PoliciesPublicationsStudiesInternational variables and their effects on the Riyadh Agreement and the war in Yemen

5 February، 2022by Abdulelah almanhami0

In this study, we observe how some of the regional and international variables have prevented, and still prevent, the end of the war in Yemen, and how they have obstructed the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement.

 

Abdulelah almanhami

Executive Summary

The turmoil that followed the Yemeni revolution in February 2011, and then the collapse of the state under the assault of the Houthi group in September 2014, opened Yemen to all forms of foreign interference and proxy wars, making it an arena for regional and international conflicts.

In this study, we observe how some of the regional and international variables have prevented, and still prevent, the end of the war in Yemen, and how they have obstructed the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement. In our opinion, there is a close correlation between the implementation of this agreement and the progress of the battles either in favor of the Yemeni government or of the Houthi group. Delaying the implementation of the agreement negatively affects the government’s capabilities on the battlefield, and this military retreat represents a threat to the agreement itself.

Everything that affects the war necessarily affects the Riyadh Agreement. For example, Iran’s nuclear file does not have a direct correlation with the Riyadh Agreement, but it has an effect on the war in Yemen in general. The progress that Iran is making in this regard has been reaped by the Houthis group on the battlefield.

This research is based on two connected hypotheses: the first is that there are regional and international variables that cast a shadow over the war in Yemen, which work to prolong the war in Yemen. Many international variables have affected the Yemeni file, but we have limited them to four: the Iranian nuclear file, the dispute between the Qatar-Turkey axis on the one hand and Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the other, the Western position over the war in Yemen, and the war in Afghanistan.

The second hypothesis, branching from the first, is that the regional and international circumstances in which the Yemeni government is moving have become unfavorable. In other words, the regional and international context does not help to end the war in Yemen, nor does it encourage the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement. Therefore, the implementation of the agreement has become urgent, because it is an important step to end the conflict and the war in Yemen, and will reflect positively on the effectiveness of the Yemeni government in the military field.

In writing this research, we relied on several approaches, such as inductive, analytical, and descriptive. We also relied on numerous sources related to our subject, such as books, magazines, websites, television interviews, and newspapers. This research consists of seven parts: the introduction (which includes a presentation of the war in Yemen and the Riyadh agreement), the Iranian nuclear file, the dispute between the Qatar-Turkey axis and the Saudi-UAE axis, the Western position, the variables of the war in Afghanistan, and finally the conclusion and recommendations.

Presentation of the general context

September 21, 2014, was a memorable day in modern Yemeni history. An armed religious group stormed the capital, Sana’a, which is full of soldiers and camps, placed President Hadi under house arrest, and seized power as a de-facto authority. Calling what happened on that day a “coup” is a fallacy; it was not an ordinary coup, the Yemeni state collapsed and has not risen until today.

The process of President Hadi’s escape to Aden on February 21, 2015, is still a mystery, but it was a pivotal event. If he had not succeeded in escaping, the situation on the political level would have been much more difficult than it is now.[1] In March 2015, President Hadi formally asked the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to “intervene militarily in Yemen to protect Yemen and its people from Houthi aggression.”[2] A military operation called “Alhazm/Decisive Storm”[3] was launched on March 26, and it achieved great success in its first months, the most important being the liberation of Aden Governorate in July 2015, which prepared it to be the temporary capital of the country.

Liberating the city of Aden raised the hopes of those affected by the Houthi group in the cities under its control, especially since the liberation was followed by an important advance of the government forces in Marib toward Sana’a. But hopes quickly vanished as the army began to falter, and soon problems began to appear between the parties that comprise the government. The goal of liberating the rest of the cities faded away and smaller projects began to reveal themselves.

On May 11, 2017, the formation of a political body was announced in Aden claiming to represent the seven southern Yemeni governorates that were forming the “People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen”; the country that ruled the south before Yemeni unification in 1990. This body was called the Southern Transitional Council (STC),[4] a political entity with separatist inclinations that has Emirati support and is headed by Major General Aidarous al-Zubaidi.[5]

Since that date, the separatist efforts in southern Yemen have taken an official institutional form that has led to the weakening and destabilizing of the Yemeni government in a geographical area that is of critical importance in light of the Houthi control of the rest of the northern cities (except for Marib).

In January 2018, the STC demanded the dismissal of the government headed by Ahmed Obaid bin Daghr on corruption charges,[6] and called for the formation of a technocratic government. When President Hadi did not respond to this demand, violent clashes erupted between the STC and government forces in the city of Aden, which resulted in the STC taking control of the government headquarters on January 28, 2018.[7] The UAE and Saudi Arabia mediated for calm, but confrontations erupted between the two sides again, more violently, in August 2019.

The confrontations lasted for four days and the STC was able to take control of the temporary capital, Aden, Lahj governorate, and parts of Abyan and Shabwa governorates.[8] However, the government forces managed to expel the STC forces from the governorates of Shabwa and Abyan and were about to retake the city of Aden until the Emirati air force intervened on August 21 and halted their advance in the Al-Alam area, the western entrance of Aden city.[9] Saudi Arabia’s intervention subsequently resulted in the signing of the Riyadh Agreement between the government and the STC on November 5, 2019.

Reaching the Riyadh Agreement was a breakthrough for the most serious crisis that the Yemeni government has experienced since the Houthi group stormed the capital, Sana’a. However, the agreement, in practice, has remained merely ink on paper. More than two years after its signing, only the aspects related to defusing confrontations between the two sides were implemented, which turned the agreement into only an armistice. Even at this level, the status of the agreement appears fragile in light of the continuous tension and military mobilization by the two sides at the points of contact between them, and in light of the lack of trust and mutual accusations between the two parties.

Many local factors still hinder the implementation of this agreement, in addition to the set of international variables that we discuss below.

Iran’s nuclear file

On November 29, 2021, a new round of negotiations was launched in Vienna to revive the Iranian nuclear agreement, after six rounds of indirect negotiations between Iran and the United States—in which European negotiators played the role of mediator. In July 2015, the United States and the rest of the four major countries, along with Germany, had reached, the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the nuclear agreement,[10] with Iran, which provided for lifting the economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for reducing its nuclear activities—for a period of up to 15 years from the signing of the agreement—to the extent that it is not allowed to produce a nuclear weapon. This agreement was met with strong reservations and criticism by America’s allies in the Middle East, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE,[11] as well as within the United States itself. The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, shortly after the agreement was signed, said that “the deal will not lead to anything but encouragement to Iran,” and will escalate the nuclear arms race in the world.[12]

Those who criticized the agreement relied on the premise that it serves Iran because does not include the complete dismantling of the Iranian nuclear program, rather providing for a temporary reduction in the number of centrifuges while maintaining the program’s infrastructure. Meanwhile, the agreement provides for lifting economic sanctions on Iran, which would release billions of Iranian dollars that are frozen,[13] which those opponents argued would be used by Iran to finance its anti-American activities and proxy wars across the Middle East. The controversy continued until the Republican Donald Trump entered the White House, re-imposed sanctions on Iran, and announced, on May 8, 2018, withdrawal from the agreement.[14]

Of course, the Iranians—especially the reformists—were happy to sign the agreement,[15] because they knew that they were the winning party. When Trump announced his country’s withdrawal from the agreement, Iran resumed its nuclear activities without fanfare as if it had not lost anything. The observer does not need much effort to realize that Iran, in a game of “cat and mouse” with the United States for more than fifteen years is the winner,[16] despite the embargo and the economic troubles it is facing.

