- Pakistan can play a key role in ending the conflict
By: Shahryar Khan Baseer
The war in Yemen has been going on for three years now. Thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed while millions have been displaced from their homes. The Yemen war has pulled in many nations into the conflict, but essentially it is a Saudi Arabia versus Iran clash. The Saudis are backing the Yemeni government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, elected in 2012, while the Iranians are backing the Houthi Rebel forces of Yemen.
The Yemeni Houthis may seem like an impoverished and weak army, but they fight with such intensity and fury that the Saudi coalition forces can never match them. Add new weapons and ammunition, smuggled from Iran, and the Houthis becomes an even dangerous force that can never be tamed in Yemen.
Pakistan can also propose the extension of CPEC to Oman and Yemen, with connections to Iran and Saudi Arabia. The route will consist of road, rail and pipeline connections. From Yemen the route can be extended to Africa via Djibouti. This would connect CPEC to Africa, while African trade would easily move through Yemen’s new ports and rail
The Yemeni Houthis along with support from local Yemenis oppose Saudi Arabia with an intense anger, which has been boiling for almost 100 years. In 1932 when Ibn Saud created the new state of Saudi Arabia, the borders of this new country remained unmapped, unmarked and un-demarcated. At that time there were many small tribal Yemeni states between Saudi Arabia and Coastal Yemen. Saudi Arabia were influencing these small tribal states and convincing them to join Saudi Arabia or annexing them to it, while at that time the Imam of Yemen also raised objections to losing Yemeni states to Saudi Arabia.
This annexation of tribal Yemeni areas by Saudi Arabia resulted in the first war, in November 1933, when the Yemenis advanced on Najran. The Saudis were better equipped and eventually won the war. In June 1934 a Peace treaty was signed, whereby Jizin/Jizan, Asir and Najran areas of Yemen were annexed by Saudi Arabia and the remaining areas were returned. But every Yemeni leader after 1934 has rejected the annexation of their land under the Peace treaty.
The latest surveys has found that these three regions, Jizin, Asir and Najran, have very high oil and gas reserves. Yemeni people know that and they think that Saudi Arabia is taking away their oil resources that can help the impoverished nation of 26 million become a developed nation. Under some estimates Yemen can become a major oil producer and has 30 percent of the world’s oil reserves, including the disputed region.
From 2004 till 2010 internal conflict between President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s Yemeni Army and the Houthis started a new conflict in Yemen that eventually resulted in massive demonstrations in 2011 also called the “Arab Spring”. Alarmed by the unrest, the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forced Mr Saleh to resign and there are also reports that he signed a new agreement with Saudi Arabia for forfeit of disputed lands to it. In Yemen people say that Saleh was paid $18 million for this deal.
Saleh’s departure did not appease the people of Yemen and the conflict intensified until Saudi Arabia entered the war with a coalition force to fight against the Houthis who were accused of harboring terrorists like Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
But the three year conflict has resulted in a stalemate with neither side being victorious. While the nations of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Yemen suffered, the developed nations’ selling weapons, equipment and buying cheap smuggled oil benefitted substantially from the Yemen war. The UAE sees that and has retreated from the Yemen War, while Saudi Arabia and Iran are also realizing this fact.
Pakistan can use this opportunity to create a peace deal for Yemen. Pakistan is friends with Iran and Saudi Arabia, while Pakistan was not a participant in the Yemen War. Therefore Pakistan can propose a peace deal that ensures Yemen’s development and increased trade between the three nations to reduce future conflicts.
Pakistan can propose joint ownership in the disputed Yemeni regions, where Yemeni citizens can enter freely with all rights, but the area is governed, developed and secured by Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia to develop homes, utilities and oil processing factories in the disputed regions where 50 percent of homes and jobs will be given to Yemeni citizens. The cities will be connected to port cities by rail. Iran will be asked to develop ports and port cities for oil and goods transport.
Pakistan can also propose the extension of CPEC to Oman and Yemen, with connections to Iran and Saudi Arabia. The route will consist of road, rail and pipeline connections. From Yemen the route can be extended to Africa via Djibouti. This would connect CPEC to Africa, while African trade would easily move through Yemen’s new ports and rail.
Also on humanitarian grounds or as ‘blood money’, UAE and Saudi Arabia should provide free medicines and education to Yemen for at least five years. While the GCC, Saudi Arabia and other coalition partners can help rebuild Yemen. Yemen’s government should only allow those nations to develop their oil and gas resources that help in the rebuilding of cities in Yemen. Such a peace proposal will not only ensure peace through trade, but will also help many Muslims in many countries and end the ‘Muslim War’ in Yemen.