Any meaningful peace talks in Yemen are destined to fail due to the wider agenda of regional and international powers, namely Saudi Arabia and the United States, writes journalist Yousef Mawry.
The ideal of journalistic objectivity is a mere joke when trying to accurately report about the war in Yemen; an insult to human intelligence and the lives of millions of Yemenis who are suffering in the conflict.
Objective journalism has become the total opposite of what it was intended to be. Most “journalists” who are actively covering the war in Yemen, are merely repeating the opinions of the global elite without taking any moral position to check powers, provide context and perspective and pursue the hard truth.
Not adhering to these core morals and principles when reporting the war in Yemen will result in journalists becoming a mouthpiece for the hegemonic powers and a conduit for deception. This is why the world today remains in a state of dilemma trying to decipher who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is bad when it comes to the players on the ground in Yemen.
The issue is when reporters are desperately trying to maintain the “objective position” they eventually stop telling the truth in fear of being accused of taking sides and being labeled pro-Houthi or pro-Saudi.
One of the main reasons why the war in Yemen is entering into year five is because of the recycling of misinformation spewed by reporters on the ground and abroad who care more about gaining social media followers then telling the Truth, with a capital T. If your argument is “well no-one really knows what the truth is” then you haven’t done your job as a reporter.
To try and shed some light on the overall conflict, here is my assessment of the balance of power in Yemen and why negotiations will ultimately fail. This is based on my research, analysis, opinion and years of experience reporting in Yemen.
Why peace negotiations in Yemen will fail
Any UN-backed peace deal between Houthis and the government of President Abdrebo Mansour Hadi can and will be used against the Houthi movement to justify military actions against them now or in the future.
The conflict in Yemen is not between the Houthis and the “Yemeni government.” Realistically, there is no Yemeni government. The internationally recognized government led by embattled President Abdrebo Mansour Hadi is nothing more than a Saudi political entity that was put in power to maintain and preserve the interests of Saudi Arabia and the western powers just like the previous government of former ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The Houthi takeover of the Yemeni capital in 2014 was a direct overthrow of the Saudi backed government. Saudi Arabia reacted the same way it would have if a major Saudi city was taken over by a foreign country. There is no new information here. It is common knowledge that President Abdrebo Mansour Hadi is in the pocket of the Saudi royal family. The war started because the Houthi movement removed a Saudi puppet from power not because they overthrew a legitimate Yemeni government. If that was the case, Saudi Arabia wouldn’t have got involved in the first place since it had no horse in the race. There are those who believe that the Houthi takeover of Sana’a is an Iranian takeover which forced Saudi Arabia to get involved militarily, but for now, let’s just stick to what we do know and not dwell in parroting the allegations by Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi-led coalition’s agenda is to eventually get the Houthis to withdraw their forces from Hodeidah, Taiz, and Sana’a so that the coalition forces can then launch a military offensive by land, air and sea to try and pin the Houthis to the north of the country.
The international community recognizes the government of President Mansour Hadi as the legit authority in Yemen. They view the Houthis as an armed rebel movement that took power by force. They also claim the Houthis are an Iranian backed group that takes its orders from Tehran. The United Nations does, however, recognize the Houthis as a political group who have the right to participate in the formation of a new Yemeni government but they should not have their own military that could tip the scale of power.
The fact is, the United Nations and the Western-backed Arab states know very well that true power lies with the group who has the military power. The UN and Saudi Arabia are hell-bent on getting that power transformed to a “friendly government” – one that will maintain Saudi and US interests in Yemen.
The war is heading into its fifth year because the Houthis don’t seem to play by their rules. The Houthis are defying world powers by sticking to their guns and declaring from day one they will not lay their arms down until Saudi Arabia and its allies accept the new reality in Yemen. And that is the reality of an independent Yemeni nation that calls its own shots, make its own deals and trades and doesn’t answer to the US or Saudi Arabia.
You know, kind of like the right of every free nation. But reversing the decades of colonial servitude comes with a hefty price, and the Yemenis seem to be paying for it with their lives as the war continues.
Whoever controls Hodeidah province will have the upper hand in the war
If the Houthis withdraw their forces from Hodeida, it will then be used as another base for coalition forces to advance towards the Yemeni capital and try eliminating the Houthis.
The seaport of Hodediah is the economic lifeline for Yemen. Whoever manages the port controls 90 percent of the country’s food and medical supplies. Its closure could lead to starvation and famine. The “World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis” in Yemen is a direct result of the imposed blockade on the port by the Royal Family. They did this with the aim of destabilising the economy and starving the people so the Houthis can be blamed for this and eventually lose creditably among the Yemeni population in the north. If the Houthis withdraw their forces from Hodeidah, as stipulated in the new peace agreement, the siege will be lifted. But there is a card being played here. This is an insidious plan by the coalition forces and their allies to 1. Get the Houthis out of Hodeidah, and 2: Alleviate the humanitarian crisis so that when they launch an all-out military operation against the Houthis there will still be a route for humanitarian aid to enter the country. If this happens the coalition forces will have the green light to continue military offensive without having to worry about the international community condemning them for starving millions of Yemenis.
The Houthis will not relinquish control of the Yemeni capital
The Houthis are prepared for war if negotiations fail. With that in mind, should they compromise military power and control over strategic areas if everything seems to be threading towards a fallout in negotiations? Withdrawing their military forces from Sana’a would be like putting a gun to their head.
The Houthis know that Saudi Arabia and its allies will not hesitate for an instant to remove them from power by force if the opportunity grants itself. No matter what happens during negotiations, the Houthis will not hand over their weapons or withdraw from the Yemeni capital. In point blank, unless Saudi Arabia is willing to accept losing control of Yemen the war will continue one way or the other.
Iran will support any regime change that is not controlled by Saudi Arabia
Iran supported the revolution against Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011 and supported the Houthi revolution against President Abdrebo-Mansour Hadi that began in 2014. But this support was political and through media coverage. There is no evidence to prove that Iran has in any way directly supported the Houthis militarily. One frequently hears that Iran is sending weapons and money to the Houthis, but that is physically impossible considering the Saudi-imposed blockade from land, air, and sea. Before the blockade, the coalition government was in power and it would have foiled or seized any armed shipments from Iran to the Houthis.
The only thing Iran could benefit from with a regime change is economic gains. Iran wants to boost its economy and it needs to open trade with countries in the region who don’t take their orders from Saudi Arabia. If a pro-Houthi government is in power you can expect the two countries to trade with one another which could improve the economy for both nations. This would really anger Saudi Arabia.
In the four years of war, the Houthi movement has only gotten stronger and has gained more popularity across the country. Hate them or love them, the new reality in Yemen is the Zaydi group are the most dominant force on the ground and will most likely run the political affairs of the country. They have won the fight on the ground and now the negotiations table is set for a precarious game of chess.
Yousef Mawry is a Yemeni-American journalist who was formerly based in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a. He has nearly 10 years of professional experience and has his own media office where he produces, edits and directs short films and documentaries. You can follow Yousef on Twitter @Ymawryy