By Sajjad Amin Bangash
The crisis in Yemen didn’t start from ‘civil war or unrest’ rather it was instigated by a militant group called “Hothi” which revolted against the setting government and based on their power, and foreign help occupied and taken control of several cities including the capital of Yemen and eventually declared their governance. This revolt taken place in the month of September, 2014 where a “Hothi” tribe from northern Yemen seized the capital “Sanaa” resulting in which the elected president “Hadi Mansoor” had to resign and to keep his life safe, fled to a more secured place like Aden city and took refuge there. But later on, the insurgents further attacked Aden city and Hadi Mansoor had to flee from Aden as well. Currently, there is a complete civil unrest in Yemen. Neither a central government exists nor is any authority actively functioning. President Mansoor Hadi had pleaded several Arab countries to restore his legitimate government and restore the peace in Yemen. Saudia Arabia called this revolt a serious threat to world’s peace and by forming an alliance with several other neighboring Gulf countries such as UAE, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait and 20 Arab league countries have formally launched the military and air strikes against Hothis whilst two biggest countries such as Iraq and Syria which are engaged in a civil war against their local and domestic extremist groups which have taken lives of a great number of people, have refused to ally Saudia Arabia in this war against Yemen.
In addition, Turkey, United States and several European nations are extending logistic and arms support to Saudia Arabia while Pakistan has also shown expression of all sorts of support to Saudia Arabia in case of any imminent attack on Saudia Arabia. However, Pakistan has refused to take direct front line participation either on grounds or air strikes and preferred to play a mediator role in this conflict.
Yemen officially known as the Republic of Yemen is an Arab country in Southwest Asia, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen is the second largest country in the peninsula, occupying 527,970 km2 (203,850 sq mi). The coastline stretches for about 2,000 km (1,200 mi). It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea to the south, and Oman to the east. Although Yemen’s constitutionally stated capital is the city of Sana’a, the city has been under rebel control since February 2015. Because of this, Yemen’s capital has been temporarily relocated to the port city of Aden, on the southern coast. Yemen’s territory includes more than 200 islands; the largest of these is Socotra.
“ Yemen’s geo-strategic importance is highly valuable since; the Red Sea lies the west of Yemen, the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea to the south and one of the biggest oil producers Saudia Arabia uses this route for the transportation for oil production to different parts of the world. The Gulf of Aden is considered to be the most important route for international military carriers and trade purposes. “
The Bab-el-Mandeb is a strait located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. It connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. It is sometimes called the Mandab Strait or the Mandeb Strait in the English language. The Bab-el-Mandeb acts as a strategic link between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. In 2006, an estimated 3.3 million barrels (520,000 m3) of oil passed through the strait per day, out of a world total of about 43 million barrels per day (6,800,000 m3/d) moved by tankers.
This is the route which is remains the busiest all year long in transportation of oil to different parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. Closure of this route for a single day, can cause havoc which means the whole world can be stopped, the defense and international business analysts can describe it better. The 6th largest marine vessels of United States, several war planes of Russia and China continuously hover around this route to maintain it opened 24/7. The door way carries 11% of the world’s oil transportation through Suez Canal, Red sea and the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
During the civil war, such moments came when the Hothis tried to spearhead towards ‘Bab-el-Mandab’ and entered into its Airbase and when from United States to Malaysia, several other countries rushed to Saudia Arabia to stop the Hothis movements towards this strait.
If we take a deeper look at the map of this region, then we will find out that Saudia Arabia and Yemen are not only closely adjacent to each other territorial wise but also their weathers, oceans, seas, deserts, oasis and tribes are parts of each other. During the early times of Islam, Yemen had played an active role in the conquering of Egypt, Syria, Africa and Spain and the forces from this region remained an active force. Yemen remained a significant component in Ottoman Empire but afterwards during British colonial expansion time, Yemen went under the control of British occupation. British government further sliced Yemen into two pieces and unfortunately, this division was formed on ‘sectarian bases’ i.e, in the southern part, Shiits Zaidi sect took control over while northern part went over Sunni sect dominance.
And today, this unrest started with the revolt of Shiits tribe “Hothis’. It is to be remembered that in 2011, Yemen was among those early countries where the “Arab Spring” emanated and stemmed. Abdulllah Saleh was the president of Yemen that time. The social and economic inequality, unemployment, soaring inflation, amendments in constitution, and bad governance have led this revolt and protest further exasperated to a level that President Ali Abdullah Saleh had to flee to Saudia Arabia and took refuge there and till that time, he had ruled over Yemen for 12 years. Later by an agreement, the power control was handed over to then vice president and current president Mansoor Hadi who in 2012, conducted general elections and won by a big majority. Thus, this political crisis seemed to be getting resolved systematically but with the revolt of “Hothi” everything was ruined.
