Six reasons behind Saudi Arabia’s engagement in direct negotiations with the Houthis
Yemen’s President Hadi may not know about the talks

Abdel Bari Atwan

Now as the Saudi Al-Hazm Storm is about to step into its second year (sixteen days remain until the completion of the first year) without achieving its initial objectives, and now that the raids against the civilian targets are backfiring on the local and international levels, the two Saudi and Houthi adversaries are giving up on their “stubbornness” and many of their earlier terms and agreeing to negotiate a political settlement, one that could end the war in Yemen.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia definitely made the bigger compromise since it used to categorically reject any direct negotiations with the Houthi Ansarullah movement or President Ali Abdullah Saleh while insisting that any direct or indirect negotiations must be held with the Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and his representatives … However, things have changed now and we don’t know if President Hadi is aware about these negotiations or not.

There are six main reasons behind this flip of the Saudi position and the tendency to hold face-to-face negotiations with the Houthi Ansarullah group:

– First: The failure of Al-Hazm Storm and its extensive raids over more than twelve months to force the Houthi-Saleh alliance into surrendering; and the escalating losses suffered by the Saudi forces both at the Yemeni borders and in the battlefields within Yemen. An Egyptian professor who is supervising the doctoral thesis of a Saudi student told me that the number of Saudi dead victims in this war has reached 3,000 officers and troops as per the student who refused to reveal his name for well-known reasons. When I argued with the professor on the number being too exaggerated, he said…that the student is a retired Saudi officer who knows what he’s saying.

“- Second: The escalating criticism against the Saudi raids in Yemen and the parallel siege that Saudi Arabia is being subjected to at the level of the western countries in addition to European parliament’s war crime accusations and the European governments’ call for banning the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

– Third: The growing “restlessness” within the Saudi arena as a result of the prolonged war in Yemen and it turning into a war of military, financial, and human attrition; and the escalation of the feelings of resentment vis-à-vis the Kingdom within the Arab and international publics in addition to the collapse of the alliances that had been established to provide an Islamic and Arab cover to this war before it was even launched.

“- Fourth: This war’s massive financial expenses, which are valued, according to some circles, at billions of dollars on a monthly basis…

“- Fifth: The emergence of the Islamic State and Al-Qa’idah organizations as two main forces on the Yemeni arena especially in the areas outside the control of the Houthi-Saleh alliance forces in South Yemen. Indeed, the city of Aden is now living through a state of blood-drenched chaos following its “liberation” and the pullout of the Houthis forces, while President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is now “detained” at the Maashiq Palace on the top of a hill in Aden while the bombings reached his doorstep. The utmost lifespan of any Aden governor no longer exceeds a few weeks because of the assassinations, suicide bombings and booby-trapped cars. The same goes for the security and police officers. In addition, America fears that an Islamic state or princedom might be established in Bab al-Mandeb, which will constitute a threat to the international commercial and military shipping lines.

“- Sixth: the statements made by Gen. Massoud Gezairi, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, on Tuesday to the Tansim news agency where he said that Iran might support the Houthis the same way it has been supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, i.e. by sending military consultants. This means that Yemen will turn into a second Syria.

“As for the reasons that prompted the Houthi movement to accept the direct negotiations with the Saudi authorities, these include obtaining a Saudi acknowledgement and “legitimacy” as a main force on the Yemeni land … and because the movement knows that this war will be eventually concluded with a political settlement … The question that is now strongly being raised concerns the possible repercussions of the negotiations on the map of alliances in Yemen or the Arab alliance that is engaged in the war there under the Saudi leadership.

“To say more on this matter, we ask if the Houthi side had actually informed its ally, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, about these negotiations and the communication calls pertaining to them… Also, did the Saudi authorities inform their Gulf partners at the Al-Hazm Storm about its new decision…? The reason why we are raising these questions is because we know that there have been previous attempts to break the Houthi-Saleh alliance… Yemeni sources told us that breaking the Houthi-Saleh alliance is possible because the alliance between the two sides is tactical rather than strategic.

“The sources indicated that if a Saudi-Houthi reconciliation does indeed take place, this might end the war on the southern Saudi borders. However, a truce will not be reached within Yemen without negotiating with Saleh and his party because the former president’s popular and military bases are still strong in the other Yemeni regions outside the northern governorates of Saada and Omran. President Saleh now has a suicidal mood and is no longer considering any political calculations. Any attempts at tricking him will cause him and his allies to become fiercer…”.

Abdul Bari Atwan is a leading Arab political commentator and author. He was formerly editor of Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

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  1. thank you so much for your excellent article on Yemen.

    however.I do think that Yemen is plighted hundred times ,least of which is this bias and incomplete report of yours let alone its catastrophic leaders”Saleh &Hadi”: with one claiming eternal leadership and the other enjoying being fooled around .In the end of the day ,the former remained Saudi’s loyal ally for 33 years and the latter virtually eavesdropping for about 18 years ,so both are to blame .
    However ,what the country Yemen is suffering from even worse than any time before is the fact that there is some sectarian war Sale escalated by supporting Houthis to tople Hadi,this to do with the Zaidi minority’s firm belief that no other clant should be given any chance to power ,especially a member from the Shaafees (this could be iferred from Hadi’s election and his actual years of presidency which witnessed the worst hindrances and obstacles ….most designed and instigated by Saleh).

    please give your analysis of the sitauation in Yemen this particular angel and I am sure you will be able to tackle it soooooner


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