THE sudden surge of American interest in the Yemen conflict raises serious questions. I have taken part in many discussions last week about Kerry’s surprise visit to Oman to meet with a Houthi delegation.
Here are some of these questions and my answers:
Why all the secrecy? Why in Oman?
Whenever America needs to speak to Iran and its Arab proxies, US officials meet in Oman, with total radio silence! They negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran for years in a similar fashion. Who knows what else?
If it was only the Houthis were engaged in last week’s meeting, why all the secrecy? My bet is Iran was there. This is explainable, since it is the troublemaker in Yemen, as well as in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. To resolve the Yemeni problem, you need to talk to them, not to the Houthis and Saleh.
If the Iranian masters are not in agreement, the Arab agents will keep breaking their promises and failing their commitments.
The Houthis are allied with ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh. How come Kerry has met only with them?
It was a crude recognition of reality. The Houthis are the ones in the driver’s seat. Saleh was going out of his scripted line calling on Saudi Arabia to talk directly to him. Kerry could have saved his breath by meeting with the Iranians alone. Or maybe that was exactly what he did. The Houthis may have been there just for the photo-op, and to get directions from their masters.
The Yemeni government was not invited, notified or consulted. Why Kerry chose to ignore them?
Since the Yemeni government has resisted the US-UN proposal, Kerry may have decided to enforce it on them. This is the American way. It backfired on him, because President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi refused to sign on, and the Arab Alliance supported him. It was rude and humiliating, to say the least, to ignore a legitimate president and travel across the world for a meeting with a low-level delegation of a rebellious militia that kidnapped Americans and fired missiles on the US fleet. American pride and prestige, not just Yemeni, were compromised. Later on, he had to apologize in person to President Hadi for a move that was hasty and badly conceived.
America is an ally and partner in the Decisive Storm. Why the change of heart?
The Obama Administration has never been a partner in any alliance against Iran — Not in Iraq, not in Syria, not in Lebanon and not in Yemen. They were initially against the Storm, but had to play catch-up after its start. Most of their help consists of expensive services, paid in cash. Like any war merchants, they made a fortune of sold equipment, spare parts and other logistics.
US heart has always been with the Houthis. Under their watch (and their agent in the UN, Jamal bin Omar) the rebels swept the country with ruthless force, from their base in Sa’da, north of Yemen, to Sanaa, and down to Ta’az and Aden. They had overthrown a legitimate, elected government, imprisoned its Cabinet, and chased its president with “wanted dead or alive” bounty on his head.
The UN-US legitimized all the above by dealing with the rebels as a de-facto rulers. And if it wasn’t for the Arab Alliance’s support of Hadi, Yemen would have been delivered to Iran, the same way Iraq had been. And Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states would have been surrounded with the Farsi Empire north, south and east. The nuclear deal with Iran, then, would have been completed.
What is so wrong with the UN and Kerry’s peace plan that the Yemeni government so adamantly refused?
What was leaked is disturbing. The president would have to transfer his authority to a new government divided between three groups. One third would go to the Houthis, another to Saleh, and a third to the current government. So the rebels, who controlled 20 percent of the country would be rewarded with two thirds of the new government — an overwhelming control. The Houthis would turn over their heavy guns to unspecified third party. They should get their forces out of major cities. That is too vague. They could easily say that most of their arms were destroyed and turn only what cannot be hidden. Their militants could pretend to be civilians and stay in Sanaa. Later, they may incorporate them in the national army.
Since they would be ruling the government and parliament they could pass any changes and roles they may wish. We are back to worse than square one. Iran wins, Yemen and Arabs lose.
This means either everyone accepts, or another war erupts. Either way, US, Britain, Israel and Iran rule our world. And they get richer selling arms to all sides. Forget about it!
— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi