Yemen has a new chance for peace

Yemen has a new chance for peace

Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi, Yemeni President

Even if their truce is honored in the breach, the fact that two sides in any conflict have agreed, generally through a third party, to cease fighting for just a temporary period, has to be a cause for hope.

The truce between the Yemeni government of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents is therefore to be welcomed, however fragile. The United Nations has brokered the ceasefire and tentative peace talks are to be held in Kuwait later this month.

The Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States, which saved the legitimate government of Yemen from imminent defeat and has thrown back the rebels from Aden, is of course backing this search for peace. President Hadi has made it clear that his forces and their allies reserve the right to respond to any breaches in the ceasefire by the Houthi. Past agreements for the guns to fall silent have tragically failed because of the bad faith of the insurgents.

Yet there is a sense that this truce may be more enduring. The reason is not hard to see. The rebels are split and dejected. While it is true that they still hold the capital Sanaa, there is no disguising the truth that their uprising has failed. They believed the assurances of their Iranian sponsors and have paid a terrible price for their gullibility.

The splits within the Houthi leadership, which emerged almost immediately that the Kingdom launched Operation Decisive Storm last year, have become increasingly apparent. Some Houthi notables continue to insist that theirs is a rebellion that can still succeed. But it is now apparent that more and more ordinary insurgents understand that they face only more defeat, death and destruction. There is a sense that they were conned by the Iranians into a rebellion over issues, which could have been resolved peaceably through negotiation. There is also growing anger against those leaders who insist that the fight must go on.

Very understandably ordinary Houthis are increasingly asking themselves why they should continue to try and defy the Hadi government and the might of its Saudi-led Gulf allies. There seems to be an ever-greater appreciation that this is not really their war but Iran’s war, except that they, the Houthis, are the ones doing the fighting and dying, not the Iranians. It can be expected that hard-line Houthis, rather than face the inevitable outcome of the Kuwait negotiations, will do what they can to undermine the truce. Indeed, they probably will not even dare wait until the UN-staged peace talks begin. It is one of the tragedies of so many Houthis, that their leaders rely on duping them into taking up arms, while they themselves seize whatever they can of the many opportunities to prosper financially from the conflict., while staying well clear of the dangerous fighting.

The message in Kuwait will clearly be that only by accepting the UN Security Council demand to give up the territory they have seized, can the Houthi expect peace. Their rebellion has brought massive destruction to one of the world’s poorest countries. What Yemen needs now is the security and stability that will enable it to rebuild and recover. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have already committed to playing a crucial role in that reconstruction program. But it is absolutely clear that for that to happen, today’s truce must be converted rapidly into tomorrow’s lasting peace.