The US administration pushed the United Nations Security Council, a few days ago, to place three Houthi leaders on the list of sanctions included in a previous council resolution against Yemeni figures. Originally, the Security Council’s decision was unjust to a large extent, especially as it focused on the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son Ahmed, who was insisted by some regional and international parties to marginalize him.
Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh was marginalized, knowing that it was possible to benefit from him, at a certain stage, in the field of forming a Yemeni “legitimacy” that is actually capable of confronting the Houthis, instead of leaving it to the interim President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and his speculative partners from the Muslim Brotherhood who have accounts of their own.
Such accounts, which are held by the Brotherhood, converge in several places with those of the Houthis. This confirms the stagnation on the Taiz fronts for several years. Taiz, which has a long past with its peaceful people, has turned into a victim of this under-the-table understanding between the Brotherhood and the Houthis!
Punishment of three Houthi leaders will not advance and will not be delayed… for a very simple reason. The reason is that the question currently being asked is not related to imposing meaningless international sanctions on this or that Houthi leader. The question relates to the dimensions that will result from the possibility of the Houthis (Ansar Allah group) taking control of the city of Ma’rib, with what this means for the completion of the foundations of the state that Iran established in the north of Yemen. The capital of this country is Sana’a. The Houthis laid their hands on it, oppressed its people, and transformed it from a city that accommodates all Yemenis from all regions into a miserable city that has no future for its children.
Marib is still resisting, thanks to the tribes of the region in particular, and the efforts made by the Arab coalition from the air. However, there are indications that it could fall soon in the absence of real American pressure to prevent this in the absence of an American administration that is fully aware of what is at stake in Yemen. More than that, there is an administration that does not fully know who the Houthis are and the extent of Iran’s control over them.
If we take into account the extent of American ignorance of Yemen, there is no longer room for surprising optimism, among some in Washington, that a deal can be reached with the Houthis, a deal that would lead to a halt to the fighting in the vicinity of the city of Marib and bring the Houthis to the negotiating table. Such a deal is not possible in light of the current balance of power. If the Houthis had a real interest in negotiating before capturing the city of Marib, they would not have implemented the order issued by the Iranian ambassador in Sanaa, Hassan Erlo, to reject the Saudi peace initiative last March. A tweet from Erlo, an officer in the Revolutionary Guards, that the Saudi project is a “war project” was enough to block any progress of any kind after the Saudi peace initiative was announced.
The US policy towards Yemen can only lead to the adoption of a new formula in this country that enshrines the establishment of a state revolving in the Iranian orbit. Such a state, which above all means spreading ignorance and backwardness in a part of northern Yemen, cannot play a role that helps stability in the Arabian Peninsula.
Most dangerous of all, such a state will not help in any way to secure the safety of navigation in the Red Sea, contrary to what the Americans and others believe in the past, who prevented Yemeni forces led by Tariq Muhammad Abdullah Saleh from regaining the port of Hodeidah.
On the contrary, the British Martin Griffiths, the former envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, played a role in reaching the Stockholm Agreement at the end of 2018 and establishing international recognition for the Houthis. This was the second time that the Houthis benefited from the practices of the envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to Yemen.
The first time was immediately after the Houthis seized Sanaa on September 21, 2014. At that time, the “Peace and Partnership Agreement” was signed between the Houthis and the “Yemeni legitimacy” in the presence of Jamal Benomar, representative of the Secretary-General of the International Organization in Yemen. The Houthis did not honor the agreement for one hour. They quickly put Abd Rabbo Mansour, who tried to play the game of cleverness, under house arrest and forced him to resign.
The US administration is supposed to be convinced that there are no Houthi wings, some of which are under the full control of Iran, and others have reservations about the Iranian role. The Houthis are nothing but an Iranian tool born of an investment that is more than a quarter-century old.
It is true that Ali Abdullah Saleh made a grave mistake, which he paid for with his life, betting against the Houthis after the war of the summer of 1994, but it is also true that Iran knew from the beginning how to invest in this project of a sectarian nature.
It is understandable that there will be a hesitant and lost American administration, especially in light of the disastrous military withdrawal from Afghanistan. What is not understood is to avoid placing the Yemeni event in a broader regional framework. This framework includes the security of the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa, and control of the Bab al-Mandab strait, which could be used to block the Suez Canal. Also, this framework includes the security of all the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. It is not enough to reach a Saudi-Omani understanding regarding the future of Al-Mahra Governorate, which is on the Yemeni-Omani border, to stop talking about the Iranian threat from Yemen.
In the end, does the Joe Biden administration have enough knowledge of what is at stake in Yemen to take a step towards understanding the Iranian threat that comes from that country? Most important of all, there is a conviction in Washington that Yemen is on the verge of major and dangerous developments with repercussions on the entire region at the same time, in the absence of anyone who breaks the current balance of power equation…