Yemenis are growing increasingly frustrated and exasperated with the prolongation of their country’s conflict and the Iran-backed Houthi militias’ ongoing coup against the legitimate authorities.
The conflict has entered its fourth year with political efforts to resolve it stumbling at the Houthis’ rejection of a solution and their insistence on alone ruling Yemen to fulfill Iran’s expansionist ambitions.
The legitimate authorities, meanwhile, are fragmented and divided and have been unable throughout the years to achieve military victory despite the unlimited support offered to it by the Saudi-led Arab coalition on all levels.
The stalemate is deepening the suffering of some 30 million Yemenis, who are mired in poverty, lack basic services and have to content with Houthi oppression.
Several officials urged through Asharq Al-Awsat the need to speed up efforts to overcome the stalemate. They called for ending the division within the national front that is opposed to the coup, underscoring the need for political and military reform to enable the legitimate powers to achieve a decisive victory and reclaim the country from the militias.
Opportunistic political powers
Yemeni journalist Waddah Al-Jaleel blamed the frequent setbacks in the country on the state of fragmentation and division within the national front.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, he slammed the political powers as “opportunistic,” saying they are competing with each other over “narrow interests” and “hording gains.”
These powers are a product of “long decades of tutelage, marginalization, ideological struggle and years of pent-up frustration against each other,” he explained. “They have reached such a point that they can no longer set aside their grudges and work within a united front to confront the fateful challenges posed by the Houthis.”
These political powers have “obstructed society’s ability to produce groups and formations that can wage crucial battles. On the one hand, society has fallen in the trap of the stagnation of these forces in performing their duties. On the other, large segments of the youth belong to these forces and powers. They too have fallen into the trap of political bickering and have grown suspicious and spiteful of each other.”
This has all allowed the Houthis vast room to manipulate Yemeni society with the support of the regime in Iran, stressed Al-Jaleel.
The Yemenis need to overcome this state by setting aside these parties and forming new ones that can properly address the fateful challenges confronting the country, including the Houthis and Iran’s influence, he suggested.
Researcher and academic Dr. Fares Al-Beel was quick to blame the Yemeni forces for prolonging the war due to their mistakes and lax approach in handling issues.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The Yemenis have reached a desperate conclusion over their crisis. (…) They are caught between the Houthis, whose fire can only be doused by tackling the root. These flames started off as minor but have since grown due to the errors of the Yemenis and their laziness in dealing with them.”
He lamented how for seven years the Houthis have been able to expand in Yemen while the world has offered them options, instead of viewing them as the aggressors. The militias even refuse peace agreements that would make them a legitimate force, he noted.
The Houthis don’t even need such deals because the “powerlessness” of their rivals encourages them to maintain the current status quo.
He blamed the “weakness, fragmentation and corruption of the legitimate forces” for their failure to achieve a decisive victory in the conflict against the Houthis. This weakness has led to the failure in restoring the state. The power of the state does not come close to the strength and size of the Houthis.
Moreover, al-Beel criticized the legitimate authorities for limiting themselves to political negotiations with the Houthis despite realizing that such talks will not restore the state.
The weakness of the legitimate power and brutality of the Houthis are destroying the Yemenis, who are grappling with the worst crisis on earth, he added.
Their legitimate government is not even carrying out the bare minimum of its duties, he noted. “It can do a lot in easing the suffering of the people, but it is too preoccupied with internal disputes.”
“The Yemenis have one choice: For the legitimate authority to wake up and amend its mistakes immediately. It should sincerely and transparently dedicate all of its efforts in restoring the state and defeating the Iranian agenda. Only then will all sides support it and will the Houthis be defeated,” he explained.
Division and lack of planning
Political analyst Mahmoud Al-Taher criticized the legitimate forces for their “division and lack of strategic planning.”
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he also blamed a political faction, which he did not name, for “controlling the legitimacy, while other combat units refuse to take part in the fateful national battle.”
Moreover, he slammed the paranoid state of political factions that constantly question each other’s loyalties to the detriment of the military battles.
“Unfortunately, the real problem lies in the Yemeni legitimate forces. Had they been vigilant to this battle, they would not have allowed the tribes to rise up in al-Bayda and wage the fight alone against the Houthis. The legitimacy should have instead waged battles on all the fronts at the same time to force the Houthis to accept peace,” he stated.
After the liberation of southern provinces, the Yemeni government paused to hear out the international community’s advice on stopping the war, he continued. “This allowed the Houthis to catch their breath, play the game of prolonging the conflict and infiltrate tribes and deepen its political, ideological and financial influences. They therefore, managed to shift from a defensive position to an offensive one.”
He blamed political disputes within the legitimate forces and all other groups that are opposed to the Houthis for the delay in achieving victory against the militias.
Furthermore, he spoke of “the corruption of politician and military commanders, who have turned the war into a way of achieving economic interests.” He further criticized “weak strategic political, military and media planning” in confronting the Houthis.
Al-Taher said he feared the prolongation of the war would lead to Yemen’s division into statelets and the elimination of all opponents of the Iranian agenda.
At the same time, he expressed some optimism that the Yemenis would be capable of victory if they “amend their errors and unite all political forces towards a common goal.”
“The Yemenis will not achieve victory as long as some forces in the southern provinces are prepared to fight each other, in complete disregard of the imminent Iranian threat,” he warned.
He also doubted that international efforts can resolve the war. “Only the Yemenis or legitimacy will be victorious. Waiting on the international community will not lead to peace because the victor on the ground is the one who sets conditions, changes the course of events and writes history.”