Yemen PM to Asharq Al-Awsat: Peace Is Weakening, 30% of Budget Is Spent on Electricity

Yemen's Prime Minister Ahmad bin Mubarak during a meeting with officials at the Aden Oil Refinery Company in the interim capital, Aden. (Yemeni Prime Minister’s Office)
Yemen's Prime Minister Ahmad bin Mubarak during a meeting with officials at the Aden Oil Refinery Company in the interim capital, Aden. (Yemeni Prime Minister’s Office)
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Yemen PM to Asharq Al-Awsat: Peace Is Weakening, 30% of Budget Is Spent on Electricity

Yemen's Prime Minister Ahmad bin Mubarak during a meeting with officials at the Aden Oil Refinery Company in the interim capital, Aden. (Yemeni Prime Minister’s Office)
Yemen's Prime Minister Ahmad bin Mubarak during a meeting with officials at the Aden Oil Refinery Company in the interim capital, Aden. (Yemeni Prime Minister’s Office)

In 2015, the Iran-backed Houthi militias kidnapped the Secretary-General of Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC) not knowing he would soon rally Western powers and work to change their view of the Yemeni crisis.

This effort by the then NDC chief, now Yemeni prime minister, was part of a broader manifesto that includes transparency for Yemen’s domestic issues.

The Houthis are aware, however, that their recent attacks in the Red Sea, claimed to be in support of Gaza, have given a unique opportunity to the government headed by PM Dr. Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak.

These attacks have allowed his administration to leverage a situation that hasn’t been possible since the Yemeni crisis began with the coup on September 21, 2014.

Asharq Al-Awsat sat down for an interview with bin Mubark at the Yemeni Embassy in London. The meeting lasted over 20 minutes during which he detailed his government’s plans for both domestic and international policies.

He answered many questions about peace, recent political developments, his visit to the UK, the US response to Red Sea Houthi attacks, and the challenges of electricity, and public services.

Diminishing peace

Experts on the Yemeni crisis believe Houthi operations in the Red Sea have hurt peace prospects, despite the militias' claims that these actions are unrelated to peace efforts.

The UN said these operations have hindered the work of its special envoy, Hans Grundberg, who has faced indirect criticism from Yemen’s new foreign minister, Dr. Shae Al-Zandani.

Majed Al-Madhaji, head of the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies, highlighted several challenges for bin Mubarak’s government: political responses to Red Sea developments, potential Houthi military escalation, and the ongoing economic war.

Amid this, it was essential to ask bin Mubarak: Is peace still possible with Houthi escalation?

“For us, peace remains a strategic choice,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat. However, he noted that recent Houthi actions are reducing peace prospects.

“Their ideological stance outweighs the pragmatic benefits they could achieve by accepting proposed solutions,” explained bin Mubarak.

“The world is increasingly wary of the Houthis’ potential role in any future peace agreement,” said the prime minister.

He noted that “the international community is significantly concerned, especially due to the Houthis' capabilities and their close ties with Iran.” This relationship has complicated the peace process.

The prime minister emphasized the need to reconsider linking peace efforts with Red Sea operations.

When asked about Washington’s condition for the Houthis to stop their naval attacks to continue the peace process, bin Mubarak said: “The Yemeni government faces peace initiatives that often lead to more conflict and prolong the crisis.”

“In our discussions with the international community, we’ve always stressed – and you know the pressure we faced to go to Stockholm, where a peace agreement was announced but didn’t last hours – that in all new proposals, whether a truce or the current roadmap, it's crucial the international community supports a genuine peace plan,” he added.

“This plan should not hand Yemen over to the Houthis, who serve Iran’s agenda. This would be disastrous not only for Yemenis, who would reject them, but also for the region and the world,” he warned.

Bin Mubarak then asked: “Would the Houthis become a normal movement if they stopped their Red Sea operations today? Their actions in recent months have shown a clear ideological direction and strong ties to Iran’s agenda, posing a significant threat.”

“It’s less about how the US supports any future framework and more about ensuring support for what is sustainable. This approach helps Yemenis reach a framework where they can coexist and address their issues more effectively.”

Western shift in narrative

The narrative of the Yemeni war has changed significantly, stressed the premier.

“What we used to warn about is now being echoed by Western voices,” he elaborated.

“Previous claims that the Houthis could be brought to peace through economic incentives, that Iran’s influence on them is minimal, that they are just a domestic issue in Yemen, and that they pose no regional or direct threat to Western interests have all been debunked,” asserted bin Mubarak.

He believes this shift should lead to “a strategic change in how the Houthis are viewed—not just as a military or social faction, but as an ideological threat.”

“This ideology impacts not only Yemen but also the region and the world,” he cautioned.

First 100 days

Regarding his first 100 days in office, the PM said: “Certainly they have been tough, given the difficult circumstances. I came into office during a halt in oil exports, which cut off over 70% of the Yemeni government’s revenue.”

