Meanwhile, the innocent people of Yemen live in a very critical humanitarian situation due to Saudi siege of ports and airlines. However, the first invitation by the United Nations to Ansar-Allah as an official representative of Yemen in the consultations in Stockholm, Sweden, is a great success for the Yemeni people.
With regard to the battlefield conditions, we interviewed Dr. Seyed Hadi Seyed Afghahi, a West Asian affairs expert about the future of Yemen.
The full text of the interview follows.
Q: Have the peace talks on Yemen between the negotiating parties produced a positive outcome towards ending the crisis in the country?
One of the important issues in favor of Ansar-Allah and the National Committee in Sanaa was for the United Nations to invite them for the first time as an official party to the peace talks in Stockholm. Until that day, the Saudi and affiliated media introduced Ansar-Allah as an Iran-backed coup maker militia group operating against Mansour Hadi government, and this was one of the main pretexts for Saudi Arabia and its allies to invade Yemen.
Following the invitation of the United Nations as part of the negotiations and signing of an agreement on the exchange of prisoners, the bodies of the dead and the search for the missing in action (MIAs) from both warring sides, this is an important political concession for Ansar-Allah. On the other hand, these talks served as a very good platform to expose the atrocities of the Saudis and the innocence of the Yemeni people because until then heavy censorship was exercised by the Saudis to cover up their crimes in Yemen.
Other oral agreements in the course of these negotiations, such as the fate of Hudaydah Port, the use of ports, the presence of the United Nations observer delegation, the issue of ceasefire and the withdrawal of non-native forces from Hudaydah to the suburbs have all taken place in the interests of the people of this region, because the people and forces deployed in the port and airport, support Ansar-Allah, the revolutionary committees and the Yemeni army in Sanaa.
It is also foreseen that Army forces and Ansar-Allah will keep further away from the city of Taiz and open more passageways for traffic, but at the same time, the siege of the city will not be lifted to prevent attacks by Mansur Hadi’s forces.
Ansar-Allah agreed to re-open the Sanaa airport in the presence and simultaneous deployment of a United Nations committee and representatives of Mansour Hadi but the Saudis insisted that all flights to Sanaa must be inspected at Aden airport before heading towards Sanaa. However, this would escalate insecurity. For example, when the Aden airport is under the control of the Saudis, Emiratis, and Mansour Hadi forces, Ansar-Allah authorities or the Yemeni revolutionary government could be detained at the airport; this issue was ultimately not agreed upon.
Q: How has the ceasefire agreement been to date?
On the first night of the truce, the Saudi Coalition bombed the suburbs of Hudaydah about 50 times and hit civilian targets and thus violated the ceasefire.
Meanwhile, the marine siege continues, and over the past few days, the Coalition naval forces did not allow five ships carrying foodstuff and fuel to berth at the port of Hudaydahs, which is a sign of Saudi dissatisfaction with the agreements and their obstructions in this field. Nevertheless, talks are set to continue in late January 2019. In the past weeks, a delegation from the revolutionary government of Yemen and Ansar-Allah was dispatched to Jordan for further negotiations on the exchange of prisoners and dead bodies.
Following the Saudi scandal in killing of opposition journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi, the Coalition in a tactical move after participation in the peace negotiations and the signing of agreements, continued their obstructions, and the demands of the Yemeni people to reopen the passageways and lifting the air blockade, especially in the port of Hudaydah as the mother port, were not realized. Most of the fuel, foodstuff, and medicines of the Yemeni people were evacuated from this port and the Port of Aden is the second important port.
Q: What is the role of Western countries in these negotiations?
Western countries would endorse an end to the Yemeni crisis when all the winning cards would not be in the hands of Ansar-Allah. On the other hand, Ansar-Allah does not claim full control over the future government of the country, but on the other hand, Saudi Arabia, given its excessive demands and spending more than $700 billion in the course of its aggression, does not want to give Ansar-Allah more and higher shares, because this would be a material and moral failure for them. The Saudi assumption of the Stockholm talks was to gain concessions they had failed to gain on the battlefields and were struggling to get more privileges from Ansar-Allah. Against that, Ansar-Allah by adopting a sound argument and strong logic resisted the Saudis and did not retreat before the excessive demand of Riyadh.
After the resistance, steadfastness and successive victories of Ansar-Allah, the Westerners are not able to eliminate them from the political scene, but they demand the full control of Ansar-Allah in Saada and Hudaydah to end the conflict. On the other hand, they insist on the issue of the six-region federal division proposed by the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council but the Yemeni people and Ansar-Allah will not accept this division which could lead to the breakdown of Yemen.