The past years have proven that the United States has no tool to use against Iran’s nuclear program but sanctions; especially in light of the new strategy it is adopting to reduce its involvement in the Middle East. Even Trump, who vowed during his election campaign to dismantle Iran’s “global terror network,”[17] did nothing more than sanctions. Sanctions are the worst form of compromise, as Richard Haass put it.[18] For example, they have not prevented North Korea, India, or Pakistan from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and there is no guarantee that sanctions—no matter how severe—can prevent a nation from acquiring something that it believes serves its national interest.

It is difficult to predict the outcome of the current negotiations, as the statements of both parties do not suggest a specific direction. But whatever the outcome, there is no doubt that Iran will not give up its nuclear project,[19] because Iranians are fully aware that they will be safe with a weapon of mass destruction, and they have enough evidence. Ukraine, which gave up its nuclear weapons in the early 1990s with the encouragement of the United States, was subjected to a Russian invasion two decades later and lost the Crimea;[20] Iraq, which was forced to give up its nuclear program after Operation Desert Storm, was subjected to an American invasion in 2003, and Libya, which voluntarily surrendered its nuclear program in 2003, saw Gaddafi’s regime fall ten years later under the strikes of NATO forces. By contrast, North Korea, India, Pakistan, and Israel—the countries that continued their nuclear program until they became a nuclear power—were not subjected to any harm, but rather forced the international community, including the United States, to accept the fact of their atomic weapons, and then cooperate and ally with them, as happened with India and Pakistan.

We conclude from the foregoing a general rule that sticking to the nuclear program appears less harmful, while the opposite brings disaster, at least for autocratic regimes or countries with external threats. The Iranians are aware of this point, and they are also aware that American policy is heading toward withdrawal from the Middle East. This was evident in American policy toward the events of the Arab Spring, especially the Syrian file and the extensive Russian intervention there; direct Arab intervention led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Yemen; withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan; and its reluctant policy toward Iran’s nuclear file. According to Iranian sources, every American withdrawal from the Middle East creates a vacuum that Iran and some competitors fill.[21]

Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon will give it an advantage over the rest of the regional powers; it may end up being the only hegemon in the wider region, and in the Gulf in particular. Moreover, the presence of pro-American nuclear states near Iran in the Indian subcontinent, along with Israel—a country that Iran considers its foremost enemy—is reason enough for Iran to feel the need to possess a nuclear weapon to create a balance in the region.

Israel is the country that most rejects the Iranian nuclear bomb project. In addition to Iran being an enemy state, Israel does not allow nuclear balance in the region, as its survival as a state depends on the military gap with its neighbors. This is what prompted it to destroy the Iraqi Tammuz reactor in 1981, which was still under construction, and the Syrian reactor in eastern Deir ez-Zor in 2007. Will it remain passive toward Iran’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction?

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said a short while ago that they are preparing themselves for a military strike targeting Iranian nuclear reactors.[22] Before that, the former Israeli National Security Adviser said that Israel cannot live with a situation in which Iran is close to producing a nuclear bomb and that they must work to stop it. But it seems that these statements will remain mere threats; because bombing Iran’s nuclear program could ignite a war in the entire region. Had Israel been prepared for this, it would have bombed Iranian nuclear reactors earlier, as it did with Iraq and Syria.

Moreover, the bombing process is difficult itself, because Iran’s nuclear reactors are located in fortified locations under cities, and to destroy them would require not only air raids but also a ground army to carry out the task. This is what the Israeli pilot Zaev Raz, the commander of the Israeli aircraft squadron that bombed the Iraqi Tamouz reactor, said when he was asked, in a television interview, whether there is a possibility of destroying the Iranian reactors in the same way that the Iraqi reactor was destroyed.[23] Most likely, in our opinion, Israel—if Iran acquired a nuclear weapon—would find itself compelled to accept the situation, just as it accepted the Pakistani nuclear bomb before.

For the Arabs, and for the countries of the Arab Mashreq in particular, Iran’s possession of weapons of mass destruction would represent a catastrophe. At no time did Iran—according to an old statement by Robert Keynes, the former U.S. intelligence chief—relinquish its desire to impose hegemony on these countries[24].

The U.S. economic sanctions that Tehran has faced for decades are mainly caused by its nuclear program, and Iran’s possession of the bomb does not necessarily mean that the sanctions will continue. On the contrary, it may be a reason to get Iran out of its economic isolation and make the international community deal with it as a fait accompli, especially if we take into consideration the flexibility of Iranian policy and its ability to evade and play on more than one file in a way that serves its interest. While North Korea is still subjected to harsh economic sanctions and embargo, although it has become a nuclear power, India and Pakistan, in turn, were able to break their economic isolation after possessing the bomb, and gradually became allies of the United States.

Iran has been able to impose its hegemony on four Arab countries (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen)—or occupied them, as the dominant language in the media has stated for years—in a time it is suffering from severe economic sanctions and has yet to possess a nuclear weapon. What will it do after it possesses the bomb, after it is liberated, partially, from its economic isolation, and after it acquires the international strength and reputation that characterizes countries that possess weapons of mass destruction? Iran’s possession of the bomb, in addition to its ancient history, wealth, ambitions, and grudges, could lead to an era of Iranian dominance of the Arab Mashreq.

In general, states are keen to have a presence near their enemies, which gives them an advantage when conflict erupts as it allows them to strike their enemy’s depth.[25] If we take this strategy into account, we understand why Yemen, which neighbors Saudi Arabia,[26] is gaining priority in Iranian strategic policy. In addition, Yemen occupies an important geographical position overlooking international shipping routes. If the Houthis were able to control Bab al-Mandab, Iran would seize one of the most important sea lanes in the world, through which 5 to 6% of the world’s oil passes every day.[27]

Therefore, any international development that affects Iran casts a direct shadow on the war in Yemen. Since 2018 and the Iranian escalation toward the United States in the region—due to its withdrawal from the nuclear agreement and the imposition of harsh economic sanctions—the Houthi group has made great military advances against the government[28] and is now at the gates of the city of Marib, which is rich in oil and gas and the last stronghold of the Yemeni government in the north. The number of drones and ballistic missiles directed at Saudi territory also increased. Between 2018 and 2021, the Houthis targeted Saudi Arabia with dozens of strikes via drones and missiles,[29] the most damaging of which was the strike they launched on an Aramco site in Abqaiq Governorate in September 2019. This was a complex operation, which aroused some suspicion as to whether it was the Iranian Revolutionary Guards that carried it out from Yemeni soil and instructed the Houthis to adopt it. In any case, Iran’s success in acquiring nuclear weapons will have a significant impact on the Yemeni file, the war will continue, the Houthis will gain strength (they will have a nuclear ally), and the goal to restore the Yemeni state will be further away than ever.

Of course, the fate of the Riyadh Agreement cannot be separated from the military position of the Yemeni government, as there is a close correlation and mutual influence between them. When the implementation of the agreement is hampered, the government weakens on the battlefield because it remains busy with the internal front with the STC. At the same time, when government forces retreat on the battlefield, the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement becomes more and more difficult as the STC, for example, may not see a reason to continue to abide by an agreement with a party that is on its way to losing the war, especially since losing the war means threatening the existence of the Yemeni government.