“This is a major part of the economic war, with blockades preventing goods from reaching government areas controlled by the Houthis, severely impacting government resources.”

“The halt in domestic gas exports from Marib and the ban on oil exports have intensified the economic pressure on the Yemeni government,” he elucidated.

The prime minister reflects on his first 100 days, acknowledging challenges amidst a backdrop of ongoing conflict.

“Despite some suggesting it is a peaceful phase, we’ve seen over 48 casualties in recent confrontations with the Houthis. Institutional building is also tough due to war conditions,” he revealed.

However, according to bin Mubarak, there have been notable strides.

“I’ve prioritized reform, transparency, and direct citizen engagement. We’ve optimized resource use, reformed key state institutions, and activated them in Aden,” he explained.

“Despite difficulties, we’ve reduced fuel expenditure by 35%-40% through transparent procedures. We’ve also focused on ministries directly impacting revenue generation and citizen service delivery,” said the PM.

Electricity woes

Power cuts have become a regular part of life rather than just a problem. Yemenis have to endure extreme heat or spoiled food due to lack of electricity, so it’s natural for them to complain.

“The energy sector has suffered for various reasons, even before the war. There hasn't been a strategic approach to this issue for a long time, and we’ve relied heavily on temporary fixes,” noted bin Mubarak.

The Yemeni government spends 30% of its resources on energy, with a huge chunk, 75%, going solely to fuel.

Under bin Mubarak’s leadership, the government is aiming to lower fuel prices directly.

“Our strategy first aims to stop excessive spending so we can save for the future,” he explained.

“For instance, we’ve slashed the price of fuel from $1,200 to $760 per ton, saving nearly half. Similar savings are expected in transporting crude oil to power stations, especially in Aden.”

“We're also pushing for a shift to cleaner energy sources like solar and wind power, working closely with partners like Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” revealed bin Mubarak.

According to the prime minister, fixing Yemen’s electricity sector will take time and significant investments, along with genuine partnerships with the private sector.

He stressed that private sector involvement depends on structural reforms, including legislative changes and improving distribution networks.

“We need to stop waste and losses due to weak networks and illegal tapping, and adjust tariffs while increasing collection rates. These are crucial steps for a better energy future,” he affirmed.



Hezbollah Fires New Barrage at Israel, Which Vows to Hit Back

Hezbollah members take part in a military exercise during a media tour organized for the occasion of Resistance and Liberation Day, in Aaramta, Lebanon, May 21, 2023. (Reuters)
Hezbollah members take part in a military exercise during a media tour organized for the occasion of Resistance and Liberation Day, in Aaramta, Lebanon, May 21, 2023. (Reuters)
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Hezbollah Fires New Barrage at Israel, Which Vows to Hit Back

Hezbollah members take part in a military exercise during a media tour organized for the occasion of Resistance and Liberation Day, in Aaramta, Lebanon, May 21, 2023. (Reuters)
Hezbollah members take part in a military exercise during a media tour organized for the occasion of Resistance and Liberation Day, in Aaramta, Lebanon, May 21, 2023. (Reuters)

Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group said it fired a new wave of rockets and drones at the Israeli army on Thursday, after an Israeli strike killed one of its senior commanders, AFP reported.
It was Hezbollah’s largest simultaneous attack in near-daily cross-border fire between it and the Israeli army since its ally Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel triggered the Gaza war.
Hezbollah fighters launched “an attack with rockets and drones, targeting six barracks and military sites” while simultaneously flying “squadrons of explosive-laden drones” at three other Israeli bases, the group said in a statement.
One of the targets included an Israeli base that Hezbollah said housed an intelligence headquarters “responsible for the assassinations.”
Hezbollah said the attacks were “part of the response to the assassination” of Hezbollah commander Taleb Abdallah on Tuesday.
The Israeli army said about “40 projectiles were launched toward the Galilee and Golan Heights area,” adding most were intercepted while others ignited fires.
The Israeli government vowed to respond strongly to all Hezbollah attacks.
“Israel will respond with force to all aggressions by Hezbollah,” government spokesman David Mencer said during a press briefing.
“Whether through diplomatic efforts or otherwise, Israel will restore security on our northern border,” he added.
In recent weeks, cross-border exchanges have escalated, with Hezbollah stepping up its use of drones to attack Israeli military positions and Israel hitting back with targeted strikes against the militants.
On Wednesday, top Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine vowed the group would “increase the intensity, strength, quantity and quality of our attacks,” while speaking at Abdallah’s funeral.
The Israeli army confirmed it carried out the strike that “eliminated” Abdallah on Tuesday, describing him as “one of Hezbollah’s most senior commanders in southern Lebanon.”
A Lebanese military source said he was the “most important” Hezbollah commander to have been killed since the start of the war.
The cross-border violence has killed at least 468 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also including 89 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli authorities say at least 15 Israeli soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed.