudi Arabia giving concessions to the Yemeni side. They would be bitter concessions, which Saudi Arabia does not seem to be ready for their bitter taste, because it is still obstinately and arrogantly going on with its attacks on Yemen.

Before passing any judgment on the possible success of Kerry’s plan, more time is needed to discuss reactions of various involved parties and the way they are expected to deal with its principles and fundaments. However, there is a series of data and signs, which is indicative of the nature of challenges that are ahead of Kerry’s plan. In Sana'a, many members of Ansarullah and supporters of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former Yemeni president, now believe that after establishment of the Supreme Political Council to run the country’s affairs and following extensive demonstrations, which were aimed to give popular legitimacy to the Supreme Political Council, new conditions have come about, which must be taken into consideration. They argue that any settlement of the crisis in Yemen must start with those parties, which support the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, joining the Supreme Political Council, and also maintain that merely taking these parties to already failed negotiations would not solve any problem. Another challenge, which faces John Kerry’s plan, is its Article 3, which calls on Ansarullah fighters to lay down their heavy weapons, because Ansarullah fighters will never accept to give up their weapons so as to prevent those weapons from falling in the hands of the opposite side through the reconciliation process.

Before giving up its weapons, the Ansarullah movement will certainly set this condition that a powerful institution should be established through consensus to supervise delivery of weapons and other security issues. This, by itself, shows that Ansarullah and its allies aim to take the entire Yemen out of Saudi Arabia’s control, and are not simply trying to take control of the government and rule the country. Some American analysts are also doubtful about possible continuation of the United States support for john Kerry’s plan, because this plan was introduced just two months before the forthcoming US presidential election and the by-election for the US Congress. Some analysts also believe that the plan has been announced very belatedly and will not help rebuild the image of the US Democrat Party in the future or reduce increasing criticism of Obama administration for military cooperation with the Saudi-led coalition against Yemen. Nonetheless, Yemen’s national parties are sending a clear message to all international sides, Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s resigned president by telling them that they are resolute about establishment of civil institutions to create political stability in the country and the West has no choice, but to give in to this national resolve.

Key WordsChallenges, John Kerry, Plan, Yemen, Supreme Political Council, Ansarullah Movement, Jeddah, United Arab Emirates, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Saudi-led Coalition, Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, People’s National Congress, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Najran, Barack Obama, US Congress, National Resolve, Rahimpour 

Source: Khorasan Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Photo Credit: The National