Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
/// SD ANALYSIS – Yemen : A New Corridor of Control


Yemen has become “new corridor of control” in the
region which has significant repercussions in terms of energy & food
security, socio-economic prosperity, geopolitical supremacy and of course
geostrategic comparative advantage. Conflicting realities has widened human miseries
due to which it has become one of the biggest humanitarian crisis in the
region.


Backdoor diplomacy has somehow, halted ongoing proxy
war in Yemen and after eight days of negotiations the agreement among Yemen’s
warring parties on a ceasefire in the vital port city of “Hodeidah” has been
inked. It is indeed the biggest
breakthrough
of diplomacy over destruction in which more than 10,000 lives
have been consumed since 2015. UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths,
promised that “tangible agreements will be announced by the end of this round”.
In an unprecedented confidence-building measure Yemen’s government and the
Iran-backed Houthi rebels have agreed to swap thousands of prisoners. It is a
giant step toward achieving durable peace. It is called “Hodeidah agreement”
which holds greater significance.


According to which all the warring parties will
withdraw from the “harbor” and “city”, leaving local forces to maintain
security, which the Saudi-led coalition has demanded for more than a year. It
is hoped that the UN attempts to secure a peaceful solution will help
facilitate the flow of food and aid to civilians in the city and far beyond.
Yemeni conflict has killed an estimated 80,000 children due to sever
starvation.  


Saudi Arabia and UAE have been striving hard to
achieve a “political solution” for Yemen and its struggling people. The “forces
of evil” and “followers of darkness” have been assisting rebels toppling the
legitimate government in Yemen. It has been confirmed in various reports of
international organizations and regulators that “Iran” has been trying its best
through secretive ways and means to establish a new corridor of control in
Yemen for protecting its own vested interests. Its “greater plan” has been a
rigorous “Lebanonization” and annexation predatory on the name of ethnicity,
difference of faith and association. Military training, supply of arms,
infiltration of wandering souls (jihadi groups) polluted by magicians of
hatred, bigotry and enemies of humanity, has spoiled the basic fabric of Yemeni
government and society alike. Houthis and its master captured Saada, Hajja,
Amran, Al-Mahwit, Sana, Ibb, and Al-Jawf. The key port is now controlled by
Iran’s allies, the Houthi rebels, who seized Yemen’s capital Sanaa and huge
swathes of the country.


In wild chase for “Iranian dominance” weaker factions
of the society comprising of children and women have been primarily targeted
and misused for marital goals. In the recent past, many international
humanitarian commissions warned Houthis and other rebels for creating havocs in
the daily lives of common people.   


Despite, Saudi Arabia and UAE diplomatic efforts and
numerous concessions the other side backed by Iran badly indulged in building
obstacles to peace. However, the next round of negotiations will be held in
late January 2019.        


UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar
Gargash, said on Twitter, this diplomatic leap was facilitated by a campaign of
sustained military pressure on Hodeidah. There is still work to be done to
usher in a lasting political solution. A coalition assembled by Saudi Arabia
launched an air campaign against the rebels in March 2015 to try to restore the
internationally recognised government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Hadi’s government was toppled by Houthi rebels in late 2014 after the rebels
stormed south from their stronghold of Saada, and captured large parts of the
north. Since then, more than 10,000 people have been killed in fighting,
millions have been forced from their homes and the impoverished country has
been pushed to the brink of famine.


Hodeida is also the main entry point for food, fuel
and goods in an import-dependent country where UNICEF says more than 2 million
children are suffering acute malnutrition. Key coalition member the United Arab
Emirates said it was pausing the operation to allow for UN-led peace efforts.


A UN Panel of Experts report (2018) released to the
Security Council in February 2018 but not made public confirmed Saudi Arabia’s
concerns towards “Iranian Connection” in the Yemeni war. Iranian designed and
manufactured “Qiam-1 missile” was operationalized and channelized   in
Yemen. The Iranians have been sending/smuggling weapons into Yemen, they are
not sending a giant missile, and they are sending parts that make a missile go
further. Furthermore, attacks of ballistic missiles targeting the kingdom have
had not stopped.


