Saleh's Houthi Trojan Horse

Now is the time to set a clear vision and establish a workable strategy about how to resolve the conflict in Yemen.

by &
    Saleh's Houthi Trojan Horse
    The political impasse represented by previous talks suggests only military options are currently available, write Alazzany and Sharp [AP]

    Recapturing Aden and beating the Houthis in southern Yemen is a strategic inflection point.

    Hope is being restored to the people. The airport is open and aid ships are arriving .

    Exiled Prime Minister Khaled Bahah's visit to Aden and the retaking of al-Anad, the largest Yemeni army base by the resistance movement make the future look a little less bleak.

    Sound progress has also been made by resistance movements composed largely of previous military and tribal men loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, partisans, and public volunteers against the Houthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh elements in Taiz and Mareb.

    RELATED: Exiled Yemeni PM visits Aden after its recapture

    In Taiz, western parts of the city have been restored and the Houthis have been chased from a significant military site at Sabir Mountain. But these victories have actually made the possibility of reaching any settlement through peaceful means verging on implausible.

    No alternative to violence

    People are getting used to violence in Yemen - it has become the norm. Fighting elements consider violent action as the only way to get what they want.

    Many observers believe the situation in Yemen cannot be resolved through negotiation.

    The Houthis and Saleh groups reached a point where force and violence became the only way forward and aim to impose what is called "de facto authority".

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    It coerces others into accepting their rule and submitting to their will.

    Gulf countries who engaged in brokering peace talks between the warring parties since the beginning of the conflict realised that they needed military action to protect and defend Hadi's government.

    The conflict has therefore taken a new path - one of no return.

    Yemenis have been in a nearly perpetual state of dialogue of one form or another since 2011, including the National Dialogue Conference which many believe to be the catalyst of the current conflict.

    Destroyed optimism

    The conference ended largely unsuccessfully despite the unprecedented opportunities presented by the dialogue - opportunities which included a road map to a constitution, referendum, and presidential and parliamentary elections.

    All the hard work, optimism, and achievements of these talks were destroyed with the collapse of dialogue channels. Equally, and some may argue more importantly, Yemen's credibility was washed away as a regional model of transformational post-Arab Spring success.

    In the meantime, Saleh got involved in the National Dialogue while continuing to build a strong alliance with the Houthis. 

    Although regaining Aden was a success, the abolition of the Houthis and Saleh supporters in northern regions like Sadah and Amran may come at a very high cost.


    They engaged in an "alliance of need" to achieve certain goals.

    Saleh saw that the Houthis offered him an opportunity to go against the revolutionary forces that toppled him, particularly the Islah Party.

    Houthis as 'Trojan Horse'?

    Saleh may have believed that he could use the Houthis as a "Trojan Horse" to restore his power: neighbours and international powers would associate the Houthis with Iran and hopefully crave the good old days of the Saleh dynasty.

    The Houthis, in return, felt they could use Saleh's loyal network, and could employ the use of excessive force to control the whole country. 

    Ultimately, they worked together to militarise Yemen and prolong the conflict - which prevented many parties from returning to the negotiating table. 

    The Geneva talks in June represented another opportunity for reconciliation.

    A settlement could have been reached, but the Houthis and Saleh allowed the cycle of violence to turn full circle one more time as they pursued their self-serving objectives.

    Their enthusiasm for the Geneva talks was simply a bluff: They hoped their attendance would stop the air strikes and attacks against their strongholds and act to distract the international community from their past atrocities; it did not.

    Yemen's only hope for a future

    Many observers believe that any solution in Yemen must be homegrown - otherwise it will have no future.

    But the Houthis and Saleh have broken all the rules: turning their backs on negotiations and offers of ceasefire, and putting President Hadi under house arrest. Hadi escaped and went into self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia.

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    Only unification will ensure Yemen's survival in the next stage of state development.

    At the start of this conflict, Yemen was too weak - economically and politically - to prevent the current conflict, and Hadi was left to try to control the unrest within the country more or less alone.

    The only option he had was to turn to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states for help.

    With the help of the Arab coalition and its strikes on the Houthis and Saleh's supporting forces, Hadi may be feeling emboldened and confident.

    Victory at a high cost

    Hadi may even begin to feel at ease knowing that Aden has been liberated and seeing that the al-Anad base has been taken back.

    But he would be wise not to forget how complex and serious this conflict truly is.

    Although regaining Aden was a success, the abolition of the Houthis and Saleh supporters in northern regions like Sadah and Amran may come at a very high cost.

    RELATED: Yemen's media in transition

    Now is the time for the Arab collation, the United Nations, and the international community to set a clear vision and establish a workable strategy about how to resolve the conflict.

    The political impasse represented by previous talks suggests only military options are currently available.

    Simply put, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the international community must take this opportunity to press forward - as they have done in Aden - and force Houthi and Saleh forces throughout Yemen into attrition and an unconditional surrender.

    This will cost the people of Yemen dearly, but it will pave the way towards a future in which this nation can truly develop with the support of international partners.

    Murad Alazzany is an associate professor at Sanaa University, Yemen.

    Robert Sharp is an associate professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies (NESA), US.

    The views expressed in this article are the authors' own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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