Despite the hopeful comments of Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, at a World Economic Forum panel in Davos, the war in Yemen threatens to explode with violence at any moment after a long pause in hostilities. At the centre of prolonging the conflict are Britain and the US, both of which continue to back non-starter positions in backchannel talks to reach a new ceasefire.
Last April the United Nations managed to broker a temporary truce agreement, which was prolonged until October. Since this time, threats of renewed aerial bombardments from the Saudi-led coalition, as well as drone and ballistic missile strikes against Saudi and the UAE have loomed. Yemen’s eight-year-long conflict has resulted in one of the worst, if not the single worst, humanitarian crisis in modern history, also causing the deaths of around 400,000 people in Yemen.
In December of last year, US Senator Bernie Sanders infamously retracted a war powers resolution to end US involvement in the war on Yemen, threatening to bring the resolution to a vote in the future if the White House refused to work to deliver peace. Another month has gone by and little progress seems to have been made, and although it is possible that the conflict may stay in a paused state for now, without a peace deal a renewal of warfare is inevitable. In Davos, last week, during a World Economic Forum meeting, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia offered a glimmer of hope that a deal could be reached between the Yemeni government in Sanaa — led by Ansarallah (the Houthis) — and the Saudi-led coalition, stipulating that they needed more progress and time to conclude such a deal.
On Saturday, however, the foreign ministry of Yemen’s Ansarallah-led National Salvation Government lashed out at the British ambassador to Yemen, Richard Oppenheim. The UK’s Yemen envoy reiterated Britain’s “support to the [Saudi backed] Government of Yemen in the wake of Houthi pressure”, to which the Sanaa-based Yemeni government responded by stating that the UK has been responsible for daily atrocities in Yemen and continue to hinder progress towards peace.
When it comes to concluding the conflict in Yemen, the starting point has to be about ending the Saudi-led blockade on the country and the recognition of the Sanaa based government, headed by Ansarallah. Without this, all efforts will prove futile and the UK, as well as the US, understand this well. The so-called internationally recognized leadership of Yemen, currently sits in the hands of Saudi Arabia and the West. They are illegitimate, unelected puppets that do not actually have any government that operates, they are a government in name only and the goal of the Saudi-led coalition is to impose these corrupt officials on the people of Yemen, in order to restore a neoliberal order in Sanaa.
Saudi Arabia, which owns the so-called Yemeni leadership, comprised of what is known as the Presidential Leadership Council, whose chairman became Rashad Al-Alimi last year, now often referred to as the President of Yemen. For those somewhat familiar with the situation in Caracas, a good comparison here would be the West’s recognition of Juan Guaido as the legitimate President of Venezuela. A key difference here is that, as ridiculous as it was in the case of Venezuela, the Presidential Leadership Council has no base of support at all. It is a grouping of unelected puppets who would fade into irrelevancy if the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UK, and US were to stop supporting them.
On the ground in what was once called Northern Yemen, Ansarallah operates a functioning state model, despite the countless restraints imposed largely due to the ongoing war and blockade. There can be no solution to the Yemen crisis until the West recognizes the reality on the ground, which they continue to refuse to do. This is not by accident, nor is their logistical support or weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and its allies in the war.
One may then ask, what about the role of the United Nations? The UN is not one dimensional and for this reason can serve a purpose in helping to mediate between warring sides in Yemen. However, the international body has its limitations and is largely dominated by Western governments. An example of one of the UN’s downfalls is the former UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, who now presides as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, recently shown to be linked to the MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence service. Inter Mediate, a private conflict resolution firm, that Griffiths co-founded and serves as an advisor to, was revealed by a ‘Declassified UK’ report to have taken over 4 million pounds from the British Foreign Office. The other co-founder of Inter Mediate and also Tony Blaire’s former chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, wrote in an email that was disclosed by the US government, that his firm was close to the MI6. This is an example of how incredibly compromised — arguably on a criminal level — the former UN Yemen envoy is.
At this time, a resumption of violence would have several damning implication; this will include the deepening of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, a potentially catastrophic impact on Saudi Arabia and even Emirati infrastructure, and will likely lead to another layer in preventing Saudi-Iranian rapprochement. All of these things represent good news for the US and UK governments. In addition, a resumption of hostilities could please Israel, however, for the West to continue to prolong the conflict, it does represent somewhat of a gamble. The power of Ansarallah’s missile and drone arsenal could play a decisive role in determining the reaction of both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The real reasons behind the UK-US backing of the war in Yemen have nothing to do with security and the so-called fight for the “internationally recognised Yemeni government”, as you have probably guessed by now. Instead, the West sought to achieve a number of goals; to imperil Saudi Arabia and make it reliant on Western weaponry, logistical support, and expertise, to make money for the weapons industry, to prevent an independent Arab State that does not listen to the West, and to protect Western control of key trade routes, in addition to ensuring that the natural resources of Yemen cannot be exploited for the benefit of an independent nation. All the talk about the repressive nature of “the Houthi rebels”, terminology which works to delegitimize a group that has support amongst various tribes throughout the territory they hold, and hold the favor of the military that was there before their rule, is the typical approach of Western governments that have no moral justifications for their genocidal intentions.
The UK and US governments understand that even with propaganda against the Ansarallah government in Sanaa, the fact that it is Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies fighting to prop up their puppet, is not exactly a great argument for most of the Western public. Whatever can be said about Ansarallah’s repressive practices, it is outdone a million times over by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, so trying to make people cheer for team Saudi isn’t a good propaganda strategy. That’s why we barely even hear anything about the conflict in Western media, because no matter how you spin it, there’s no justification for what the UK and US governments are supporting. The reality also is that if the US and UK wanted the war to end tomorrow, it would, although they may have to sacrifice their close relationship with Saudi Arabia and allow for Riyadh to look further East. Just a few years ago, this wouldn’t have been as much of an issue, however, the new Cold War era seems to have changed the attitudes of Riyadh towards the US.
If hostilities are to resume, initially this will represent music to the ears of the weapons manufacturers and could bring Saudi Arabia closer to the US, at least in the short run. Yet, if Ansarallah proves an even more formidable force and are capable of striking Saudi infrastructure with greater precision, this may end up pushing Riyadh to engage with Iran in the hopes that Tehran could ease tensions and benefit their security. Hence why the resumption of violence could end up serving as a massive gamble for the West at this time, but one that they clearly seem ready to take.