In an interview with Jafar Ghanadbashi, an expert on West Asian affairs, the news website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations he discussed the Hudaydah peace talks in practice being held in Stockholm by the United Nations.
The expert analyzes the scope and context of these negotiations and anticipates its future course.
Q: What has been the most significant achievement of the Yemeni peace talks in Stockholm?
Most experts and pundits on regional issues believe the truce at the port city of Hudaydah was the most important achievement of the Stockholm talks because if the ceasefire is fulfilled, the ground will be paved for the supply of food and medicine to famine-stricken, patients the war wounded and particularly the children of Yemen. On the other hand, under the ceasefire, the return of tens of thousands of the two-million population of Hudaydah, displaced as a result of Saudi coalition’s military aggression against the port city over the past five months will be made possible. It is clear that the arrival of food and medicine in Yemen, as well as the return of displaced persons to their homes in Hudaydah, will lessen the concerns in Yemen. This means providing the necessary opportunity to the Ansar Allah movement and other united groups of this movement, to take effective steps in the eastern fronts or in dealing with national affairs.
Nevertheless, some analysts consider the agreement on the next round of talks, namely the timing of the next meeting to be very important. Because its adoption means recognition of the “High Committee of the Yemeni Revolution”, centered around Ansar Allah movement, and all the propaganda and allegations of the Saudi coalition over the past four years labeling Ansar Allah movement terrorists or coup plotters.
Q: How do you see the fate of Hudaydah?
If the ceasefire holds, Hudaydah will come out of the state of war and given the commercial and economic capabilities of the port city, which handles nearly 80% of the foreign goods needed by the Yemeni people, it will quickly return to normal. In particular, according to the Stockholm agreement, the parties are committed to the withdrawal of weapons and military hardware from around Hudaydah. In this way, the aggressive coalition of Saudi Arabia will lose the possibility of halting economic activities of the port.
Q: Will Riyadh and Abu Dhabi abide by the provisions of this agreement?
Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are facing a crippling paradox in accepting or not accepting the Stockholm accord because, on the one hand, they have started the countdown to come out of Yemeni quagmire, and on the other hand, they find a halt to the military operations under conditions that they have not achieved any of their goals and hold no winning card to their disadvantage because an end to the war under the present conditions will mean defeat for the Saudi coalition and victory for Ansar Allah movement.
Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, as well as their Western backers, started the war against Yemen about four years ago, with the aim of dismantling the Ansar Allah movement and groups and parties aligned with this movement from the Yemeni political scene and install a puppet government in Sanaa. But now, after about four years, we witness the strengthening of Ansar Allah’s position and the weakening of the Saudi affiliated groups in Yemen. Therefore, the incentive to ignore the Stockholm accord and make it harder for Ansar by repeatedly breaching the ceasefire, are among their strong motives. Of course, regional conditions and the spread of global protests against war crimes in Yemen are a serious obstacle in their way.
Q: What scenarios can be expected for the future of this peace as well as the Yemen crisis?
The most likely scenario for the future of peace in Yemen is the continuation of the bilateral and multilateral negotiations, in parallel with the Saudi obstructions and repeated violations of the ceasefire provisions. In other words, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi would not tolerate a sense of peace and tranquility that would lead to enhancing the capabilities of Ansar Allah and the formation of a democratic government in Yemen. Likewise, they would not bear to see the outbreak of a full-fledged war in which their most sensitive military and economic centers be subjected to Yemeni missile strikes; Here they would prefer “No War No Peace” state to other methods.
Q: Does Jamal Khashoggi murder have anything to do with Saudi Arabia’s flexibility?
Yes, that’s exactly true; The widespread and unpredictable reactions to the horrible slaughter of Khashoggi drew attention to the criminal nature of the Saudi family and provided an opportunity for wider coverage in the media of the Saudi coalition’s war crimes in Yemen. It compelled human rights organizations unlike in the last three and a half years to underline the need to end the war crimes in Yemen. Western governments too had to voice opposition to the continuation of military incursions into Yemen to evade domestic and foreign criticisms; hence, it can be said that one of the key factors to hold Stockholm peace talks was Khashoggi murder and its related reactions.
Q: What is the West’s favored scenario for Yemen?
Due to Yemen’s highly strategic position, the Western countries are strongly opposed to the coming to power of a democratic and independent state not aligned with West’s policies. On the other hand, the formation of a group such as the Ansar Allah movement, which has many similarities with the Hezbollah in Lebanon, is in contrast to the interests of Washington’s reactionary allies in the region, as well as the Zionist regime. Therefore, it can be predicted that the West’s military, political and economic pressures on the Yemeni people will continue and if the current war fronts are turned off, new fronts will be opened in various fields.