The Yemen Ceasefire Depends on Iranian Nuclear Talks
The Yemen Ceasefire Depends on Iranian Nuclear Talks
On the second day of a the two-month ceasefire declared between Houthi militias in Yemen and the coalition led by Saudi Arabia, Iran and the US have welcomed the ceasefire. Mediated by the United Nations, the ceasefire will allow sending of humanitarian aid to a country that’s experiencing a human catastrophe and a massive crisis. It will also allow for dialogue on permanent peace between the Houthis with other Yemeni groups and Saudi Arabia.
In a shrewd move, US President Joe Biden welcomed the ceasefire on Friday, April 1, a few hours before the cessation of hostilities between the two sides (which started on Saturday, April 2.) Speaking of the agreement as “a long-awaited reprieve for the Yemeni people,” he emphasized that more needed to be done.
In a year and a half since Biden’s assumption of office, nothing has been done to support US’s regional allies as they face Houthi attacks on the cities of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. The US didn’t have a practical initiative to bring about ceasefire, cessation of hostilities, mediation for dialogue between the two sides and helping the people of Yemen. Immediately after becoming president, Biden removed the Houthis from the foreign terrorist organizations’ list; but in the recent months, as the Houthi attacks increased on Saudi Arabia and the UAE, he was under a lot of pressure from countries of the region and members of the Congress to once more bring back the Houthis to the FTO list.
Houthi rockets rained and they were supported by Iran, which is the main weapon supplier of these militias, thus bringing double pressure on the US government. The talks with Iran over its nuclear program are in the final stages and one of Iran’s main demands is FTO delisting of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC.) Given this situation, the talks were further complicated by IRGC’s interventions in Yemen. Amongst the differences between the two sides in the nuclear talks was IRGC’s interventions in the region, its role in the war in Yemen and its supplying of drones and missiles for the Houthis.
President Biden, along with UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, went to the Saudis and Emiratis to ask for an increase in oil production to counter Russia and to bring down the oil price and psychological pressure on the market and customers. The Saudis clearly said that the uptick in oil prices wasn’t due to any shortage in the market but due to Houthi attacks on Aramco oil disruptions in the market that originated in Iran. In other words, if the US wants the support of regional countries to increase oil production and side with them in the Ukraine crisis, it should adopt a deterring policy against the Houthis and their main weapon supplier.
The ceasefire between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition will reduce the pressure on Biden from the US Congress and regional allies. The two-month ceasefire in Yemen thus matters politically to Biden, much more so than in a humanitarian way, despite the claims of his statement.
The Iranian regime, the main supporter of Houthis, also welcomed the ceasefire. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Sayid Khatibzadeh, expressed hope for a swift end to the war in Yemen. As the biggest supporter and main provoker of the Houthis, the Iranian regime asked them to accept the ceasefire so that Iran could reach an agreement with the US over its nuclear program. The ceasefire in Yemen will reduce the pressure on Tehran over its interventions in the region and the terrorist operations of the IRGC against the neighbors.
According to the UN’s Yemen envoy, the ceasefire includes all military operations, on land and sea, inside and outside Yemen. It should thus bring relative calm to the cities and waters of the region. If the ceasefire is not violated, the consultative Yemeni talks currently going on in Riyadh, hosted by the Gulf Cooperation Council, could prepare the grounds for extensive talks aimed at permanent peace.
The Houthis have not yet declared a willingness to go to Riyadh for consultative Yemeni talks. But due to the conditions of the current ceasefire, it is possible for the talks to take place, hosted by another country like Jordan or Oman and with the presence of Houthis.
It is too early and difficult to be optimistic about the continuation of the ceasefire and the move toward permanent peace. The militias can’t be trusted and the continuation of the ceasefire is dependent on the talks with Iran and the US over the resumption of the 2015 Iran deal. If the Iranian interests are taken care of in these talks, the ceasefire in Yemen will not be violated. But if the demands of the Iranian regime are not answered, the proxy groups, which have no independence of their own and are Iran’s playthings, will resume their attacks as soon as they are directed to do so.
A week ago, before the Houthi attacks on Aramco in Jeddah, the images of two Houthi leaders was projected on Tehran’s Shahyad (Azadi) Tower in a show of support for this terrorist group. Iran thus declared, without fear or hesitance, that it supports the Houthis and the actions of these terrorist militias.
The administration of Hassan Rouhani, just like the current one led by Ebrahim Raisi, supported militia and terrorist groups linked to Iran, and used them politically. It was in the fall of 2018 when Rouhani, talking about sanctions on Iranian oil, openly said: “The US should know that if it wants to stop export of Iranian oil, no oil will go out of the Gulf.” This was followed by Houthi and IRGC attacks on Saudi oil installations, its airports and tankers in Fujairah, Bab al-Mandab, Hormuz Strait and the Gulf of Oman.
The ceasefire is to last two months. During this period, whatever happens in the nuclear talks between Iran and the West will determine the fate of the war in Yemen: whether it will continue or finally come to an end.