One of the obvious reasons in the overall Yemen’s conflict that the former president Abdullah Saleh on the threshold of revenge, put the weight in “Hothis’ favor thus, this conflict is now converted to be the “fight between the arm forces of former President in support of Hothis and forces of current President.”
Why Saudia Arabia launched air and military strikes over Yemen, and what are the volume and the primary objective of these strikes?
This has to be viewed deeply that when Saudia Arabia launched this operation on 26th March, this operation was given the name of “Decisive Storm” where Saudia Arabia and its allied forces war-planes started attacking the military installations and bases of Yemen. In this operation strikes, more than 100 fighter jets are taking part in these air strikes. Sana Air base and anti-air craft batteries to its surrounding have been completely destroyed along with all the Yemen’s Air force planes have been destroyed as well. That’s why Saudian Military spokesman said after the 4th day of this operation that “Not a single war plane of Yemen will be able to fly.”
Although, Hothi groups have not a formal regular army rather it’s a militia which can fight a ‘guerilla insurgency war’ and on ground tactical warfare. Saudia Arabia and its allied forces have turned these rebels helpless to a larger extend through their continuous air strikes while, the Hothis spokesman accused Saudia Arabia bombardment have killed more than 100 civilians. But According to Saudia Arabia forces, the Hothi groups have stockpiled their ammunition and weapons in the streets and towns of civilian population areas and premises, hence Hothis are making the civilians are human shield. Therefore, when they are being aimed, a due care is taken to minimize the civilian causalities. Although, Saudia Arabia has been continuously repeating that if the Hothis surrender then they can negotiated a peace accord. Later, this fight has further stretched towards the very important coastal areas of Aden and far flung areas of the country which sustained sever civilian causalities in which several innocent civilians got injured and killed.
Hothis belong to Ansar Ul Allah’s platform and also called “Zeud”. Their presence in the form of government had been existed for the last 1000 years which has been ruled under ‘Imamath” fellowship and they consist of 30% of total Yemen’s population. Zeud’s a separate status ended in 1962 when they opted through an agreement to become part of Republic of Yemen. The “Hothi” is named after their chief Badur Udin Alhothi who formally instigated a revolt against central government of Yemen in 2004 and according to him, the main reason behind this revolt that the Zaidi Sect is feared to be fallen in control of Sunni sect dominance and that cultural heritage and traditional sanctity of central city Sana’a is at eminent threat of complete extinction but during this revolt Badur Uddin died in a fight. However, his family members and followers kept carrying on this revolt. In 2011, when the civil unrest and revolt heated up against president Saleh, the Hothis took part in full strength and their influence further multiplied in different parts of Yemen. Hothis also remained active members in ‘the negotiations of transferring of power from President Saleh’ and also in those agreements which aimed at bringing constitutional amendments in Yemen. It was in 2014 when President Hadi decided to divide Yemen in 06 regions then, these Hothis separated from this negotiation process. They believed that with this division, their might and strength will further be damaged and reduced resulting in which given birth to this whole turmoil which gradually ended up in an international war.
But among the biggest element which immediately transformed Yemen into regional and then international crisis is that majority of the Arabs accused Iran to be directly interfering and aiding Hothis of Yemen. Some of the news asserts that Iran directly assists and supplies the Hothi tribes with military, logistic and financial support. Iran has been denying it and opposed the military invasion of Arabs over Yemen. Arabs especially Saudia Arabia are not willing to afford the civil war and revolt in Yemen and they were well prepared to overthrow the Hothi’s control. Till now, in all of this bloodshed, civil unrest and crisis taking place in different parts of Middle East, the involvement of Iran in some way or other is quite obvious. Thereby, all the Arab states are considering and blaming Iran for spreading their sectarian influence not only in the region but also through a special brand of revolution, mode of governance and ideologies, influencing on Islamic countries and imposing particularly on Middle East and Arabs are quoting the civil wars in Iraq and Syria as best examples where millions of people have lost their lives and became homeless. Since, Iran did not ever hide their military, financial and political support to several groups in these countries. In Syria, Iran has not only openly supported the military assaults by Bashar Ul Asad’s on civilians and their war crimes and carnage but also provided a large scale military support as well. In addition, General Sulemani a renowned Iranian general who was killed in an attack in Syria is given as an evidence of Iranian involvement in Syria while Iran accepts it. Moreover, in Iraq with all belligerent enmity with USA, Iran has accepted the government of Prime Minister Noor ul Maliki’s biased and prejudiced policies towards Sunni and Kurds citizen or Iraq.
Maliki has been accused for biased and hatred full speeches and protests against Sunni and Kurds population which almost reached Iraq to the verge of territorial collapse. Similarly, Iran backed militia has formally initiated military assaults and activities in Iraq and Syria which also includes Lebanon based “Hezbollah”. Such types of interference remind the 10 years long civil war in Lebanon. But Iran blames USA and its allied countries for ongoing chaos and crisis in Middle East. Besides, Iran equally counts Arab countries and Israel in this anarchy as well.
“ According to Arabs countries, the intervention of USA in Iraq has led to the imbalance of power control in the region thus went rapidly into the hands of Iran and its allies which Iran is further expanding and strengthening this control with the help of Hothis insurgents. Arabs further claim that with the involvement of United States and western powers have turned this region into chaos. Therefore, according to Saudians and several other Arab states, with the aerial strikes over Yemen, they have drawn a line to be understood clearly. “
With reference to Yemen’s conflict on international and regional level, the United Nation Security council first called an emergency meeting and then 22 Arab league countries held a meeting in the coastal city of Sheikh Ul Haram, Egypt and in both of these meetings similar type of decisions were made. It was stated in UN Security council that “Hothi” immediately be brought to negotiation process. However, the decisions in Arab league were very harsh for Iran or in other words, in the echoes of Syrian’s conflict were sounding in Arab League declaration. In this, Arab league openly accused Iran for aiding Hothi rebels. Other Islamic countries such as Turkey, Pakistan and Nigeria have extended their full support to this operation against Hothis. Turkish president Tayeb Ordagan said that “Exactly a century ago, Yemen including all Arab states were part of Ottoman Empire and Turkey is very aware of the regional traditional conflicts.”
Yemen’s crisis is indeed a direct question mark on the performance of United Nation and the bloodshed in Yemen has also raised a biggest challenge not only for UN Security Council but also to all those concerned neighboring states. United Nation is such an organization which has 173 members, out of which the big powers such as United States, China, Russia, Germany, United Kingdom, Saudia Arabia etc. One of the top responsibilities of UN nation is that “firstly, the United Nation must not allow or let the serious war like conflict emerge up and even, the war (for any reason) happens, then through UN peace keeping forces, and all out resources try to mitigate and stop the war. But the problem is that all those who have the power of “Veto” seem to be sunken in the attainment of their own vested interests in the regional conflicts in every part of the world. Thus, ally to any side which they deem favorable to their own interests. The members of United Nations have the legal authority under article 51 of UN charter, which “If any government requests to the UN members to stop the war, then any member can mediate their efforts to stop the war through United Nation peace keeping efforts and forces.” For this purpose, United Nation can also send their own forces or through big powers of the world allow interfering in the war to formally accord the peace.
The elected president and foreign secretary of Yemen had already extended their formal request to UN to interfere in this conflict so as to avoid the war like situation which has already happened. Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Lebanon are already examples of such situations where United Nation has interfered through big powers to break the peace between two groups. But here, one thing has to be deeply pondered on, is that in order to solve the conflicts of war, we must stop looking at the foregrounds ideological glasses rather, we have to look at the political aspects, military aspects and human dilemmas. Especially, the recent conflicts and horrific circumstances in the Middle East demand very serious and urgent measures to sort them out. These have brought several challenges to Islamic countries. First, Islamic world must accept the naked reality that all of the regional conflicts in Middle East have been emerged up due to sheer negligence, lack of political, demographic and religious wisdom, political leadership, religious scholars and their the bigot selfishness among each other have ignited such regional rifts and their failure to interpret any conspiring elements and that their own irresponsible leadership further stretch those regional conflicts and biases for their political and power longevity. The flames of conflicts in Middle East relay widespread implications and repercussion to South Asia, South East Asia and coastal African countries. The biggest element which brought havoc and destruction to Middle East region is the emergence of militant groups and militias on their soils which have turned into a jungle where anyone can hunt according to the length of their spears precision. The emergence of any religious, sectarian or political ideology has turned their followers to be the shields and protectors.
Isn’t a sheer anarchy?
What is the status of national sanctity and constitutional laws of a state?
This division has disintegrated the nations, wrecked the countries into slices and fractured the sovereignty and unity of nations.