International researcher: Al-Houthi’s contradiction about peace will lead to more military escalation

English - الأحد 22 مايو 2022 الساعة 05:35 م
Aden, NewsYemen:

The international researcher specializing in Yemen affairs at the European Council on Foreign Relations, Marek Transfield, confirmed that the continued contradiction of the terrorist Houthi militia, Iran's arm in Yemen, regarding the peace process, will lead to further military escalation.

She said, "As long as the Houthis have been ambivalent about the peace process, there will be a risk that the coalition's concessions and political maneuvers will backfire, which may lead to further military escalation," but she indicated at the same time that the ongoing armistice in Yemen could lead to negotiations.  On a long-term ceasefire, however, this requires the Houthis to make greater concessions.

The international researcher noted Iran's influence on the Houthis by emphasizing the necessity of its diplomatic participation as one of the regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE to achieve peace.

She pointed out that the two-month truce in the long Yemeni conflict is scheduled to expire at the end of May, but there are several reasons for hope that the warring parties will extend the agreement, not the least of which is the recent decrease in violence in the country and the resumption of flights to and from Sanaa airport.

But she believes that the situation is fragile and there is still a risk that the truce may collapse, especially since the Houthis are not ready to reciprocate the concessions made by their opponents.

Transfield stated that the political momentum behind the truce increased with Saudi Arabia’s announcement on April 10, 2022 of the resignation of President Hadi and the formation of an eight-member presidential council, noting that the President of the Presidential Leadership Council, Dr. Rashad Al-Alimi, had publicly acknowledged that the military intervention in Yemen had failed to achieve its main goals,  He promised to bring peace to the country through a more comprehensive process, and this indicates that the Yemeni government and its backers in the Gulf have significantly changed their approach to the peace process, reflecting Saudi Arabia's desire to end the conflict.

She added, "One of the main elements of this new approach is the attempt to unify the divided anti-Houthi coalition at the military and strategic level. The formation of the Presidential Council creates a more prominent role in the internationally recognized government of the country for figures from the former ruling party, the General People's Congress," noting that the Islah party widely seen as the Yemeni branch of the Brotherhood, the UAE has been reluctant to support the Hadi-led government.

She said, “The Arab coalition has implemented several key confidence-building measures that can lay the foundation for a nationwide ceasefire. These measures include allowing several oil tankers to dock at the port of Hodeidah, allowing much-needed energy supplies to enter the territory it controls.  The Houthis, and on May 6, the Saudi government released 163 Houthi prisoners. Ten days later, the coalition met another Houthi demand to reopen Sanaa airport to commercial flights after six years.

However, while the Arab coalition and the Yemeni government indicated their willingness to change the course of the peace process, the Houthis did not respond with the same level of settlement, and the Houthis have not yet implemented some components of the truce, such as their commitment to reopen roads, especially those in Taiz.  

This industrial and commercial center is besieged by the Houthis and is largely cut off from transportation lines across the country, severely restricting commercial and private movement.

She noted that there have been many failed initiatives to reopen roads in Taiz in the past few years.  After commercial flights resumed through Sanaa airport, the Houthis appointed negotiators to hold talks on reopening roads.  Therefore, the real participation of the Houthis in the negotiations to open the roads in Taiz will be an important sign of their commitment to extending the truce.  However, they have continued to fight the forces of the internationally recognized government on the main front lines, including Marib, which the Houthis have long been trying to capture.

The researcher agrees on the Houthi use of the armistice as an opportunity to rearm while benefiting economically from oil shipments through the ports or imposing taxes on the population in the areas they control, and said, "Therefore, the Arab coalition will monitor carefully to see whether the Houthis are ready to make mutual concessions."

The researcher believes that if the Houthis are ready, this could create an opportunity for the warring parties to start constructive talks about a broader and more sustainable ceasefire, as well as a long-term political settlement.

Transfield notes that the truce shows that the most effective peace efforts will come from regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and it is imperative that Iran, the main supporter of the Houthis, and other countries that maintain dialogue with them support efforts to move toward peace negotiations.