Since Iran’s progress in acquiring a weapon of mass destruction strengthens the Houthis’ position on the ground vis-à-vis the Yemeni government, it can be said, therefore, that this matter weakens the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement. Iran is aware that the implementation of this agreement enhances the Saudi presence in Yemen, so, logically, it seeks to undermine it by various means. It is known that Iran has a role in supporting the secession efforts of southern Yemen, as it provided support to Ali Salem al-Beidh, the former Vice President of the State of Unity (the Republic of Yemen) and one of the most important southern figures that adopted the secession project. It also supported some of the factions of the Southern Movement affiliated with it and provided them with money, training, and weapons.[30] It has also supported Ali Salem’s “Aden Live” channel, which was broadcast from Beirut.[31]

In addition, the Arab media funded by Tehran, such as “Al-Alam TV”, were among the first to adopt the discourse of the “Southern Movement,”[32] during the era of the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh. At the beginning of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s presidency, the relationship between the two countries worsened after he accused Iran of interfering in Yemen’s affairs and destabilizing it by providing aid to some of the “Southern Movement” factions[33]. Accordingly, it is not impossible that Iran has sent signals to the STC that they will instruct the Houthis not to attack the south, and so there is no need for the STC to abide by the Riyadh Agreement.

The dispute between Qatar-Turkey and Saudi-UAE axes

The dispute between the Qatar-Turkey axis and the Saudi-UAE axis has had an important impact on the course of the war in Yemen, and then on the Riyadh Agreement. Before we try to show the extent of this impact, we will go back a little to know the background of this conflict.

The issue of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt appears now as the cause of everything that is going on between these two axes. The Muslim Brotherhood’s victory in the 2012 Egyptian presidential elections represented a significant victory for the Qatari-Turkish axis, which supported the Muslim Brotherhood in more than one country much earlier than the launch of Arab Spring revolutions. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were not comfortable with the rise of this group to power, especially Saudi Arabia, which sees the rise of a Sunni Islamist group as a threat to its Salafi vision of rule.

Nothing is more threatening to Saudi Arabia than the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in an influential Arab country like Egypt, as it could become an inspirational model in the region that may extend into its territory. Therefore, as soon as the protests began in Egypt against the Brotherhood policy, especially the demonstrations against the constitutional declaration announced by Morsi in November 2012, Saudi Arabia and the UAE rushed to invest in it. Leaks indicate that there was Emirati funding in coordination with Egyptian intelligence for the “Tamarod/rebellion” movement that called for the June 30, 2013, demonstrations and ended with the removal of Mohamed Morsi.[34]

On the same day that the Egyptian army ousted President Morsi, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz issued a supportive statement in which he praised the role of the Egyptian armed forces “who pulled Egypt out of a tunnel that God only knows its dimensions and repercussions.”[35] On the other hand, Qatar and Turkey considered what happened in Egypt a setback. The Qatari media were the first to call what happened a “coup”. Then-Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan strongly attacked what he called a “coup,” and criticized the international community for not describing it as such. After the Rabaa Square events, Erdogan issued a statement calling for the Security Council to meet urgently to stop the “massacre.” As a result, Egypt decided, in November 2013, to reduce the level of its diplomatic relationship with Turkey from the level of an ambassador to the level of a charge d’affaires.[36]

The issue of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was the straw that broke the camel’s back in the relationship between these two poles. The dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is old and complex, in which border problems are mixed with the issue of hegemony and regional alliances. For example, the Iranian-Qatari rapprochement is considered by Saudi Arabia as a direct threat. Those disputes reached their climax on June 5, 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt announced cutting all relations with Qatar, and Mohammed bin Salman threatened that he would dig a channel around the small country to turn it into an isolated island.[37] As for the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, it is more complex and has a historical background. Most of the lands that make up Saudi Arabia today were in the past part of the Ottoman Empire, and Abdulaziz Al Saud defeated the Ottomans in battles that represented an important station for him in his journey toward establishing the Kingdom.[38] Turkey is also a democratic country, and it is ruled by a party affiliated with the global organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia considers an enemy. ​In addition, Turkey is now competing with Saudi Arabia for the leadership of the global Sunni Islamic bloc, against Iran’s leadership of the Shiite Islamic bloc.

These differences and conflicts have been reflected in the situation in Yemen. Qatar settled its accounts with Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the Yemeni arena before the Arab Spring. Press reports talk about secret documents leaked from the intelligence archives of the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh saying that Qatar was involved in supporting the Houthis in 2009,[39] tempting them to attack the Saudi border, in addition to the financial support Doha was providing to the Houthis under many pretexts such as the reconstruction of Saada, or financing non-military activities.[40] Prior to that, and during the six wars of Saada, Qatar intervened as a mediator, and there are doubts that the mediation was just a pretext that Qatar took to save the Houthis on the one hand, and to approach and normalize further relations with them on the other.

When Operation Alhazm Storm broke out, Qatar was a member of the Arab coalition, but the media outlets affiliated with Saudi Arabia and the UAE confirm that Qatar used its formal membership in the coalition to leak secret military information to the Houthis, and that Qatari intelligence with the Houthis played a major role in their success in targeting a gathering of Emirati soldiers in the city of Safer in September 2015, which killed 45 Emirati soldiers.[41] After the outbreak of the Gulf crisis and Qatar’s expulsion from the Arab coalition in June 2017, it began to openly oppose Saudi and Emirati policy. The Qatari channel Al Jazeera was dedicated to attacking the Saudi and Emirati role in Yemen, particularly the Emirati presence in the south, producing a number of reports and documentaries in this regard. It also allowed the Houthi point of view to appear on its screen, even broadcasting long speeches of Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.

Qatar’s support for the Houthis was not limited to the direct financial and media support,[42] but also through establishing armed militias outside the framework of government forces in the Jabal Habashi district in Taiz governorate,[43] which still weakens the government front there. The location of these forces, adjacent to the areas overlooking the western coast in which Tariq Saleh’s forces are located, as well as near the areas under the control of the STC in Lahj Governorate, indicates the purpose of establishing these forces. The goal is to control the south and the west coast, or at least to establish a balance toward Emirati influence there. Evidence for this is that these forces did not move against the Houthi group that is besieging the city, despite the great pressure it has exerted on the city of Marib for nearly two years. If these forces had moved alongside government forces to strengthen the Taiz front, it would have relieved much of the pressure on Marib.

The results of the Qatari role in Yemen are clear through the performance of its local allies, especially their media wing,[44] which has focused its criticism on Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s actions in Yemen and largely neglected the practices of the Houthi group. Since the Saudi-Qatari reconciliation on January 5, 2021, the Qatari media war against Saudi Arabia and the UAE on Al Jazeera and the rest of the Qatari-funded channels has eased, but Qatar’s allies in Yemen have not changed their military and media approach toward the Yemeni government and its allies and the battle of restoring the state.

Qatar can influence the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement by instructing the forces loyal to it to harass the forces of the STC, which could lead at any moment to the collapse of the entire agreement, or by instructing these forces to adhere to the truce between the two parties, which would prepare the ground for further progress in its implementation. Qatar can also act through the network of officials—with an Islamist orientation—surrounding President Hadi, who can influence his decisions regarding the agreement, positively or negatively. At the head of these influential people is Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Vice President of the Republic, who arrived on November 29, 2021, in Qatar on an official visit during which he met Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad. However, since the Qatari policy in Yemen is still negative toward the government and its allies, and continues to serve the Houthi group, directly and indirectly, the observer can only predict more negative Qatari influence on the Riyadh Agreement.

