Can Yemen’s Fragile Ceasefire Hold?

Developing Just Leadership

Kevin Barrett

Ramadan 30, 1443 2022-05-01

News & Analysis

by Kevin Barrett (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 3, Ramadan, 1443)

On April 2, a United Nations-brokered two-month truce between Yemen and its NATO-backed Gulf Arab adversaries went into effect. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the agreement a first step toward ending the seven-year-long war. But a series of ceasefire violations by the Saudis, coupled with the April 7 ousting of Saudi-backed figurehead Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in favor of a Saudi-controlled “Presidential Leadership Council,” suggests that the Gulf Arab despots are not yet serious about exiting the Yemeni quagmire.

The Saudis fired Hadi despite the fact that the Gulf Arab rationale for their war on Yemen, as expressed in UN Security Council Resolution 2216, has the UN “Reaffirming its support for the legitimacy of the President of Yemen Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi.” So even according to the UNSC resolution pushed through by the Saudis and their powerful western friends, the war on Yemen no longer has any legitimacy. Indeed, the new Saudi-run Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) does not even pretend to be anything other than a Saudi catspaw. The Saudis emphasized who was really in charge by handing the PLC a $3 billion first paycheck immediately after Hadi was forced out.

The problem for the Saudis is that neither Hadi nor the PLC has ever had any meaningful base of support inside Yemen. All of the Saudi-supported “leaders” are little more than puppets. And most Yemenis do not want to be ruled by foreign puppets—especially when the puppeteers have killed more than 375,000 Yemenis in their war of terror against the civilian population.

Indeed, the Saudi-Emirati war on Yemen amounts to a gigantic ongoing war crime. The Saudi-led “coalition” bombings (unlike Russian strikes in Ukraine) have deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure to deprive Yemenis of access to food, water, power, health care, and other necessities of life. Only around one-third of the 27,000 Saudi bombing raids on Yemen have even attempted to target military facilities, according to the Yemen Data Project. The other two thirds have deliberately targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure: “Non-military targets include airports, telecommunication towers, agricultural and food-processing plants, electrical infrastructure, water treatment facilities, and residential areas. The systematic targeting of civilian infrastructure necessary for basic survival have made food, electricity, clean water, and healthcare increasingly difficult to access. Hunger and disease are rampant.”

While pulverizing Yemeni civilians and infrastructure from a safe altitude of 50,000 feet, the Saudis have blockaded Yemen’s main port, Hodeidah, curtailing the import of food, fuel, and medicine. Before the war, more than 500,000 metric tons of fuel entered Yemen through Hodeidah every month. The Saudis shut it down—then under international pressure decided to allow a maximum of 45,000 tons of fuel per month, less than one-tenth of the pre-war total. Former CIA presidential advisor Bruce Riedal says the Saudi blockade is “directly responsible for the massive humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen especially the malnutrition of children” and has called for war crimes prosecutions.

While the Saudis terrorize Yemeni civilians, Yemen’s Ansarullah forces have chalked up an impressive series of military victories. Saudi mercenaries have barely been able to hold on to key sections of the strategic city of Ma‘rib, and have been pushed back on all other fronts.

Will the Saudis and their new figurehead, PLC chairman Rashid al-Alimi, abide by the terms of the two-month ceasefire and let it blossom into permanent peace? Alas, it seems the answer is no. Though the UN-brokered truce is supposed to end the Saudi blockade of Yemen, the Saudis have continued to block ships from entering Hodeidah and to obstruct flights to and from Sanaa Airport.

If the Saudis continue to flout their commitments under the two-month truce, which expires at the end of May, and the war flares up again, they are unlikely to turn things around on the battlefield. Even western media outlets admit that Ansarullah forces have gained the upper hand. The New York Times recently reported that that Ansarullah has gained the “ability to subvert their wealthy neighbors’ defenses with relatively cheap weapons. And many of those weapons are now built in Yemen...” The Times article quotes Abdulghani Al-Iryani of the Sana‘a Center for Strategic Studies: “What we are seeing in Yemen is technology being the great equalizer. ‘Your F-15 that costs millions of dollars means nothing because I have my drone that cost a few thousand dollars that will do just as much damage.’”

The Times marvels at Ansarullah’s homemade arsenal:

“Their weapons now include cruise and ballistic missiles, some of which can fly more than 700 miles...They have deployed pilotless kamikaze boats to strike ships in the Arabian Sea and have an array of drones that carry explosive charges and can fly as far as 1,300 miles...defending against incoming fire is hugely expensive. A missile for a Patriot defense system, for example, could cost $1 million...while Houthi drones and missiles are estimated to cost $1,500 to $10,000.”

During the months leading up to the truce, Ansarullah forces successfully struck oil installations in Abu Dhabi and Jeddah along with many other strategic targets. And while they were taking the war to the aggressor’s territory, the Yemenis succeeded in establishing control of most of the northern part of the country where more than two-thirds of the country’s population lives.

So why have the Gulf despots and their western backers been reluctant to admit defeat? One reason is Yemen’s immense strategic significance. It dominates the Bab al-Mandab strait controlling access to the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, and the Mediterranean, and shares a 1300-km border with key oil producer Saudi Arabia.

Another, less-obvious reason is that Ansarullah is not just a local liberation movement. Their slogan “Death to America. Death to Israel. Curse on the zionists. Victory for Islam” exemplifies the Yemeni commitment to think globally while acting locally. A key node in the Axis of Resistance to Zionism and imperialism, Ansarullah is setting an example for other oppressed and colonized people of the region and indeed the world. Coming to terms with Ansarullah’s victory will force the Gulf despots and their western and zionist friends to dial down their arrogance at least a couple of notches.

Obviously, the Saudis and Emiratis would be well-advised to cut their losses and withdraw. Currently both countries are staking out a more independent position vis-a-vis their American backers, going so far as to refuse to accept Joe Biden’s phone calls while defying American orders to ramp up oil production in service to NATO’s war on Russia. Could such independent thinking carry over to the Yemen issue?

Clearly the Americans are not going to be running the region forever. The current two-month truce would be a good time for the Gulf oil sheikhs to reassess their position and start coming to terms with an impending post-American Muslim East. The sheikhs should be working towards establishing cordial relations with their more independent neighbors, including Ansarullah-led Yemen. The best way to do that would be to comply with the truce’s provisions and completely end the blockade, renounce the war, apologize for past war crimes, and atone by providing humanitarian aid.

By charting such a course, the Gulf sheikhs might survive in an ever-more-independent region. If they continue to fight the imperialists’ wars even as those imperialists withdraw, the Arab oil royals will be digging their own graves.

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