Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Extinguishing Yemen Fire

Yemen is strategically located on the Bab al-Mandab strait (a narrow waterway linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden) through which much of the world's oil shipments pass. The Arab countries and Saudi Arabia fear a “Houthi takeover” would threaten free passage through the strait. The Houthis are members of a rebel group, also known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), who adhere to a branch of Shia Islam known as Zaidism. And, Zaidis make up one-third of the population and ruled North Yemen under a system known as the imamate for almost 1,000 years until 1962.
The Houthis take their name from Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi. He led the group's first uprising in 2004 in an effort to win greater autonomy for their heartland of Saada province, and also to protect Zaidi religious and cultural traditions from perceived encroachment by Sunni Islamists.

Yemenis tried their best to avoid war by offering avenues for a peaceful agreement, but the Houthi terrorists continued with their campaign to control the cities of Yemen.
According to source, “When the Iran backed-Houthis were on the verge of taking control of Aden, the legitimate government’s call to intervene under Article 51 of the UN had to be heeded.”
In the ongoing battle for sphere of influence in the region, Saudi Arabia wants to stop any rise of Iranian influence across the Middle East. Also, the Arabs are looking up to Saudi Arabia to effectively confront Iran’s expansionist designs in the region. While Riyadh had been working along with other like-minded states in a peaceful way to prevent unnecessary escalation. Nevertheless, the Iranian leaders thought that they could destabilize Yemen, change the balance of power in the Gulf region, and get away with it.

Amid the current chaos, Islamabad has hinted at calling upon the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to play a role to end the conflict in Yemen. The 57-member OIC, which is often criticised for its ineffectiveness, is dominated by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Malaysia and Iran.
Saudi Government had already put forward a formidable coalition to reverse the gains of the Iranian-backed Houthis and to hit them hard so that they understand that their actions are intolerable. The ongoing action against Iran’s proxy is intended to make Iran change its course, as Iran instructed the Houthis to drive all of their Sunni opponents out of politics and to control Yemen.
The Saudi-led “Operation Decisive Storm” is not only targeting the Houthi rebels but also Iran’s ambitions of expansion in the region.
Supported by the International law, the military intervention in Yemen did not begin until all other attempts to stop the Houthi rebels from taking over Yemen had been exhausted.

A 10-nation, Saudi-led coalition is currently carrying out air strikes against rebels in Yemen.
The strikes are in support of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who fled after gains by the Shia Houthi rebels.
Furthermore, Arab League chief said, “the Saudi-led offensive against the Houthis would continue until the militia withdraws and surrenders its weapons."
The main fight is between forces loyal to the beleaguered President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, and those allied to Zaidi Shia rebels known as Houthis, who forced Mr Hadi to flee the capital Sanaa in February.

Yemen's security forces have split loyalties; some units back Mr Hadi, and others are with the Houthis and Mr Hadi's predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has remained politically influential. Mr Hadi is also supported in the predominantly Sunni south of the country by militia known as Popular Resistance Committees and local tribesmen.
After rebel forces closed in on the president's southern stronghold of Aden in late March, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia responded to a request by Mr Hadi to intervene and launched air strikes on Houthi targets.

The conflict between the Houthis and the elected government is also seen as part of a “regional power struggle” between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, which shares a long border with Yemen.
Gulf Arab states have accused Iran of backing the Houthis financially and militarily, though Iran has denied this.
President Hadi, who is recognised as Yemen's legitimate leader by the international community, managed to escape to Aden, which he declared the de facto capital.
Cautious Pakistani resistance to the idea of getting involved in Yemen or even on Saudi soil is in the headlines all over.

However, Pakistan (recipient of 17 billion dollars from the KSA) owes a lot to Saudi Arabia in times of military needs. Yet, at the same time, Islamabad has to maintain its neighborly relations with Tehran.
Whatever the case maybe, it is time for the Pakistani government to publicly and clearly set out what it is and is not willing to do in Yemen or on behalf of Saudi Arabia and on what terms and for which reasons.

Available options:
If Saudi Arabia is under threat, Pakistan cannot stay neutral, however, the best option is to act defensively staying inside the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, because the Houthi rebels are Muslims who respect Mecca and Medina too, and there is very slim chance that they will even get closer to these places.
Pakistan should send a delegation to Iran and try to help end this conflict by acting as a neutral umpire.
Saudi Arabia should stop dragging Pakistan into their hate club against Iran! Pakistan should stay neutral and discourage a war between Shias and Sunnis.
The Houthi militants need to understand that they are Yemenis in the first place. At the end, it is in their best interest to reach a political solution.


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