Turkey’s role is weaker than that of Qatar and less clear than the role of the rest of the powers. At first, it was limited to hosting a number of Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Turkey, as well as relief and humanitarian activities carried out by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) and the Turkish Red Crescent. Some argue that Turkish humanitarian activity in Yemen is nothing but a cover for secret political activity.[45] Accordingly, the local authorities in Aden—supported by the UAE—detained a Turkish relief team in late 2018, and released it after two days. Prior to that, in 2017, the authorities in Aden had prevented a Turkish relief delegation from entering and detained the aid in the port.[46] However, since the Turkish Deputy Interior Minister Ismail Jaktla visited Aden and met with the Prime Minister Moeen Abdul-Malik in January 2019, there has been much talk about a direct Turkish political role in Yemen. In March 2021, the Houthis announced that they had shot down a Turkish-made spy plane belonging to the Saudi forces in Al-Jawf Governorate.[47]

However, we should not forget that Turkey, under the leadership of its current president, is looking for a leading role in the Islamic world. It has intervened forcefully in Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Azerbaijan. Yasin Aktay, Erdogan’s adviser, has previously stated that the Saudi and Emirati intervention in Yemen is ineffective, and compared it negatively to Turkey’s intervention in Libya and Azerbaijan. Aktay also questioned the intentions of the Arab coalition countries, hinting that it had become an obstacle on the way of Yemenis. Aktay said that whenever the Yemeni government army “wants to confront the Houthis, it finds no obstacle other than the coalition forces themselves, no one else.”[48]

Yemen is an important country on the map of the Arab and Islamic world, and Turkey is fully aware of this. It seems that what is delaying their direct presence so far is the strong Emirati and Saudi presence. Therefore, we may witness a Turkish presence in Yemen in the future, especially if this catastrophic situation continues for a long time and the Arab intervention remains characterized by this degree of ineffectiveness. Of course, this will be at the expense of Saudi-Emirati influence and the treaties and agreements associated with them, including the Riyadh Agreement.

The West’s position on the war in Yemen

It must be noted here that by the West, we refer to the countries that have a real influence on the Yemeni crisis, namely the United States and Britain. France and Germany play smaller roles at present: The German role is limited to relief, while the French role is concentrated in selling arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. France is the third-largest exporter of arms to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf States, after America and Britain.

At the start of Operation Alhazm Storm, the Arab and local media, especially those affiliated with Iran, noted that the operation was supported and blessed by the United States. This perception was helped by the fact that the operation was announced from Washington by Adel Al-Jubeir, who was then the Saudi ambassador to the United States.[49] Certainly, Saudi Arabia has an interest in promoting this saying, because U.S. approval and support would mobilize more regional and international support for the operation. However, the reality was that the United States was not completely against the war in Yemen,[50] nor was it supportive of it, just as it was not the one that pushed Saudi Arabia to take the decision.[51]

Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region are disappointed with the American retreat in the Middle East, which has left a vacuum that Saudi Arabia has found itself compelled to deal with. That disappointment reached a climax when it finally became clear that the United States had no real intention to put an end to the Assad regime, despite all the crimes he has committed against his own people, including the use of chemical weapons. From the moment the U.S. position over the war in Syria was revealed, Saudi Arabia decided to rely on itself regarding regional problems. In this atmosphere of mistrust toward America came the decision of war in Yemen. The author of the book Blood and Oil[52] tells us that the Americans were surprised when the Saudis, shortly before the start of the strikes, offered them to take part in the imminent operation. The Americans did not agree, but they showed their willingness to provide the necessary military and intelligence support.

This American position enables us to understand the subsequent American decisions. The United States seemed not convinced of the war in the first place, not because it supports the Houthis or sympathizes with them, as some might exaggerate and say, but based on a conviction that war is the last thing needed in an already unstable country. We do not want here to pass judgment on this conviction and determine whether it is right or wrong. In any case, at first, the United States went along with its Saudi ally and waited for the outcome of the operation. However, after repeated strikes that killed hundreds of civilians, and with the appearance of the devastating impact of the operation on the humanitarian side in Yemen, voices rejecting the war began to rise in the United States, as in the West in general. Later, the well-known diplomat and Middle East expert Robert Malley, who served as an adviser to President Obama, said: “Obama’s administration has gained no glory or honor by allowing war in Yemen. To some extent, despite our best intentions, we have shamed ourselves.”[53] He added, “They (the Americans) should learn the lesson well and know what their partners can do with the weapons they sell to them.”

Trump’s victory in his election campaign, which was supported by the Saudis and the Emiratis,[54] and his entry into the White House cut the way for the American majority opposing the war, but Trump could not completely silence their voices. In March 2019, the Senate voted by a majority in favor of a draft resolution to end U.S. support for the war waged by the Arab coalition in Yemen, forcing Trump to veto it.[55] When Trump left the White House, his successor Joe Biden issued a decision to end American support for the war in Yemen and to prevent arms sales to Saudi Arabia just two weeks after his arrival at the White House.[56]

Biden’s decision caused an uproar. Many observers spoke of a change in the American position toward Saudi Arabia and its war in Yemen, but there was no substantial change. It was difficult for the United States to prevent Saudi Arabia from taking the step at the time—even if it did not agree with it—because Obama was preparing himself to sign the nuclear agreement with Iran, and he knew that this would irritate Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf countries. It was difficult for him to reach an agreement with Iran and at the same time prevent Saudi Arabia from fighting Iranian influence in a country on its borders. Moreover, Saudi Arabia is an important ally of the United States in the region, and a key player in the conflict with Iran, and therefore its interests, or what are believed to be its interests, are always taken into account by American considerations.

The latest development in this file is the visit of the U.S. National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, to Riyadh on September 29, 2021,[57] and his meeting with Mohammed bin Salman. During the meeting, the Saudi Crown Prince stressed the Kingdom’s efforts to end the Yemeni crisis, and this means that American pressure has begun to push in this direction.[58]

Gregory Johnson argues that the United States does not have a special policy toward Yemen, but rather has a policy toward Saudi Arabia that dictates its actions in Yemen.[59] From this point of view, it can be said that the United States is unlikely to have a negative role in the Riyadh Agreement, as long as this agreement enhances Saudi influence in Yemen. In addition, the United States has—at least in theory—no interest in the project of dividing Yemen into two parts. But the problem is that the war continues in this way. The continuation of the war without resolution, and the worsening of the humanitarian situation in the country, may eventually push the United States to do everything to stop it. However, stopping the war at this stage serves only the Houthis, and will threaten to undermine everything that has been achieved so far on the way to restoring the Yemeni state.

The British role is clear and more influential than the American one, perhaps as a result of Britain’s long history in Yemen, in both the north and south. Aden remained a British colony for more than a hundred years, and Britain, during its conflict with the Ottomans in World War I, had attacked and occupied the city of Hodeidah in 1918 before handing it over to its ally, Muhammad Ali al-Idrisi.[60] Britain also had a major and direct role in supporting the royalists against the republicans in the 1960s war, after the September 26 revolution in Yemen and the declaration of the republic.

The important thing is that Britain is the “pen holder” of the Yemeni file in the Security Council. “Pen holder” is a concept given to the state that takes on the task of formulating decisions and projects related to an issue in the Council. The British role in Yemen is determined through two tracks. The first is its military assistance to Saudi Arabia, through arms deals and military experts who train Saudi soldiers. The British newspaper the Daily Mail recently published a report in which it said that more than 50 British soldiers are training Saudi soldiers in combat skills.[61] Other reports speak of the presence of a British force consisting of 40 soldiers in Al-Mahra Governorate on the borders of Oman,[62] which some consider as an indication of the return of British ambitions in southern Yemen.

The second track is diplomatic. Within this path, Britain is trying to find a new formula to end the war in Yemen, other than that proposed by Security Council Resolution 2216, which recognizes Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi as the legitimate president of the country and demands that the Houthis hand over weapons and withdraw from the cities as a preliminary condition for entering into peace negotiations. It is worth noting that this decision was approved by all major countries except for Russia, which abstained from voting. This decision gave an international cover for the Arab intervention in Yemen, and a mandate for the coalition forces to continue advancing on the ground as long as the Houthis did not comply with the provisions of the resolution.

