Will talk stop Iranian-backed rebels now in control?
Saudi Arabia said on Monday the Gulf Cooperation Council had agreed to host talks in Riyadh to end the Yemen crisis, the state news agency SPA said, quoting a statement by the Saudi King’s office.
The statement said Saudi Arabia had asked the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, on the request of Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to host the talks in Riyadh where the headquarters of the organisation was, and that they had agreed.
Yemen, a neighbour of top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and global security worry because of its strong al Qaeda presence, is caught in a stand-off between Western-backed President Hadi and the Houthi clan, now the country’s de facto rulers who are supported by Iran.
“The security of Yemen is part and parcel of the security of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries,” the statement said.
The situation in Yemen has been devolving at an increasing rate since last year, when Iran-backed Houthi insurgents began taking control of key locations throughout the capital city of Sana’a.
In late January, the Houthi laid siege to the presidential palace and took the president hostage; the American embassy made preparations to evacuate. Just days after the attack began, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his government resigned under pressure.
Rumors of a compromise flew out of Sana’a, but discussions proved to be in vain as the Houthi refused to withdraw from government facilities, or release officials taken hostage during the main assault.
Now, more than a month later, the Houthi are formally occupying Sana’a, the American embassy has closed and evacuated, and the insurgency is gaining ground. President Hadi withdrew his resignation after escaping safely to Aden, but the interim Houthi government is continuing with an attempt to reach out to Russia and China, and build stronger investment ties with Iran:
Houthi leaders say their interim government is trying to gain legitimacy abroad.
“We are doing what any new power does, and that is to seek international alliances that can help balance the new face of Yemeni politics,” said Ahmed Bahri, political director for the pro-Houthi Haqq Party.
“We want Iranians to invest in Yemen and they have the capacity to do so,” a Houthi official said. “The regional or Western boycott of the Houthis won’t keep our hands tied but only make us seek new investment options for new countries.”
Iranian officials couldn’t be reached for comment on the trade and investment overtures. An Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman said Wednesday that Iran opposed foreign interference in Yemen, state-run media reported.
A Yemeni delegation led by pro-Houthi politicians visited Russian members of parliament late last week and discussed potential investments in Yemeni energy projects, according to Houthi leaders.
The Cooperation Council’s job will not be an easy one. Consisting of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, the Council isn’t so much a confederation as it is a political union between fully autonomous Gulf states. All of the member states do, however, have an interest in controlling the devolving situation in Yemen, which will remain at the forefront of any decision the Council attempts to make. Additionally, Yemen was in negotiations to join the Council by this year, which could prove to be a bargaining chip played in favor of the Western-backed Hadi government if the Houthi can’t convince Iranian or other foreign investors to back their still-budding revolution.
Meanwhile, the Houthi are doubling down, releasing “martyr videos” of soldiers going into battle in an effort to highlight the sectarian nature of their “holy war.” They’re up against not only Western interests, but those of Yemen’s powerful al-Qaeda cell.
This isn’t just Houthi vs. Hadi—it’s a battle between the West and the growing influence of Iran in an already volatile region, in a country that has been teetering on the verge of complete devolution since at least 2011.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.