Under this plan between the Coalition and the supporters of Mansour Hadi, Yemen is supposed to be split into six regions with Sanaa as the capital. On the other hand, Ansar-Allah would return to Saada and their territories. Interestingly enough, due to lack of access to the sea, Saada has the capacity of a comprehensive siege. And today while most of the Yemeni coastal, important, and strategic areas are under the control of Ansar-Allah, they would not commit such a historical mistake.
Q: Has the UN played its role as an impartial institution so far?
The United Nations is shamelessly siding with the Coalition and Saudi Arabia. For example, after Saudi bombing of a funeral procession and killing and wounding more than 300 innocent people in Yemen, Ban Ki-moon initially put Saudi Arabia on the blacklist of human rights violators and war crimes perpetrators. But after Saudi threats that it would cut its contribution to the United Nations, Ban was forced to remove the name of the Saudis from the list.
Today, a Dutch general as the special envoy of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Yemen is on the Saudi front, and despite his impartial position, he always imposes the demands of the Saudis on Ansar-Allah and the Yemeni people. Ismail Ould Sheikh Ahmed, as the UN’s representative in the affairs of Yemen, also acted as Saudi spokesman in the peace talks and pushed Ansar-Allah to retreat. Unfortunately, these things are happening because Riyadh is spending exorbitant amounts of money to this end.
Q: What Consensus Is the Coalition of Aggressors Seeking in the Course of The Negotiations?
The formation of a national coalition government with the minimal partnership of Ansar-Allah will be ideal for the aggressors, while Ansar-Allah today has the upper hand in Yemen. The realities on battlefield indicate that the areas under the control of Mansour Hadi and Coalition supporters are not significant in strategic terms, and mostly include southern regions such as Aden, Hadhramaut, Mukalla, Al-Mahrah and other desert climes. These areas are now witnessing clashes between ISIS, al-Qaeda, Mansour Hadi’s supporters, Saudis, Emiratis, the Reform Salafi Party, and some separatists. As a result of these events, Aden has a much more insecure situation than Sanaa. Every day, there are reports on the killing and assassination of generals, governors and religious scholars in these areas.
The Emiratis are pursuing their interests in Yemen due to their domestic problems in developing ports in the UAE by seizing most of the Yemeni islands, including a century-long contract with Mansour Hadi to develop the island of Socotra. Meantime, the Saudis have seized other areas, including Al-Mahrah, and during the past months, there have been demonstrations by the people of these areas against the Saudi occupation.
Under these conditions, the Westerners have covetous eyes on the Yemeni oil and the strategic Strait of Bab Al-Mandab for military presence. For this reason, they do not want these two strategic factors to be at the disposal of Ansar-Allah, which is why they always accuse Ansar-Allah of receiving support from Iran. Accordingly, during this period, Trump and Pompeo have repeatedly emphasized the need to break the arm of Iran in Yemen by preventing the strengthening of Ansar-Allah, but the fact is that they are not in a position to do so.
Today, Yemen’s drone and missile capability are making progress. During the explosion of pilotless drone at the Lahij base, the chief of intelligence and some high-ranking generals of Mansour Hadi were killed. Under this situation, they concluded that concurrent with the missile achievements of Ansar-Allah, major cities in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates such as Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai would be threatened again.
Q: What would be the most favorable agreement for the Yemeni people and Ansar-Allah?
The Yemeni people and Ansar-Allah should remain part of the political stream and future sovereignty of the country, and they should not allow Saudi Arabia to regain domination over Yemen. They should try to reach the desired internal agreements without the presence of the Saudis in favor of the future of Yemen.
Q: How do you anticipate the fate of the Yemeni negotiations after the last peace conference in Stockholm?
Field developments will determine the future of the negotiations, and Ansar-Allah‘s continued victories and the blows it inflicts on the aggressors will force them to show more interest in negotiations and giving concessions to the Yemeni people. The costs of this war must be increased by augmenting the international pressure and halting the supply of weapons to the Saudis so that they will recognize the rights of the Yemeni people.
Imposition of heavy defeats by Ansar-Allah and the Yemeni army on the Saudis is another way of imposing double pressure on Saudi Arabia to bring them to the negotiating table. But the reality is that Riyadh’s defeat would be something unpleasant for them in the region and before their domestic public opinion. Because after the aggression comes to an end, they will be asked what has been the outcome of five years of presence in Yemen and spending staggering costs and the emergence of economic challenges in Saudi Arabia?