Continuing the proxy war in Yemen | Pakistan Today

Continuing the proxy war in Yemen

  • Saudi Arab’s opposition to Houthis

Yemen is the battleground for Saudi Arab and Iran each wanting to establish the supremacy of their sect of Islam supported by other nations — US for one targeting the al Qaeda in Yemen

Can the Security Council rise to the occasion and focus on conflict prevention and not the out dated methodology being followed? The Security Council must look at the goal of world peace and not of appeasing certain members

Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi was handed over reins of the Yemeni government by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been in the driving seat for years, in 2011. The transition was in line with the Arab Spring, aimed to remove long ruling rulers in Middle East. The effort to reform under Hadi was slow and in many cases not apparent owing to multifaceted issues the government faced; these included attacks by al Qaeda, a divided military, rise of separatism in the southern sector, lack of basic amenities, poor employment opportunities and acute corruption.

The Houthis’ rise in this backdrop, fighting for the cause of Shia minority, was not unexpected. Saada province on the north fell to them due to a weak government. The absence of promised reforms has led to non-Shia Yeminis too joining up with the Houthis.

The Houthis had later put Hadi under house arrest. Hadi arranged for his escape via boat to Riyadh. With this, Saudi Arab started a massive bombing of Yemen to support Hadi and his government. In September 2015, with Hadi’s return to Aden, the supporting forces with Saudi Arab recaptured Aden. The Houthis are ostensibly supported by Iran.

Yemen is the battleground for Saudi Arab and Iran each wanting to establish the supremacy of their sect of Islam supported by other nations — US for one targeting the al Qaeda in Yemen. US is using Yemen as a base to counter Iran. The rise however of the secessionist movement in south is not supportive towards US efforts at legitimising the government of her choice.

Both Saudi Arab and Iran are using the Middle East as their game field to exercise their supremacy over the other. Other nations in different game fields are getting involved supporting sides suiting their political interests in that particular battle field. US in particular has played a consistent role in these proxy wars.

The first proxy war between Saudi Arab and Iran dates back to 1980 when Iraq invaded Iran. The war continued for eight year costing roughly one million lives, drawing US in the vortex in greed of having access to the huge oil and gas reserves of both. The invasion was viewed by Iran as a power game by Saudi Arab and led to insecurity within Iran, which was to be expected.

The fundamental question that arises here is the right of any nation to endanger the security of the world by using other nations as battlefields and in turn spreading hate. It also raises a question as to if other nations should be allowed to become a party to the conflict to serve their own vested interests. Unfortunately, the growth and laying down international laws governing conflicts and violation of human rights have not shaped up in line with the increasing danger faced by the world.

The Security Council of the UN has diverted and ended numerous conflicts. In Yemen conflict the Security Council had demanded end to it by adopting Resolution 2216 in 2016. The Russian Federation had abstained. Ban was imposed on travel of Abdulmalik al-Houthi and freezing assets, arms embargo and imposing sanctions and Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, son of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, had not resulted in the desired results. The hostilities have continued. Recently, Saudi Arab destroyed a ballistic missile north-east of the capital Riyadh from Yemen. “Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed they had fired the missile, targeting the airport, the Houthi Al-Masirah television said.” (The Guardian, November 4, 2017)

Yemen is in dire need of food, the UN has issued a warning of an impending famine if access to humanitarian workers was denied.

What then is the value of the resolution of the Security Council in practical terms? The Security Council has worked more as firefighters, sometimes succeeding, more often failing, rather than focusing on prevention of conflicts from taking place as a priority. Writing papers on conflict prevention may be easier than its implementation taking cognizance of different regions, possible conflicts between main players and the meddling of supporting actors. The approach of the Security Council is not only restrictive and narrow; the implementation too of any resolution approved leaves much to be desired. Different stages of conflict prevention need different strategies to marginalise the escalation of conflicts into violent forms of military intervention, genocide, human right violations so on and so forth. Concrete, cut out strategies for conflict prevention and the subsequent implementation and not just conflict handling is the need of the day.

One needs to take note of not just clear confrontational conflicts between nations but also killings of individuals in the backdrop of these proxy wars and their extension that set back relationships between nations. Dr James M. Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture in his piece, “Murder in The Hague– Saudi-Iranian proxy war heats up,” suggests the murder of Ahmad Mola Nissi, in the street of Hague might well be the “possible retching up of the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran as well as a step towards Saudi-US-efforts to destabilise Iran by stirring unrest among its ethnic minorities.” (November 10, 2017)

Can the Security Council rise to the occasion and focus on conflict prevention and not the out dated methodology being followed? The Security Council must look at the goal of world peace and not of appeasing certain members.

End Note: I would like to draw your attention to one absolutely key aspect: “In line with international law, only the UN Security Council can sanction the use of force against a sovereign state. Any other pretext or method which might be used to justify the use of force against an independent sovereign state is inadmissible and can only be interpreted as an aggression.” (Vladimir Putin)

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: [email protected] and tweets at @yasmeen_9.



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