Yemen: The Dimensions of The U.N. New Truce

By: Khaled A. BaRahma

Credit: OCHA/Giles Clarke


Background:

U.N. statistics show that 80 percent of the country's 30 million people live in extreme poverty, while 58

percent rely on humanitarian aid and face the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world. Thus, the

move toward a truce could therefore enable the focus to be on the internal dynamics that brought about

the war in the first place. The U.S. envoy and U.N. envoy to Yemen jointly call for a Yemen peace

conference that would engage leaders and members across Yemen's society in charting a way forward.


The Whitehouse Statement:

As a candidate for the White House, Biden vowed that despite U.S. strategic interests in oil and security,

he would maintain an arms-length position with the Saudi government. In his statement, Biden

commended Saudi Arabia for its "courageous leadership" in implementing the U.N.-led truce. Accordingto Biden, it was the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was critical of Saudi ruler and de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that prompted his first response at the Saudi Consulatein Turkey.


Basically, Riyadh was the target of Biden's campaign claims. Later this month, Biden will visit Riyadh,

where he may meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a someone Biden has avoided so far. However, rising oil prices raise living costs and cause political headaches ahead of the November midterm elections. Therefore, the topic is less about budding friendships and more about concerns at home and in Europe.


Foreign Policy:

The Sanaa airport has resumed flying, and some fuel shipments have arrived. It remains a contested issue whether Taiz's roads will be opened. Both sides have yet to confirm a framework for lifting the blockade. The fighters have ceased all cross-border assaults on the two pillars of the Saudi-led coalition since the truce was declared in early April, and the airstrikes and bombardment have also stopped.


In a statement, Erin Hutchinson, Yemen director for the Norwegian Refugee Council, expressed her hope that the cease-fire would enable humanitarian aid to reach those in need and for more displaced people to return home as a result of the cease-fire. It is commonly acknowledged by many Yemenis and observers that fighting has been reduced but is not yet completely stopped. Norwegian humanitarian groups report that in the first month after the original truce, civilian casualties dropped by more than 50%.


Almost three weeks after coming into force on April 2, the truce in Yemen is still holding. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels refused to take part in the inter-Yemeni talks that took place in Saudi Arabia in early April after they had been at war with the internationally recognized government since March. Saudi Arabia, which has been at war with the Houthis from northern Yemen since 2015, has often seen them as enemies. Zaidi people are another form of Shia’ah Islam, and thus, the Houthis respect the ceasefire mostly.


In any case, Saudi Arabia has been trying to reshape its military intervention during this period, either as a respite or as a step toward longer-term appeasement. Saudi Arabia is unaware of its options against the Houthis' resilience and is concerned that Western public opinion will be adversely impacted as a result of this conflict. During his time as Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, wanted his country to be less involved in Yemen.


A Yemeni observer who agreed to remain anonymous confided that the coalition has tried everything to confront the Houthis. Accordingly, the Saudis now want to stick to a security approach, focusing on defending their borders, and no longer take a position that is ideologically opposed to Iran. This could create an opening, which could lead to a negotiated settlement with the Houthis.


Point of View- Analysis of The Current Scene:

Riyadh initiated the creation of the presidential council, which is the keystone of this new strategy. There are eight people in this group who oppose the Houthis and who have taken over the powers of the head of state, Mr. Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who was sidelined at the hands of the Saudis.


Saudi Arabia wants to begin disengagement from the country or at least to put a little distance between itself and the Houthis by forming an anti-Houthi front it hopes will be credible. The Yemeni observer stressed that Saudi Arabia wanted to be seen as a mediator instead of a belligerent - and especially not as the main instigator of the conflict.


These hopes were dashed however when the Houthis, originally allied with dictator Ali Abdallah Saleh, took the capital, Sanaa, in early 2015. The Saudi monarch has gradually cut himself off from his country by taking refuge in a palace provided for him in Riyadh. Watching Yemen slowly unravel, he has watched it crumble. He has destroyed his credibility as a peacemaker with the rebels and the people who live in the areas controlled by the Saudi air force by unconditionally supporting their force operations in Yemen. His break with the anti-independence southern movement, which had also taken place in 2017.


The Reopening of Sana’ Airport, Who Controls It?

As part of the ceasefire that began on April 2, coinciding with Ramadan, Yemen's Sana' International

Airport reopened on 16 May 2022 (officially as the first commercial flight has landed) after being closed

for over six years. According to the ceasefire, the Houthi militia controls some parts of the country's

southern half as well as its capital Sana', as well as most of the north.


Houthi media outlets report that the Yemen Airways flight was carrying 151 passengers. It is an important milestone for millions of Yemenis, especially those in the north, that the airport has reopened after eight years of war. Commercial flights have begun again after years of deadlocked talks, another sign of U.N.-led peace efforts.


Despite the divisions among Yemen's rival powers, it is impossible to predict whether this initiative will

last. It is possible that this breakthrough may turn out to be temporary. Saudi Arabia-led coalition has

controlled Yemen's airspace since March 2015, when it launched its offensive against the Houthis. In 2016, the coalition banned flights to/from Sanaa Airport.


Despite seven years of stuttering diplomacy and deadly fighting, reopening the airport remains a

controversial issue. Hans Grundberg, the fourth U.N. Special Envoy to Yemen, with US Special Envoy Tim Lenderking supporting his efforts to end the political deadlock and stop the military escalation, has led extensive efforts to end the political stalemate. The humanitarian tragedy has been alleviated so far by their efforts. The agreement calls for the suspension of all military operations, including cross-border

operations, as well as allowing tankers and commercial flights to land and take off from the Sanaa

International Airport on predetermined flights in the region.


Yemeni civilians say that the U.N. envoy deserves credit for this recent breakthrough, which has been

heartening for millions of Yemenis. Yemenis in Sanaa, other provinces, and abroad were overjoyed when the first flight from Sanaa to Amman took off on Monday morning. Our thoughts drifted back to the pre-

war days when the world was peaceful. The Yemenis' perception was that what was once a daily routine

at the airport had changed into a fantastical experience? Despite the joy, there is no guarantee that the

flights will continue uninterrupted for a considerable length of time as there has been no final political

resolution to the conflict between the key actors in Yemen.


In the long run, under the current circumstances, the expectation of Sanaa Airport is to cease operating

commercial flights at any time. While the airport may continue to operate, the conflict has not ended. It

is not the airport that is at stake in the war between sides, but rather the country's presidency. Hezbollah

and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards had been trying to smuggle members onto the flight, according to

official Yamen's government.


So far, the reopening of Sana’ Airport is monitored directly by the U.N.-OSESGY (Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen). A Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen in 2015 was intended to restore the government, but there has long been a deadlock in the conflict between the backed by Iran-led rebels Houthi rebels. The conflict has resulted in the death of tens of thousands of civilians, making it the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

 

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