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Wednesday, July 15, 2015, 09:32 (GMT+7)
Yemeni civil war – another bad consequence of “Arab Spring”

Nearly 5 years ago, socio-political changes in the Middle East and Northern Africa region led to the “Arab Spring”. However, rather than a blossom spring, it turned out to be a comprehensively polictical and socio-economic crisis in the region. Recently, the Yemeni civil war broke out representing another bad consequence of the “Arab Spring”.

Damage caused by severe conflicts in the city of Sana'a

Focuses of the “Arab Spring”

Consecutive socio-economics difficulties in Yemen created favourable conditions for external forces to incite protestor’s movement against its government. Especially, when the “Arab Spring” swept through and destroyed political regimes of Tunisia, Greece, …(in February 2011), there rose a protesting movement against the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen resulting in a transfer of power to the Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in November 2011. Apparently, this power transfer was planned and welcomed by the US and Western countries as a vivid example of “democracy”. Following the event, US President B. Obama publicly stated that: “Washington will continue to support Yemeni people when they carry out the historic transfer”.  However, the so called peaceful transfer turned out to be a short-lived joy as it dealt with only the tip the iceberg and failed to address thoroughly the severe social contradictions of the country.

Thus, after the new government was formed, in the northern regions of Sana’a, severe conflicts happened between loyal forces of the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the national extremists belonging to the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, notably the Houthis. Besides, in many areas of Yemen, conflicts between racial and religious groups occurred severely, making the country even more unstable than before the power transfer. Responding to situation, president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi neither worked out feasible solutions to maintain order nor shared part of his power to the opponents as committed previously. He even facilitated an array of extreme policies which were favourable to the US and Western countries but not the people’s lives. This encouraged the opponents with the Houthis being the core force to carry out an armed uprising, forcing president Mansur Hadi to resign and forming a Revolutionary Council to govern the country in the transitional period.

However, being backed by outside forces, on 21 February 2015, during his travel to the south, president Mansur Hadi revoked his resignation and declared his choice of Aden as the interim capital city of Yemen. Furthermore, he called for a military intervention from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates in order to stop Houthis fighters by taking control of Yemeni air zone. In response, on 26 March 2015, the coalition of Arab states spearheaded by the Saudi Arabia launched Operation ‘Decisive Storm’ using air strike to inflict heavy damage on Yemen. The US supported the air strike by providing logistics and intelligent support to the  coalition. Along with air raids, Saudi Arabia committed to deploy 150,000 troops and a huge amount of heavy weapons to form a joint army of the Arab League consisting of Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, etc with ten countries in total. Therefore, “Arab Spring” in Yemen did not bring about happiness to its people but a new brutal conflict was triggered, instead.

Attempts of involving parties in the Yemeni civil war.

According to international analysts, Yemen civil war not only aimed at settling domestic contradictions but also represented the transition of the centrality of the Middle East to a new geo-political perspective with the involvement of internal and external forces. The war also led the establishment of new coalitions regardless of the principle of non-intervention of the UN Chapter. Each party joining the coalition has its own calculations towards this poverty-stricken country.

As for the US, though being the poorest country in the Middle East, Yemen still holds geo-political and military importance. First, the US wants to dominate Yemen to make sure that it can control the Bab al-Mandab Strait for international commercial and military maritime lines. Yet, the primary concern of Washington is to curb the influence of Iran and strengthen its position in Yemen. For this reason, in this war, the US plans to leverage the coalition led by the Saudi Arabia to stop Iran’s influence on the Houthis movement in Yemen. Through the regional coalition under the protection umbrella of the US, Washington manages to prove that Iran is not capable of dominating the region. Moreover, the Houthis’s occupation of a majority of Yemen, including Sana’a capital, forcing the Pentagon and the CIA to close their installations in the country, is unacceptable to the US. Therefore, in essence, the on-going civil war in Yemen is still the one  staged by the US in order to form a pro-US government for its geo-political purposes in the country. However, US actions in the war have unveiled unsolved contradictions. Washington supports not only the Arab coalition but also the ISIS to counter the Houthis while it also leads a coalition against this brutal terrorist organization (IS).

Similar to the US perspective, Saudi Arabia’s attempt is to curb the Iran’s influence on the region in general and on its neighbouring country, Yemen, in particular. This was proved when Riyad continuously condemned Tehran of backing the Houthis movement. Yet, in essence, Houthis is not a pro-Iran force and it does not act according to Iran direction, either. Houthis is an independent political force, rising from the suppression of the Mansur Hadi’s government. In the past (2009), when still not being supported by Tehran, Houthis was bombarded by Riyad for many weeks. So, “Iran’s influence” on Yemen is just a reason for Riyad’s attempt to establish its leading role in the region. This country even intends to divide Yemen into two parts, namely the North and the South to minimize Houthis’s influence on the southern provinces. If this is the case, Saudi Arabia and Arab states will find an  easy access to Aden bay and the Indian Ocean without the risk of being blocked in the Hormuz Strait by Iran.

As for Houthis, the reason for their coup against president Mansur Hadi was because Hadi revoked his commitments with them and other political forces in Yemen and governed the country in a draconian manner. Their wish is to form an independent, democratic and self-reliant Yemen without the influence from external forces. To that end, on one hand, Houthis seeked to unite all political factions in the country and on the other, they tried to establish relations with other countries to form a counterbalance to the government. According to the Wall Street Journal, after capturing Sana’a capital, Houthis fighters are trying to establish diplomatic relations with Iran, Russia and China to create a balance with president Mansur Hadi’s force backed by the West and Saudi Arabia.

Attempts of the involved parties show that Yemeni civil war will continue to be severe, complicated and unsolved. International opinions hold that in the present situation, involving parties should resort to a political solution for the conflict. Only by peaceful measures based on national reconciliation and that Yemeni internal affairs be decided by its people without outside intervention can peace come to this Middle East country.

Colonel, Assoc Prof, PhD Dong Xuan Tho

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