Battle for Mediation: The Political Price for the War in Yemen

Published on Dissident Voice, by Ali Jawad, January 12, 2010.

Whilst all wars have a rational “end”, some are less rational than others. The participation of the Saudi and Yemeni establishments in their war against Yemeni Houthis has been a catastrophic error – so catastrophic, in fact, as to verge on political suicide. After months of blind bombing raids, the prospects of any decisive victory disappear further into oblivion with every additional sortie.

“Operation Scorched Earth” – pitched as the sixth war between the Yemeni government and its Houthi citizens – has served to further cement the incompetence of Ali Abdallah Saleh’s government. Its failure to heed from the lessons of past has exposed it to charges of gross impudence within policy circles. Indeed, both Riyadh and Sana’a are condemned of committing the supreme crime in war designs: vanity.

Ever since its declared involvement in the war, the Saudi Kingdom has been frantically searching for an exit strategy. It took more than 70 confirmed fatalities and a growing list of soldiers ‘missing in action’ in the space of little over a month for the Al-Saud royalty to finally fling in the open its first give-away.

On 22 December, Deputy Defence Minister Prince Khalid bin Sultan suggested that the Kingdom had all but done its job, and was therefore halting all major operations. Although he did also offer a sternly worded 48-hour ultimatum to the Houthis to withdraw from the border town of Al-Jabaliya, Saudi Arabia clearly ‘wanted out’; albeit attempting its sign-off with grandiloquent hubris. To Saudi warnings, the Houthis reaffirmed their central demands which have remarkably remained consistent from the outset: ‘Saudi Arabia must put an end to its aggressions, and mustn’t allow its territory to be used by Yemeni forces in the war’ …

… What is certain is that Riyadh would regard Qatari mediation a bitterer pill to swallow than Turkish involvement on the same. In this vein, the visit of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to Riyadh early last week can be viewed as a tentative first-step towards an eventual Turkish mediation of the crisis. Indeed upon his return from the Kingdom, Davutoglu indicated that Turkey was ready to act as a “regional actor” in order to put an end to the clashes.

Riyadh thus seems set to pay a heavy price for its madness. In addition to bringing untold embarrassment upon the Kingdom, the prospect of Turkish mediation will have sizeable regional repercussions. Should it come to pass, yet another instance of marked Turkish movement on the Middle Eastern chessboard will madden Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Cairo. Before all, Israel and its thuggish Netanyahu-Lieberman team will be the more enraged for rather obvious reasons.

The only way out for Riyadh and its allies is another act of madness. The question thus looms; will Obama oblige? (full text).

(Ali Jawad is a political activist and a member of the AhlulBayt Islamic Mission (AIM). He can be reached by e-mail. Read other articles by Ali, or visit Ali’s website).

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