Britain agreed to the decision in theory, but in practice, it seemed otherwise. When the coalition forces on the western coast were close to capturing the city of Hodeidah and its port in the battles of 2018, Britain (along with other Western countries led by the United States and France) intervened and pressed to stop the battles. Britain’s claims—and with it the international community—were of course humanitarian, but we find many reasons to be suspicious. For example, we do not see the same seriousness, denunciation, and pressure when it comes to the Houthi escalation around Marib, although the humanitarian catastrophe that could be caused by the Houthi incursion into Marib is greater than what could have been caused by the Arab coalition forces in Hodeidah.

Britain was a key player in the international pressure exerted on the Yemeni government[63] that eventually led to suspense fighting in Hodeidah and a start to the negotiations that led to the Stockholm Agreement. Shortly thereafter, in March 2019, its foreign minister traveled to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and the temporary capital of Yemen, Aden, and held several meetings with Saudi and Emirati officials, as well as with President Hadi, and met in Muscat with Muhammad Abdul Salam, the Houthi spokesman. The purpose of the visit was to urge the parties to abide by the Stockholm Agreement, which at that time was at “the last chance of success,” as he put it in his final statement of the visit.[64]

In October 2021, the new British ambassador to Yemen, Richard Oppenheim, said in an interview reported by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper, that “there is a need to issue a new UN resolution regarding the situation in Yemen,” noting that there is a gap between the content of Resolution 2216 and the situation on the ground, which changes every day.[65] If we understand the ambassador’s words as an expression of his government’s position, it can be said that Britain seeks to legitimize the current situation through the Security Council. That is, in short, Britain wants to push the international community to recognize the Houthis as much as it recognizes the government, and this will result in the Houthis no longer being a rebel group against the government in the eyes of the world, but rather an internationally recognized peer. This step, if taken, would be a huge blow to the legitimate Yemeni government.

Many see duplicity and contradiction in the British role. On the one hand, it sells weapons to Saudi Arabia and sends military experts to train Saudi soldiers, and on the other hand, it expresses its concern about any progress of the Yemeni government on the ground and seeks to obstruct it. This contradiction is completely understandable. Britain cooperates with Saudi Arabia militarily due to the good bilateral relationship between the two countries, but at the same time, it takes a different policy toward the facts on the ground in line with its interests as a colonial state that had a direct presence in Yemen. The great powers did not completely lift their hand from the countries they occupied in the past.

Accordingly, the observer expects Britain to complicate the efforts of the Arab coalition, especially if the war continues. At this point of the research, we find that the Western position is also not in favor of the war in Yemen (and as a result, it is not in the interest of the Riyadh Agreement). Certainly, the longer the war continues, without signs of decisiveness, the international space in which the “Yemeni case” breathes narrows more and more.

Another file at the international level should be mentioned here: the escalation of conflict between the West on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other. After decades of American hegemony that began practically with the collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Union, the world is seemingly heading toward balance again, with the rise of China as an economic and military power competing with the United States, and with Russia returning to exercising its global influence. Indications of this balance are visible in Syria. Both Russia and China worked to block every draft resolution in the Security Council that called for military intervention in Syria. Russia not only used the right of veto in favor of Bashar al-Assad in the Security Council but also sent its planes to fight alongside him in Syria. The results of this balance are also evident in what Iran is doing, whether in terms of its nuclear program, or in terms of proxy wars that it funds in more than one country, and it would not have been able to achieve all of this without the Russian-Chinese support.

The war in Afghanistan

At first glance, the repercussions of the situation in Afghanistan seem insignificant in relation to the situation in Yemen, let alone the Riyadh Agreement. In our opinion, however, what happened and still happening in Afghanistan greatly affects the Yemeni crisis, for the following reasons:

  • The Taliban movement that took control of Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, is an Islamic jihadi movement whose ideas and vision of the world intersect with the ideas and vision of all fundamentalist movements in the Islamic world, including the Yemeni Congregation for Reform Party—affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood—which has a historical relationship with the Taliban. Most of the Yemeni fighters who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s were members of the Muslim Brotherhood or influenced by their calls for jihad,[66] and the Afghan and Arab fighters who fought to defeat the Soviets would later form the Taliban movement in 1994. Even the Houthi movement—although it is a Zaidi Shiite movement—shares many aspects with the Taliban. Such as their saying that the reason for the backwardness of the Islamic nation is due to “deviation from the teachings of the Qur’an and the path of the righteous predecessors.” Both movements also do not see any importance for the constitution, modern education, women’s rights, democracy, or any of the achievements produced by contemporary civilization that are not mentioned in the “divine constitution” that is in the Qur’an. In addition, there is a great similarity in the mechanism adopted by the two movements in mobilizing followers. Both depend on emotional charging and the exploitation of religious feelings, specifically among the poor groups of society, the less fortunate in education, and the young, and they took the countryside as a springboard toward the cities, which led to the dominance of the countryside over the city. Also, their victories on the ground—and this is the most important point in the similarities between the two movements—are not due to the strength of the movement itself,[67] but to the disintegration of their opponents, the rampant corruption in the government, and the fact that they are an organized group ready to fight at any moment while their opponents are fragmented and preoccupied with different interests and projects.
  • Most of the foreign actors in Afghanistan are the same actors as in Yemen: the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iran. The withdrawal of U.S. and British forces from Afghanistan in May 2021 proved the correctness of the Taliban’s bet that the presence of foreign forces is what prevents the entire country from falling into its grip. The U.S.-built Afghan government and army turned out to be a castle of cards that collapsed at the first test. Only a few months after foreign forces began leaving the country, all of Afghanistan came under the control of the Taliban. Thus, the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan—the longest war America has ever fought[68]—seemed just a long, tragic break in a scene led by the Taliban movement. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iran have influence in Afghanistan, but Qatar, specifically in the last decade, seems to have the greatest influence. It is the only Gulf country that partially restored its relationship with the Taliban and opened an office for it in Doha, in June 2013, and for years it has been the party that plays the role of mediator between the movement and the United States of America.[69] At present, the Qatari embassy represents U.S. diplomatic interests in Afghanistan, according to an official agreement between the two countries.[70] Prior to that, the Qatari media, especially Al Jazeera, gave more space to cover developments in Afghanistan and partially welcomed the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul. All of this leads to believe that Qatar has benefited the most from the change in the situation there.
  • The Taliban’s control of the government is a result of the decline of the American presence in the Middle East, which has had consequences in, among other things, the Syrian civil war, Iran’s progress in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, the direct Saudi-Emirati intervention in Yemen.
  • The Taliban takeover is not a unique event. Such events have become commonplace during the last three decades, and it comes within a specific regional context, the most prominent of which is the disintegration of nation-states and the rise of non-national groups. We have seen this in Somalia, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, and there are indications that other countries will join the ranks, such as Ethiopia, which is currently experiencing conflict due to the battles between the government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the rest of its allied factions.

There is no doubt that the events in Afghanistan cast a long shadow over the situation in Yemen. But what kind of effect is this, and who is the beneficiary? Does the rise of the Taliban—with a Sunni jihadi ideology—in a country neighboring Iran serve Iran’s enemies in the region? Does the fact that the Taliban, a Sunni movement that is, at least ideologically, close to the Muslim Brotherhood, make its rise to power a point in favor of Qatar, Turkey, and their allies, including the Islah party in Yemen? Could the rise of the Taliban help the Yemeni government in its war with the Houthis, Iran’s ally?

