Feierstein: The Houthis will not accept a negotiated settlement because their control of state resources is dependent on war

English - الخميس 22 سبتمبر 2022 الساعة 06:48 م
Aden, NewsYemen:

 A joint analysis written by former US ambassador to Yemen Gerald Firestein and senior analyst at the Washington Center for Studies, Fatima Abu Al-Asrar, said the Houthi group is not sincere in seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict in the country.

The analysis, published by the American Foreign Policy magazine under the title: “Are the Houthis willing to make concessions in Yemen?”, added that “the Houthis themselves have never claimed any interest in a peace process or negotiated settlement and do not actively seek to participate in de-escalation efforts.”

He pointed out that in their public statements and private meetings, they expressed a firm position that made any peace talks respond to their demands, such as opening Sanaa airport, which would provide them with a comparative advantage in the event that they backtrack on implementing their side of the deal.

 The authors suggested that "the Houthi leadership would likely avoid reaching a political settlement because any power-sharing agreement would leave a large part of their political and intelligence establishment without complete control."

 "This raises a fundamental question about whether the Houthis are willing to make concessions," they said.

The difficulty of reaching agreement on simple humanitarian measures such as easing the years-long siege of Taiz makes it difficult to be optimistic about their willingness to make concessions on the core issues of power-sharing, governance, and implementing the policy of a regime that all Yemenis can endorse.

They referred to the statistics of violations of the humanitarian truce sponsored by the United Nations in Yemen, and said in this context: "The Houthis' use of missile, drone and artillery attacks constituted 97 percent of the violations of the truce."

 They believed that the group's rapid return to violence reinforced suspicions that the Houthis might have been waiting for their time before renewing their military offensive once the ceasefire expired.

 The analysis confirmed that, in addition to the Houthis' ideological commitment to pursuing their political and religious goals through conflict and violence, they have benefited both institutionally and personally from the rise of the war economy.

 He explained: "The longer the Houthis are able to continue the war, the greater their ability to control state resources while relying on aid, illegal taxes, and more economic empowerment that maintains the higher level of their movement's content with the status quo."

He stressed that controlling the coffers of banks, natural resources and taxes imposed on ships docked in Hodeidah is one of the most important sources of income for the Houthis, in addition to collecting millions of profits from the telecommunications sector and taxes on major industries.

The analysis said that the experts indicated that the Houthis may see reducing violence as a way to achieve international legitimacy, adding: "It can be said that this legitimacy has already been achieved."

The authors explained by saying: The United Nations recognizes them as the main party to the conflict in Yemen and has worked to secure their demands in various peace initiatives, and their leader (Abdul-Malik al-Houthi) has been referred to by his religious title “Sayyid,” which many Yemenis refuse to use because of the class connotation.  and theological properties associated with it.

They added, "Likewise, the United Nations and other agencies referred to the movement as Ansar Allah (Ansar Allah), a name that many Yemenis believe legitimizes the Houthi movement as a political institution."

The analysis pointed to the group's long record of violating agreements, and said that "violation of agreements is well-established with the Houthis", beginning with the rounds of conflict with the government of the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh from 2004 to 2010, and negotiations mediated by the United Nations with the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi in September.  2014, and the Stockholm negotiations in December 2018.

 However, they added, "Despite the problematic record of the Houthis, abandoning negotiations is not an option because the failure of negotiations may mean a worse outcome for Yemen's future and will undoubtedly leave the Houthis' authority unchallenged in the areas they currently control, which is not in the interest of  Yemen or the wider region.

At the same time, he cautioned that the challenge facing the United Nations and the international community will go beyond just reaching an agreement and ensuring that the Houthis adhere to its terms.

An insult to the Yemeni government and the international community that supports a negotiated solution to the conflict is how to ensure that any peace agreement includes appropriate protective barriers to prevent the Houthis' retreat.

 He said, "It remains unclear whether the Iranian government will have the desire or ability to pressure the Houthis to reach a political solution in the absence of the Houthis' commitment."

 But even a decision in Tehran to withdraw the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah from Yemen, as well as to end arms supplies to the Houthis - which continue despite the ceasefire - would be enough to tilt the balance on the ground toward a political deal