Yemen’s partition being sold as road to peace

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Catherine Shakdam

Sha'ban 25, 1437 2016-06-01


by Catherine Shakdam (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 4, Sha'ban, 1437)

After more than a year of relentless bombing, the Najdi Bedouins have failed to achieve any of their objectives in Yemen. Now Yemen’s partition is being touted as a solution to its problem!

Under the unforgiving sun of Southern Arabia, Yemen has been earmarked for much more than just political annihilation. As the people of Yemen continue to face Saudi guns, bombs and missiles, Western powers have devised the territorial fragmentation of Yemen.

What was once whole now needs to be divided for the sake of peace, the world is being told! As of last month, this is the narrative US officials have projected– whether during TV debates or so-called peace talks. Politicians are pushing for the balkanization of Yemen because the Najdi Bedouins’ bombing campaign has not achieved the desired result: to reinstall the fugitive ex-president ‘Abdu Rabb Mansour Hadi. No one, however, has bothered to explain how balkanization would usher peace. If Washington has become a grand master of propaganda, it has yet to hone its ability to demonstrate the rationale by providing evidence based on reality.

Yemen, a sovereign country, need not be balkanized to restore peace in the region. For peace to be restored Saudi Arabia only has to pull back its allies, leash its dogs of war and the mercenaries it finances. For stability to return, Riyadh only needs to silence its canons and disperse the terrorists. Territorial fragmentation will not only weaken Yemen but also destabilize the region. Destroying Yemen’s sovereignty of course is what Saudi Arabia, and its Western patsies are after. The well-being and future of Yemen do not exactly measure up before empire’s ambitions.

As of now Western logic holds that Yemen needs a new institutional and political format to resolve its many crises, and tame its inner divisions. Of course no one is mentioning the fact that Yemen was thrown in the fire of war, courtesy of Saudi Arabia. If Yemen has been plagued by instability it is because Riyadh has played kingmaker and indulged in asymmetrical warfare.

It must be stated that Western officials and Saudi proxies have spoken about secession in Yemen long before it descended into chaos, thus pointing to a carefully sought-after design, rather than the result of ground realities. It can in fact be argued that the war on Yemen was declared so that its territorial integrity could be eroded, and its sovereignty challenged in the most violent way.

It all began in 2011 in the wake of the numerous uprisings that engulfed the Muslim East region when experts began theorizing about Yemen’s federalism, presenting the north-south divide as the only pragmatic solution to its regional quarrel. Yemen’s unification, it must be stated, was always seen as a political abnormality — an exercise doomed to fail. In a research paper for the Middle East Journal, Charles Dunbar, the US Ambassador to Yemen from 1988–1991, wrote, “The successful drive of the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) to unify in the Spring of 1990 took observers both near and far by surprise… During the course of this author’s introductory calls as ambassador to Sana‘a in the Summer of 1988, two leading Yemeni officials predicted, that while there could be a détente between north and south, real unity was at least 50 years away.”

This “surprise” that Ambassador Dunbar referred to might have been more deeply rooted than most experts anticipated, at least from the Saudi perspective. From Riyadh’s point of view, a strong united Yemen presents a threat to Saudi Arabia’s hegemony in the region. And while the royals of Bani Saud may have been comfortable playing covert politics for a while, the Yemenis’ desire to rid themselves of foreign patronage and religious indoctrination prompted calls for their immediate cutting down to size.

During the 2013–2014 National Dialogue Conference, then President ‘Abdu Rabb Mansour Hadi pushed through a contentious proposal for a six-region federal arrangement in Yemen. As a governing model, federalism has become a popular tool for policymakers working on peace-building processes in post-conflict states because it ostensibly provides a voice for all parties to the conflict and can promote more accountable and inclusive governance. However, federalism is also a complex process fraught with difficulty, and one that is often extremely politicised.

Federalism in Yemen’s context has to be understood as a euphemism for fragmentation. In a report for Saferworld in 2015, Peter Salisbury argued that the focus on federalism as a solution to Yemen’s many problems was emblematic of the wasted opportunity of its transitional period. “Diplomats, foreign advisers and Yemeni politicians devoted more energy to selling utopian long-term solutions than to addressing a deteriorating political, economic, security, and humanitarian environment,” he explained. “Unless future administrations prioritise much-needed basic services for the entire population, no governance model can provide a peaceful future for the country. Failure to address these concerns will continue to lead those disillusioned with the transitional process to give up on the state and turn to non-state actors,” he stressed. In other words, Yemen’s problems have nothing to do with its territorial setup!

Still we have been told that only secession will usher peace. This is an interesting theory given that southern Yemen lies under de facto control of al-Qaeda terrorists. Is Riyadh actively pursuing the creation of the first terror state?

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