Most likely in our estimation is that the developments in Afghanistan do not serve the Yemeni government. The Taliban is not an ally or friend of the Houthis, but its rise to power, or more precisely its return to power, represents a great inspiration to the Houthis, and a source of hope and great self-confidence. Taliban took control of Kabul in September 1996 and ruled the country for five years, pursuing it from the mountains for years following the U.S. invasion. After 20 years, America left Afghanistan, and the Taliban returned to Kabul again. Nothing more than this can give the Houthis a lesson in struggle, steadfastness, and not despairing, especially since the Houthis already believe that had it not been for the launch of Operation Alhazm Storm in March 2015, they would have taken control of all of Yemen. They also believe that once Saudi Arabia and the UAE leave—which, in their assessment, will happen sooner or later—they will resume what they stopped doing in 2015. Even if we assume that the rise of the Taliban will strengthen the center of Sunni Islamic influence represented by the Islah party, this does not in any way serve the goal of restoring the Yemeni state, in light of the failure of the Islah party and its disappointing performance since the onset of the crisis. The party has turned the war into an opportunity for making illicit money and has involved itself in smaller, factional conflicts, forgetting the national cause.

Conclusion

These are the international variables that still have a significant effect on delaying the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and the continuation of the war in Yemen. Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon will give their allies in Yemen boldness and strength, and as a result, complicate efforts to implement the Riyadh Agreement and end the war in Yemen. Liberating Iran’s funds will, to a lesser extent, lead to the same result, giving it a greater ability to finance the proxy wars it is waging in Yemen and other countries. Therefore, the international community should prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb, pressure it to stop interfering in the affairs of other countries, and prevent it from using its money and ideology to destabilize countries and spread terrorism and chaos. In other words, economic sanctions should not be related to the nuclear issue only, there should be economic and non-economic sanctions on other practices related to the spread of extremism and terrorism and interference in the affairs of sovereign states.

The dispute between the Qatar-Turkey axis on the one hand and the Saudi-UAE axis on the other has a major role in prolonging the war in Yemen and the failure to implement the Riyadh Agreement. The financial and media empire owned by Qatar, along with its strong local ally (the Islah Party), has made it one of the most powerful and influential, yet overlooked, actors in the Yemeni file. Its dispute with Saudi Arabia and the UAE has had a significant negative impact on the course of the war.

The complex Western position regarding the war in Yemen has also had an effect, and the danger of this position lies in the fact that Western countries—especially America and Britain—possess the diplomatic keys to influence negatively or positively through the Security Council. These countries also have an important pressure card represented in being the first source of arms imported by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. We have seen how Britain is seeking to pass a resolution through the Security Council that would end the legitimacy of Resolution 2216, and we have seen how Biden decided to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia. In the same context, we concluded that Russia’s strong return to the world arena has played a role in the continuation of the war, and this gave the countries and groups in its orbit a moral force that tempted them to bet on war and to refrain from all peace projects.

After that, the developments of the war in Afghanistan, and the Taliban’s control of the country, has encouraged the Houthis to bet on force alone, and gave them hope in the possibility of defeating any foreign force, regardless of its strength and legitimacy.

Thus, we conclude that the international variables—as we indicated in the introduction—do not serve the efforts to end the war in Yemen. Therefore, the Yemeni government must end its problems before it is too late, and the first thing it must do is to implement the Riyadh Agreement as soon as possible, a call that also applies to the STC.

Recommendations
  • The international community must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, not only because possessing this weapon violates the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, signed by a large number of countries including Iran, and because its possession will spread weapons of mass destruction and escalate the arms race in the Middle East and the whole, but also because Iran’s possession of this weapon will make it more capable and effective in exporting terrorism, extremism, and chaos.
  • Punish Iran for its non-nuclear activities. The problem with Iran is not limited to the nuclear file, but rather includes its other practices, such as exporting extremist religious ideologies and establishing illegal militias whose mission is to destabilize the security and stability of other countries in favor of the “Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist” regime. There must be controls on Iran regarding its foreign policy, and the imposition of political and economic sanctions in case it does not comply.
  • The United States and Britain, and the rest of the European actors, must work directly to push for the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and end the war in Yemen.
  • Qatar and Turkey should stop using Yemen as an arena of conflict with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as this comes only at the expense of the Yemeni people and their aspiration for a state of law free of arms and terrorism. In this regard, the Yemeni government should do everything in its power to be independent in its decisions and choices.
  • Russia and China must realize that their interests will not be harmed in a stable Yemen where peace, order, and law prevail, and the opposite is true in a Yemen ruled by extremism and chaos.
  • The dominant countries in Afghanistan should understand the lesson of Afghanistan well, work to not repeat the same scenario in Yemen, and to prevent any party from trying to replicate the Afghan experience in Yemen.
  • The Yemeni government and the STC should be urged to implement the Riyadh Agreement as soon as possible because delaying, and giving priority to small partial interests at the expense of major national interests, in light of such regional and international circumstances, threatens to blow up the entire agreement, which benefits no one but the Houthi group.
  • The Islah Party must work seriously to implement the Riyadh Agreement and resolve the war in Yemen, and it must be aware that there are supreme national constants that should not be compromised in favor of any regional ally.
Notes and sources

[1] Hadi’s success in escaping the Houthis’ grip is similar to the success of the Kuwaiti ruling family in evading Iraqi forces on the day that Iraq occupied Kuwait in 1990. The Iraqis designed their plan on the basis that they would arrest the Emir of Kuwait, his crown prince, and the rest of the influential ruling family, then there would be no one to demand the independence of Kuwait or to speak in its name as an independent state. That the ruling family succeeded in getting out to Saudi Arabia turned the Iraqi plan upside down, and after a few months the United States led a military operation unprecedented in the region—Desert Storm—and liberated Kuwait.

[2] See: https://www.youm7.com/story/2015/3/26/%D9%86%D8%B5-%D8%B1%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A9-%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%89-%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%A9-%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AE%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%AC-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AF%D8%AE%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%B3%D9%83%D8%B1%D9%89-%D9%81%D9%89-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86/2118094

[3] Perhaps the similarity between the situation of President Hadi and that of the Kuwaiti ruling family in 1990, was the reason for the Saudis to call the operation the “Decisive Storm”, a clear reference to the “Desert Storm” operation.

[4] https://www.bbc.com/arabic/in-depth-42860424

[5] https://www.bbc.com/arabic/in-depth-42860424

[6] Ibid.

[7] https://www.france24.com/ar/20180130-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%81%D8%B5%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%83%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%AD%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%B9%D8%AF%D9%86-%D9%82%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B1%D8%A6%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A9

[8] https://www.france24.com/ar/20190810-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%B2%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D9%85%D9%86%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%81%D8%B5%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A-%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D9%82%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B4%D9%8A%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B1%D8%A6%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D8%B9%D8%AF%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%83

[9]  https://al-akhbar.com/Yemen/275664

[10] Details of this agreement on the BBC Arabic website at the following link: https://www.bbc.com/arabic/middleeast/2015/07/150714_iran_nuclear_talk_agreement.

[11] Israel considered the agreement non-binding, and said through its prime minister that it would defend itself. See https://www.bbc.com/arabic/middleeast/2015/07/150714_iran_nuclear_talk_agreement. As for the Gulf states, their position was expressed by Mohammed bin Salman, who condemned Obama’s policy in the Middle East and the nuclear agreement in a bilateral meeting with John Kerry. See the book Blood and Oil, chapter titled: Sealed with a kiss, or see the translation by the writer of this research on the Khuyut website entitled: “the end is a kiss.” The Arabic version of the book was published by Hachette Books 2020.

[12] ibid.

[13] The funds that were expected to be released ranged between fifty and one hundred billion dollars. See A World in Disarray, Richard Haass, translated by Ismail Bahaa Al-Din Suleiman, Dar Al-Kitab Al-Arabi 2018, p. 138.