Concrete evidence of the Iranian “Revolutionary
Guards”, “Hussein Brigades” “Quds force”, and “Lebanese Hezbollah” has been
assisting Houthis. Saudi Arabia’s biggest concern is that the Shiite rebels on
their southern border will develop “military capabilities” on par with
“Hezbollah” in Lebanon. Moreover, Iran controlling Yemen via its Houthi Rebel
could deny access to the “Red Sea” and the “Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)”
simultaneously, cutting off Saudi Arabia’s main avenues for “energy exports”
and causing trouble for global economy and business activities. Geographically,
the “Gulf of Aden” and the southeast portion of the Red Sea are bisected by a
relatively tiny waterway, just 12 miles wide, with Yemen on one side and Djibouti and
Eritrea on the other. This relatively tight channel is known as the “Mandeb
Strait”.


According to international reports (2018)
currently, five
percent of the world’s entire oil supplies move through 
the Red Sea,
with an estimated 2.1
million barrels a day transiting through the Mandeb Strait alone
, and close
to 4 million barrels a day transits the Suez Canal. If the southern Red Sea and
or the Gulf of Aden were mined or if vessels were put under threat of airborne,
surface or subsurface attack, this nexus between the eastern world and the
western world would close. Ships would not be able to reach the Suez Canal to
enter the Mediterranean and onward into the Atlantic and ships traveling from
Europe or the US would not be able to enter the Red Sea and continue on to
Asia. Instead they would have to take the long and arduous southern route
around the tip of Africa, which is pretty much the mother of all detours. So,
concerns of Saudi Arabia are real and genuine.


Saudi Arabia fears that “Houthi Rebels” consolidation
and “territorial gains” in Western Yemen could help Iran to step in and begin
to build up its proxy with similar weapons and tactics as it uses in the
Persian Gulf. The impact of Iran controlling the region’s two major logistical
choke points, and the region’s two primary avenues for which oil exports
travel, especially those from Saudi Arabia, has wide ranging consequences for
players in the region and beyond.


After the 2011 Arab Spring, sectarian discourse has
become more heated, reorganizing Yemeni society along sectarian lines and
rearranging people’s relationships to one another on a non-nationalist basis.
Now Yemen has become “jungle of sectarian polarization” that plagues the
region, from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon. Now doves of peace as supported by
Saudi-UAE coalition once again are flying high. Energy security looms large
which also reflects in ongoing regional rivalry in the GCC and MENA. Ongoing
war in Yemen is impacting the international oil markets which need to be
rectified as soon as possible. Political solution is the way forward.
Diplomacy, dialogue and development must be mantra of every warring party in
Yemen for achieving sustainable peace.


Yemen’s unimaginable suffering is weighing on the
world’s conscience. Humanity has been sieged and caged by Houthi Rebels and its
manipulators (Iran) in Yemen for so many years. Children have been used as
“soldiers” and women have been misused for possible shields. Food shortage has
produced famine. Al-Qaeda and jihadi groups are making their inroads in
different parts of Yemen which has sparked regional security. Energy hubs and
maritime infrastructures are also under serious threat of total devastation and
destruction.       


Yemen, one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, has
been initially devastated by a civil war and afterwards, a deadly proxy war.
The US head of the World Food Program (November 2018), 14 million Yemenis are
on the verge of starvation. Emboldened by its advances in Lebanon, Syria and
elsewhere, and encouraged by Obama-era “rebalancing,” Iran smelled an
opportunity. It hooked up with the Houthis. Armed, trained and backed by Iran’s
Revolutionary Guards, the Houthis captured Sana’a and some of Yemen’s top
strategic sites.


Saudis and UAE has had legitimate reasons to intervene
in Yemen. A Houthi victory (backed by Iran) there places a militant Iran proxy
at their borders. The Houthis periodically fire Iranian-made missiles at them.
Access to nearby ports and waterways is threatened by both the states. Iran, is
increasing its military support in Yemen, is tightening its grip in the
neighborhood which turns to be a recipe for endless regional instability.


Iranian operatives are now successfully helping Houthi
rebels control cyberspace in Yemen’s brutal civil
war, allowing the militia to command the country’s main internet service
provider, censor online comment, alter government websites and make money from
crypto-currencies.


Nevertheless, a freshly UN-led brokered cease-fire is
something to cheer. But only sustained pressure will get Iran to end their
proxy war.