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Time for UN to shift mission in Yemen

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From flickr.com/photos/16935515@N00/8683515584/: Peace in Yemen will continue to be elusive unless the United Nations shifts its mission.
Peace in Yemen will continue to be elusive unless the United Nations shifts its mission.
(Image by Julien Harneis)
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p class="">By Nicola Nasser*

Peace in Yemen will continue to be elusive unless the United Nations shifts its mission from sponsoring an inter-Yemeni dialogue to mediating ceasefire negotiations between the actual warring parties, namely Saudi Arabia & allies and the de facto representatives of Yemenis who are fighting to defend their country's territorial integrity and independent free will, i.e. the Huthi - Saleh & allies.

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Convening its 70th session while celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the United Nations is unlikely to reconsider its stand on Yemen, but it must do, at least to provide a face -- saving exit strategy for Saudi Arabia if not to stop a snowballing severe humanitarian crisis in the country.

The United Nations Mauritanian special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed will sooner than later face the fate of his predecessor Jamal Benomar, who resigned his mission last March acknowledging its failure.

The Saudi insistence on dictating a fait accompli on Yemen is undermining the UN efforts to bring about a political solution, which was made impossible by the Saudi -- led war on Yemen.

The legitimacy controversy

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The UN sponsored Yemeni -- Yemeni talks in the capital of the Sultanate of Oman, Muscat, and elsewhere will continue to be deadlocked. They are a non-starter. The Saudis have held their Yemeni allies captives of their dependence on Saudi financial, political and military support without which they could not survive internally.

The UN and Arab League recognition of them as the legitimate representatives of Yemen was counterproductive. They are viewed by most Yemenis more as Saudi puppets than legitimate delegates of their people.

Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is recognised by the UN and the Saudi -- led coalition as the legitimate president of Yemen, arrived in Aden last week aboard a Saudi military aircraft and his safety was secured during his three -- day stay there by military bodyguards from the United Arab Emirates. The arrival of his prime minister Khaled Bahah a week earlier was not different.

Conferring UN and Arab League legitimacy on them serves only to turn both organisations into biased parties to the conflict if not partners to it or at least accomplices and compromises their credentials as mediators.

The Huthis are portrayed by the Saudi -- led propaganda as a sectarian fanatic and violent intruders into the Yemeni society or as agents of Iran who are waging a proxy war in Yemen, but the Huthis are not aliens. Their ancestors ruled Yemen for some one thousand years. They represent more than one third of the country's population. Their role could have been strengthened by Iranian support and weakened by their religious speech, but nonetheless they are uncontroversial native integral component of Yemen's national history and society.

Similarly, their ally in fighting off the Saudi -- led war on Yemen, ex -- president Ali Abdullah Saleh, is part and parcel of Yemeni political infrastructure. More than a three -- decade ally of Saudi Arabia, when Saleh resisted a Saudi transition plan he hardly survived a bombing of his Friday prayers. Despite his individual ruling style and a wide spread corruption of his governance, he is credited with building a state infrastructure, a national army, a tolerable pluralistic political life and a relatively civil freedoms that were the envy of his Arab compatriots in the north who are still living under the Middle Ages systems of government and, more importantly, making the unity of Yemen a fact of life. When his representative credentials are questioned by his former Saudi allies it is noteworthy to remind them that his "al-Mutamar" party still controls the majority of the last democratically elected Yemeni parliament.

The "external" Iranian interference in Yemen and Iran's sectarian support for "Shiite" Yemenis, in addition to a self -- proclaimed role in defence of a controversial legitimacy of a Yemeni president, are the main raison d'être cited by Riyadh as the casus belli of the Saudi ongoing six -- month old war on Yemen.

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However history and realpolitik facts refute such Saudi claims and render them as merely thinly -- veiled justification for installing a puppet regime in Sanaa by the brutal and inhumane force of an external invasion.

The current Saudi war on Yemen could be a "rite of passage" for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), particularly the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but not the Saudi Arabia as claimed by Rami G. Khouri (1).

Long history of Saudi military intervention

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

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