[14] https://www.france24.com/ar/20180508-%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A8-%D8%A5%D8%B9%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B3%D8%AD%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%88%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7%D9%82-%D9%86%D9%88%D9%88%D9%8A-%D8%A5%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86

[15] When its signature was announced, massive demonstrations took place in Tehran celebrating the event.

[16] This is also the opinion of two American academics. See their article entitled “Iran’s Nuclear Negotiators Make the U.S. Sit at the Kiddie Table” ​at the following link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-nuclear-jcpoa-tehran-enrichment-islamic-republic-11638129541?mod=hp_opin_pos_2#cxrecs_s.

[17] Trump’s promises during his election campaign on the France 24 channel website at the following link: https://www.france24.com/ar/20161111-%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A8-%D9%88%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AD%D9%85%D9%84%D8%A9-%D8%A5%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A5%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A3%D8%AC%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%A8-%D8%A5%D8%B3%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%8A%D9%84-%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A7-%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%B8%D9%8A%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%A9

[18] “A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis”, p. 133.

[19] Intelligence leaks suggest it is about to start producing the bomb, as mentioned in this article: https://acpss.ahram.org.eg/News/17334.aspx?fbclid=IwAR3DpfR5t-aptzI6YiiD0Z39E1_I21wTb_wHNkTvM8Oa-a9HGA97UvmSmiQ. There are Israeli reports that Iran is capable of producing a nuclear weapon by the end of 2021. See: https://www.aljazeera.net/news/politics/2020/1/15/%d8%a5%d8%b3%d8%b1%d8%a7%d8%a6%d9%8a%d9%84-%d8%a5%d9%8a%d8%b1%d8%a7%d9%86-%d9%82%d9%86%d8%a8%d9%84%d8%a9-%d8%b0%d8%b1%d9%8a%d8%a9-%d8%a7%d9%84%d9%8a%d9%88%d8%b1%d8%a7%d9%86%d9%8a%d9%88%d9%85.

[20] “A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis”, p. 139.

[21] An Iranian thinker appeared on Al-Mayadeen TV in 2015, he said, commenting on the Houthis’ control of Sana’a: “The time has passed, and we are far away. There is no going back to the region, Obama. We are the new masters of the region.” See also what some Iranian officials have said about their control of four Arab capitals, and that they have made an empire, on the following links: https://www.alarabiya.net/iran/2015/04/02/%D9%88%D8%B2%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%A5%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A-%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%A8%D9%82-%D9%86%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%B1-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-4-%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B5%D9%85-%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A9

https://www.alarabiya.net/iran/2015/03/10/%D8%B4%D9%85%D8%AE%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A-%D8%A5%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%AA%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%B4%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B7%D8%A6-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AA%D9%88%D8%B3%D8%B7-%D9%88%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%86%D8%AF%D8%A8

[22] Russia Today website at the following link:

https://arabic.rt.com/world/1298119-%D8%BA%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%B3-%D9%86%D8%B7%D9%88%D8%B1-%D9%82%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%A7-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%AA%D9%88%D8%AC%D9%8A%D9%87-%D8%B6%D8%B1%D8%A8%D8%A9-%D8%B9%D8%B3%D9%83%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%84%D8%A5%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%AA%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%AF%D9%81-%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%AC%D9%87%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D9%88%D9%88%D9%8A/.

[23] See the interview with him on the i24 YouTube channel at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTDOlu49XT0.

[24] The Iranian nuclear program and its impact on the Middle East, d. Riyad Al-Rawi, Dar Al-Awael – Damascus, second edition 2008, p. 76.

[25] For this reason, states are sensitive to the influence of their enemies in a state on their borders. For example, when the Soviets thought of installing nuclear missiles in Cuba in the 1960s, the United States did not accept, and that crisis almost led to a nuclear war between the two countries, had the Soviets not retreated. https://www.bbc.com/arabic/world-54500590

[26] One of the most prominent enemies of Iran in the region, if not its main enemy.

[27] Regarding this percentage, see an article in Al-Ahram at the following link: https://gate.ahram.org.eg/daily/News/101500/59/375889/%D8%A2%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%AD%D8%B1%D8%A9/%D9%85%D8%B6%D9%8A%D9%82-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%86%D8%AF%D8%A8-%D9%88%D8%A3%D9%87%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%AA%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%8A%D8%AC%D9%8A%D8%A9-.aspx And a report on the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed website at the following link: https://www.alaraby.co.uk/%D8%AA%D8%B9%D8%B1%D9%91%D9%81-%D8%A5%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A3%D9%87%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%85%D8%B6%D9%8A%D9%82-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%86%D8%AF%D8%A8-%D9%88%D8%AA%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B9%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A5%D8%BA%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%82%D9%87.

[28] America withdrew from the nuclear agreement in May 2018. At that time, Yemeni government forces controlled the center of Al-Jawf Governorate, as well as large areas outside Marib, including the strategic “Fardhat Nehm” adjacent to the capital, Sana’a. The setback began at the beginning of January 2020, with the Houthis taking control of the city of Al Hazm, the center of Al-Jawf Governorate, which was followed, at the end of January, by a rapid and sudden fall of the entirety of the Nehm district. The losses of the government forces continued, the last of which was the fall of Al-abdiya district in October 2021. For more details see the following links:

The fall of Al-abdiya:

http://www.aljazeera.net/programs/behindthenews/2021/10/15/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86-%D9%8A%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%B1%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D9%85%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%B2-%D9%85%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9

Fall of Al Hazm City:

https://www.aljazeera.net/news/politics/2020/3/1/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86-%D9%8A%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%B1%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D9%85%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%86%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%B2%D9%85

The fall of Nehm:

https://www.aljazeera.net/news/politics/2020/1/31/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%88%D9%81-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81-%D9%85%D8%A3%D8%B1%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%A9

Among the districts south of Marib, the Houthis took control of the districts of Bayhan, Harib and Al-Ain:

https://www.aljazeera.net/news/politics/2021/10/15/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86-%D9%8A%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%B1%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D9%85%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%81%D9%8A

[29] – The first attack that Saudi Arabia was subjected to by Houthi drones was in September 2017, but during 2018, up to now 2021, Houthi missile strikes witnessed a remarkable growth. During 2018, King Khalid Airport in Riyadh and Jazan base were bombed, and a Saudi oil tanker was attacked, by a Houthi missile, while on its way in international waters west of Hodeidah port. In May of the same year, the Houthis attacked Riyadh with a group of Burkan missiles, and in July they attacked a Saudi oil tanker in the Red Sea. See: https://www.bbc.com/arabic/interactivity-48359052

Houthis attacks by missiles and drones continued in 2019 and 2020 (in January only, in conjunction with their control of Nihm district, the Houthis launched more than 26 missiles

https://www.aljazeera.net/news/politics/2020/1/31/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%88%D9%81-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81-%D9%85%D8%A3%D8%B1%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%A9

In the current year, the Houthis continued to launch missiles into Saudi territory. In March, they announced targeting King Khalid Air Base with five drones:

https://www.aljazeera.net/news/politics/2021/3/5/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%AF%D8%AB-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%B3%D9%83%D8%B1%D9%8A-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%AF%D9%81%D9%86%D8%A7

[30]https://www.alarabiya.net/arab-and-world/yemen/2013/06/29/%D8%A5%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%AA%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%A8-%D9%85%D8%A6%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%B9%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%83-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%86%D9%88%D8%A8%D9%8A-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86.

