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Miliband and the Impossible Solution in Yemen

Miliband and the Impossible Solution in Yemen

Monday, 25 December, 2017 - 13:15
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.

Most recent fighting developments in Yemen have all been about battles among the rebels themselves. Houthis are racing to control their ally's camp, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, after they killed him.

After being relatively stable in areas under Houthis' control, human suffering worsened and recently, clashes expanded and the situation had aggravated.

The situation is also bad in other battlefields under Houthi control, a religiously and politically extremist group.

Former UK foreign secretary David Miliband wrote an article in the Washington Post about the human suffering in Yemen as a result of the ongoing the conflict. I agree with him that in wars, like Yemen's, civilians pay the heaviest price. However, I disagree with him that Houthis are a group which we can make concessions to without any future repercussions that we will all regret.

The rebels tried to control the main facilities, including airports, seaports and roads, and they used these facilities as a financial resource. Estimates are there are more than $5 billion goes to Houthis from taxing transit and the passage of individuals and goods, reselling those goods, and others sources.

Miliband suggested three steps which he considered necessary: Ending the coalition’s siege on ports, committing to a cease-fire even if unilateral (the coalition), given that Houthis would reject it; and starting a peaceful solution. These three suggestions actually mean handing over the ports to the Houthis and consolidating their power over the areas under their control, resulting in their victory.

The coalition may have to accept Miliband’s suggestions simply to avoid accusations, but it won't achieve the main goal of ending the human tragedy and delivering humanitarian and medical aid. Most sufferings are in the conflict areas, as well as rebels' areas, that is why most of aid supplies would be subject to the Houthis who use the control of supplies as one of their main weapons to control and impose their presence.

The second challenge, which is important for the coalition and Saudi Arabia in particular, is that if Miliband’s steps were to be accepted, who would guarantee that missiles would not be delivered to Houthis?

Who would hold Iran and Qatar - which finances the regional smuggling market, accountable or stop them from delivering missiles to Houthis? Would Saudi Arabia accept dozens of missiles be fired at its cities? Of course not, the ceasefire will therefore fail and war will erupt again. The tragedy will be greater if the Houthis' presence expanded due to the truce.

Miliband also discussed activating cargo inspection. An international inspection system, based in Djibouti, used to inspect the cargoes of ferries and ships before allowing them to sail to ports such as Hodeidah. It was later revealed that Iran was still capable of smuggling its illegal goods via the sea because of the weak inspection system. Tehran is aware that the international community is hesitatent in holding it accountable, which put the whole inspection system under questioning. So, what is Miliband's response to this dangerous deficiency?

Miliband had previously asked the coalition to allow Hodeidah port to be placed under international supervision, and it agreed to that. However, Houthis rejected the suggestion, and yet the coalition is to be for that. Miliband is now calling to submitting and handing the port's control to Houthis because he had failed in convincing the rebels.

Fully aware of its responsibility for the human tragedy, Saudi Arabia agreed. Riyadh even offered to donate four cranes to expedite the unloading and delivery process. Miliband says the procedures in the port take about 90 days!

The most important point is that the world is facing a tragedy in Yemen because it has failed to understand the nature of the conflict. The Houthis are not a rebellious movement that wants to defeat its rivals, as is the case in other conflicts. Houthis are just like al-Qaeda movement, an armed religious extremist group.

Just like the international community realized that confronting ISIS is the solution and expelling it from Mosul in Iraq is the solution, it must also comprehend that the same applies to the Houthis in Yemen. And just as the international coalition refused to negotiate with ISIS in Raqqa and expelled it from there and from other Syrian cities, instead of looking for a peaceful solution, the situation in Yemen is similar.

The truth is that there is no peaceful solution with the Houthis. Proof is that it made a deal with President Saleh's fighters because they are a political opposition group, but negotiations with Houthis failed because it is an expanding group that wants to impose its religious views. Houthis consider jihad as a purpose and is open about fighting outside Yemen as well.

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