The Saudi Peace Initiative in Yemen came to represent an attempt by Riyadh to get out of the Yemeni quagmire, but it is also an effort to absolve the West, which has come to blame it for the seemingly endless war.
And announced Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah, Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, during a press conference on March 22, 2021The Saudi Peace Initiative in Yemen includes a ceasefire throughout the country under the supervision of the United Nations, and the start of consultations between the Yemeni parties to reach a political solution to the crisis under the auspices of the United Nations based on the references of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, the Gulf initiative and its implementation mechanism, and the outcomes of the Yemeni national dialogue. Mass.
The initiative gives the Houthis several benefits, including a ceasefire, opening Sanaa airport to some international and regional destinations, and permitting the import of food and fuel.
The Saudi minister said that the initiative will be implemented as soon as all parties accept it, but he stressed in particular the right of Riyadh to defend its lands against Houthi militia attacks.
The Houthi response
The Houthi “Ansar Allah” group considered that the Saudi peace initiative in Yemen “does not include anything new.”
And in The first response from the group to the initiativeIn an interview with Reuters, the chief Houthi negotiator, Muhammad Abdul Salam, said that this plan “does not include anything new,” that the Kingdom “is part of the war and must end the air and sea blockade of Yemen immediately.”
But Abdel Salam added, “Talks will continue with Saudi Arabia, the Sultanate of Oman and the United States to reach a peace agreement.”
Abdul Salam, who is representing the Houthi government in Sanaa, stressed that “the opening of airports and ports is a human right and should not be used as a tool of pressure.”
Two weeks ago, Reuters news agency reported, citing Two sources that she described as “the insiders.”That senior US officials held the first direct meeting with officials from the Yemeni Houthi group in the Sultanate of Oman, as part of the new US administration’s efforts to put an end to the six-year-old Yemeni war.
The Saudis and the Houthis have been negotiating directly and under the auspices of the United Nations, for more than a year, with the aim of reaching a truce.
Saudi Arabia is seeking, in the ceasefire talks, to obtain guarantees on border security and curbing Iran’s influence, and the two sources said that the level of Saudi representation in the virtual talks has increased recently.
Riyadh wants to create a buffer zone inside Yemen along the border. The Houthis want to end the blockade on the Yemeni port of Hodeidah and Sanaa airport.
In the event that no agreement is reached, it will be referred to the UN envoy, Griffiths. To prepare for broader peace talks, including the internationally recognized Yemeni government backed by Saudi Arabia, and currently stationed in Aden, an informed source confirmed in his conversation with the agency.
The opening of the port of Hodeidah … a great temptation for the Houthis
The Saudi Peace Initiative in Yemen is trying to wave to the Houthis about humanitarian aid and the reconstruction process, he said Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Muhammad Al Jaber at the press conference announcing the initiativeHis country has supported Yemen for decades with billions of dollars, and it continues to support the Yemeni government and know its economic needs.
However, he stressed that Riyadh will coordinate in this matter with the legitimate government, in an attempt to strengthen the position of this government, considering that one of its strengths in the negotiations with the Houthis is that it is a passage for the necessary Saudi aid to Yemen.
The initiative includes the opening of the port of Hodeidah with the deposit of taxes and customs revenues for ships of oil derivatives from the port of Hodeidah in the joint account of the Central Bank of Yemen in Hodeidah in accordance with the Stockholm Agreement on Hodeidah.
It is noteworthy that the Saudi ambassador to Yemen himself admitted during the press conference that he had previously implemented a similar initiative under the supervision of the United Nations, and the revenues of the port of Hodeidah for two months amounting to 35 billion Yemenis were collected in this account, then the Houthis seized it and used it in their war effort.
The real goals behind the Saudi peace initiative in Yemen
The Saudis ’offer to repeat the initiative to open the port of Hodeidah, despite the Houthi’s seizure of the port’s funds, indicates a great degree of flexibility for Saudi Arabia with the Houthis, a flexibility that may stem from several goals.
The first is: a serious Saudi desire to solve the Yemeni crisis and end the war, the outcome of which does not seem close to conclusive.
However, the Saudi peace initiative in Yemen, despite the great flexibility, does not carry much new about previous initiatives that the Houthis rejected or exploited.
Although the Saudis know from their previous experiences that the Houthis will reject this initiative or exploit it in their favor (in the best case), one of their most prominent goals of this initiative is to acquit Riyadh in front of the world, after the advent of US President Joe Biden, bearing a legacy of my great liberal Western criticism towards the Yemen war. .
That is why one of the first decisions Biden made after entering the White House was to remove the Houthis from the American list of terrorist groups and review US military support for the Saudi war effort in Yemen.
Hence, the Saudi peace initiative in Yemen appears to be directed more to Biden and international public opinion than to the Houthis.
As the Yemeni strategic expert, Abdul-Malik Al-Yousfi said in an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, the Saudi Initiative for Peace in Yemen aims to establish an argument against the Houthis.
The initiative may also represent an opportunity for Saudi Arabia to get out of Yemen and leave the burden of battles to the legitimate government, especially that hours before the initiative, information reported the withdrawal of the Sudanese forces participating within the countries of the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia from the city of Aden in southern Yemen, according to a Yemeni military source.Russia Today“.
What do the Houthis want?
It should be noted that Member of the political council of the Houthi “Ansar Allah” movement, Muhammad Al-BukhaitiA day before the Saudi initiative, it was announced that the movement was ready to stop its military operations in the Saudi depth in exchange for stopping the war and lifting the siege on Yemen.
In his tweet on Twitter, Al-Bukhaiti wrote: “We are ready to stop all our military operations, including stopping the Yemeni army’s attacks in the depths of Saudi Arabia and stopping its advance towards Marib, in exchange for the aggression countries, led by America, to announce the cessation of their aggression against Yemen, and the lifting of its blockade and the ball. In its court. “
It is worth noting here that the Houthi offer, which came out before the Saudi peace initiative in Yemen, talks about stopping targeting Saudi Arabia with missiles and calming the battle of Ma’rib (from which it appears that the Houthis did not achieve their goals) and not ending the conflict with the forces of the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which the Houthis consider Illegal government.
Even if the Houthis accept the initiative, they, as they did previously with previous initiatives, may exploit it to achieve further gains.
It should also be noted that the Houthi’s position is linked to the continuing complexity of the Iranian nuclear crisis, in which Tehran considers the Yemen war as a bargaining tool.
Hence, while the Houthis want the largest possible gains, including weakening the legitimate government, their Iranian sponsors may encourage them to reject the initiative, to link the Yemeni file with the Iranian file as a whole.
Is Saudi Arabia trying to get out of Yemen even if the Houthis do not accept the initiative?
It should be noted that on April 9, 2020, the spokesman for the Arab Coalition, Turki Al-Maliki, announced a comprehensive ceasefire in Yemen for a period of two weeks, to face the repercussions of the outbreak of the Corona virus at the time.
Despite the extension of the ceasefire several times, the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia accused the Houthi group, several times, of “not adhering to the declared truce.”
While Saudi Arabia can use the new initiative to get out of Yemen and transfer the entire war effort to the legitimate government forces, past experiences have proven that the Saudis had previously stopped their military strikes, but the Houthis continued to bomb Saudi lands, and indeed it was when the Houthis started their first rebellion against the regime of President Ali Abdullah. Saleh long years ago bombed Saudi lands.
They are also in The beginning of their appearance clashed with Saudi forces In 2009, they took control of 50 Saudi towns in what is known as the Saada conflict, and they penetrated into areas within Saudi Arabia at a depth of 50 km, although Saudi Arabia did not have forces inside Yemen.
The Houthi hostility to Saudi Arabia is part of a psychological and ideological hostility that views the House of Saud and the Hanbali school of thought as a permanent opponent, and the party that supports the internal Yemeni opponents.
In addition, the Houthis, although their human losses in the war are much greater than the Saudis, but their social and sectarian makeup makes them less affected by these losses than their opponents.
The Saudi initiative to bring peace to Yemen may lead to appeasement, a ceasefire and even the launch of a new political process, but the Houthis will exploit it to achieve the largest possible concessions from the Saudis and their allies in Yemen.
The history of Iran’s followers in the region shows that, in the best case, the Houthis will give Saudi Arabia’s allies in Yemen little less in exchange for Saudi financial support for a Yemen under their rule. A repeat of the Lebanese model where Hezbollah and its allies were The controllers of the wheels of the state, while the Future Movement, an ally of Saudi Arabia and the West, was ruling with limited effective powers, Hezbollah allowed it to bring Western and Gulf aid to Beirut.
It is known that the Lebanese Hezbollah is a model for the forces affiliated with the Iranians in the region, so that the Iranians named their most prominent militia in Iraq, Hezbollah, Lebanon.
The Houthis, since the beginning of their rise, have raised Hezbollah slogans and considered themselves an extension of Hezbollah’s resistance to Israel, despite the fact that there are no Israelis or Americans in Yemen.