[31] Althawra newspaper:

https://althawra-news.net/news108623.html

See also Janoubia website:

https://janoubia.com/2014/11/07/%D8%AE%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%81-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%B6-%D9%88%D8%B7%D9%87%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%8A%D9%82%D9%81%D9%84-%D8%B9%D8%AF%D9%86-%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%8A%D9%81-%D8%A8/

[32] Albayan magazine: https://www.albayan.co.uk/article2.aspx?id=2957

[33] Al Jazeera Net: https://www.aljazeera.net/news/reportsandinterviews/2013/9/10/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86-%D9%8A%D8%AA%D9%87%D9%85-%D8%A5%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A8%D8%AF%D8%B9%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%81%D8%B5%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86.

[34] Azmi Bishara, The Egyptian Revolution, The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies 2016, Part Two, p. 512.

[35] ibid, p. 513.

[36] ibid, p. 536.

[37] See Blood And Oil, Hachette Books 2020, Chapter X, Blockade.

[38] ibid, a chapter entitled: Cold Blood. In fact, the battles between Ibn Saud and the Turks are many, such as the Battle of Al-Bukairiya, but the most important was the Battle of Al-Shanana (in Al-Qassim), September 1904, after which the situation settled for Ibn Saud in Najd.

[39] https://mena-studies.org/ar/%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%B0%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AD%D8%A7%D8%B2%D8%AA-%D9%82%D8%B7%D8%B1-%D8%A5%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86%D8%9F/.

[40] https://al-ain.com/article/qatari-funds-houthi-terrorism-decades.

[41] ibid

[42] Prime Minister Maeen Abdul-Malik says Qatar supports the Houthis with money and weapons, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper: https://aawsat.com/home/article/2403956/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%83%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%82%D8%B7%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D8%AF%D8%B9%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%84-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AD

[43] See: https://www.alwatan.com.sa/article/1054083.

[44] This wing is led by Belqis and Yemen Shabab channels, as well as a group of media professionals and activists on social media.

[45] See a report entitled: “Why and how the UAE is promoting the ‘lie’ of the Turkish role in Yemen” on the Al-Masdar Online website at the following link: https://almasdaronline.com/articles/197744

[46] https://www.aljazeera.net/news/politics/2019/1/16/%D8%AA%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%8A%D8%A7-%D8%A3%D9%86%D9%82%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A3%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%B8%D8%A8%D9%8A-%D8%B5%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%B9-%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%B3-%D8%B9%D8%AF%D9%86.

[47] Russia Today: https://arabic.rt.com/middle_east/1209279 -%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A5%D8%B3%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%B7-%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%AC%D8%B3%D8%B3-%D9%85%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%84%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D9%86%D8%B9-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%AF%\D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86/.

[48] See a summary of Aktay’s article on Russia Today’s website at the following link: https://arabic.rt.com/world/1193796-%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B1%D8%A6%D9%8A%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%8A-%D9%8A%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%AF%D8%AB-%D8%B9%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%B1%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%BA%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A8%D8%A9-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%AC%D9%8A%D8%A8%D8%A9-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86/.

[49] Al-sharq Al-Awsat Newspaper: https://aawsat.com/home/article/321171/%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%82-%C2%AB%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B5%D9%81%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%B2%D9%85%C2%BB-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AE%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%AC%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%84%D8%A5%D9%86%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%B0-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86

Sky News Channel:

https://www.skynewsarabia.com/video/733456-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%81%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%AF%D9%8A-%D9%8A%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%86-%D8%A8%D8%AF%D8%A1-%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B5%D9%81%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%B2%D9%85#

[50] After the start of “Decisive Storm”, President Obama announced his support for the operation, and for Security Council Resolution 2216, which called on the Houthis to end the coup, lay down their arms, and withdraw from the cities they occupy. But this seems to be aligning with the position of its Saudi ally, rather than a product of conviction.

[51] See Blood and Oil, a chapter entitled: MBS.

[52] ibid.

[53] https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/obama-aide-how-we-got-it-wrong-in-yemen-24162.

[54] https://www.noonpost.com/content/36103.

[55] https://www.bbc.com/arabic/world-47957469.

[56] https://www.bbc.com/arabic/middleeast-55820626

[57] https://www.aljarida.com/articles/1632557157710893200

[58] https://arabic.cnn.com/middle-east/article/2021/09/29/saudi-mbs-meeting-us-national-security-advisor.

[59] A long study on the Sana’a Center for Studies website: https://sanaacenter.org/ar/publications-all/analysis-ar/8348.

[60] See the details in: The Formation of Modern Yemen, Syed Mustafa Salem, Dar Al-Amin for Publishing and Distribution, Fourth Edition 1993, p. 237 and beyond.

[61] https://arabic.rt.com/middle_east/912211-%D8%B5%D8%AD%D9%8A%D9%81%D8%A9-%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%86%D8%AF%D9%86-%D8%AD%D8%B1%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86

[62] https://www.alaraby.co.uk/opinion/%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A7-%D9%88%D9%85%D9%83%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A8-%D9%85%D8%AD%D8%B3%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A9-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%AD%D8%B1%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86

[63] The pressure that led to the cessation of the Hodeidah battles came from several Western countries, led by America, Britain, and France, but Britain was distinguished by its urgency and seriousness, which can be felt through its subsequent statements warning of the collapse of the Hudaydah truce, as well as the visit of its foreign minister to Aden, who is the only Western official to visit Yemen since the beginning of the war. See details of this on the BBC Arabic website: https://www.bbc.com/arabic/middleeast-47436717

[64] http://arabic.news.cn/2019-03/04/c_137866354.htm.

[65] https://alkhaleejonline.net/%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A9/%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%B0%D8%A7-%D8%AA%D8%B3%D8%B9%D9%89-%D9%84%D9%86%D8%AF%D9%86-%D8%A5%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A5%D8%B5%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%82%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%A3%D9%85%D9%85%D9%8A-%D8%AC%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D9%84%D8%A5%D9%86%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%AD%D8%B1%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86%D8%9F.

[66] Among them was Abdul Majeed Al-Zindani himself, who became one of the most important leaders of the Islah Party after founding in 1990.

[67] The number of the Afghan army was 300,000, while the Taliban forces were no more than 75,000. Nevertheless, Kabul fell into the hands of the latter without a fight, and the same thing happened in Yemen in September 2014. On the census of the Afghan army and the census of the Taliban, see Al Jazeera Net on the following link: https://www.aljazeera.net/news/politics/2021/8/15/%d9%86%d9%8a%d9%88%d9%8a%d9%88%d8%b1%d9%83-%d8%aa%d8%a7%d9%8a%d9%85%d8%b2-%d8%b7%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%a8%d8%a7%d9%86-%d8%a7%d9%83%d8%aa%d8%b3%d8%ad%d8%aa.

[68] The war lasted 20 years, followed by the Iraq war that lasted for 18 years, as the second longest war in America, and then the Vietnam War for 14 years.

[69] See The Dilemma of Afghanistan, the Taliban, the United States, Arab International Relations Forum, 2014, p. 12.

[70] Al Jazeera Net: https://www.aljazeera.net/news/politics/2021/11/12/%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%A4%D9%88%D9%84-%D8%A3%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%8A-%D9%84%D8%B1%D9%88%D9%8A%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%B2-%D9%82%D8%B7%D8%B1-%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%AB%D9%84

This paper is part of the “Riyadh Agreement Project,” implemented by the Arabia Felix Center for Studies (AFC), with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). The aim is to understand the factors that prevent the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and provide realistic recommendations to the concerned parties. This project will include studies and other policy papers that will be published successively.

Abdulelah almanhami

A researcher at AFCS, a writer and translator. He has many contributions in political and cultural affairs of Yemen. Abdulelah holds a Bachelor of arts in Arabic literature from Sana’a University 2019. he is currently enrolled in a master’s program, specializing in modern criticism at the same university.

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