September 24, 2021


The recent unilateral government formation of the Shiite Houthi group, diminishes chances for peace and derails settlement efforts in war-torn Yemen, said Yemeni and Egyptian political experts.

Controlling the northern provinces of Yemen, the Houthi group and ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh's party, declared the formation of a "national salvation government," a step that has been rejected by the Yemeni presidency in the south, as well as, the Arab League and Gulf states.

The situation in Yemen has been worsening since Mar, 2015, when a war broke out between the Shiite Houthi rebels, supported by former president, Saleh, as well as Iran, and the legitimate government of fleeing President, Abd-Rabbo Mansour Hadi, backed by an Arab military coalition, led by Saudi Arabia.

Since then, the Houthi fighters and Saleh's forces control most of Yemeni northern provinces, including the capital Sanaa, while the pro-Hadi forces control the rest of the conflict-stricken country, including the southern major city of Aden.

"The Houthi formal announcement of government formation, might be a start for division between the north and the south in Yemen," said Yemeni journalist and political expert, Abulaziz al-Majidi, adding, the announcement practically provides nothing new as the Houthi rebels already control the capital Sanaa.

Through his spokesman in Aden, Yemeni President Hadi, who is currently hosted by Riyadh, condemned the Houthi-Saleh government formation move as illegitimate, urging the international community "to hold the militia responsible for the collapse of peace efforts in Yemen."

On Tuesday, the Arab League (AL) in Cairo, strongly rejected the formation of the so-called "national salvation government," describing it as "an extension of the coup methodology that the Houthis do not want to give up."

AL chief, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, warned that the step is a barrier to the peacemaking efforts in Yemen, led by United Nations special envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. "Such a step clearly shows which party blocks the way to reach a peaceful solution for the Yemeni crisis," he added.

The Yemeni expert ruled out the possibility for the recognition of the Houthi government in Yemen by any states, including Iran itself, the Houthis' main backer, as the move contradicts the UN Resolution 2216, that affirms the legitimacy of President Hadi.

"Tehran only uses the Houthis for strategic purposes, to have control in Bab al-Mandeb Strait vital region and to drain the Gulf states in general and Saudi Arabia in particular," Majidi told Xinhua.

He expected that the pro-Hadi forces, supported by the Saudi-led coalition, to continue escalation in attempt to restore control over all Yemeni provinces.

The Saudi-led Arab military coalition has been launching deadly air strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen, but a lot of civilians have been "wrongly targeted" during the operations.

The civil war, ground battles and coalition air strikes have so far killed over 10,000 people, half of whom are civilians, injured over 35,000 others and displaced over two million, according to humanitarian agencies.

"I believe that Saudi Arabia made a tactical mistake by continuing its military approach, instead of seeking a political settlement, after the coalition managed to free Aden," said Mohamed Gomaa, a researcher at the Arab and Regional Unit of Cairo-based Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

In mid-Nov, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, said, during a recent Gulf tour that, the Houthi group and the Saudi-led coalition had agreed to a ceasefire. Although welcomed by the AL, Hadi's foreign minister said, his government was "not interested" and described Kerry's bid as "a media bubble."

"Hadi's position on Kerry's initiative was so negative and it was just an interpretation of Saudi Arabia's position," Gomaa told Xinhua, lamenting that a peaceful settlement in Yemen has regrettably become far-fetched.

The expert said, the Saudi position in Yemen complicates the crisis, arguing that the kingdom is reluctant to accept a settlement, after Houthi threats partly crossed Saudi borders, "fearing it might be seen as Saudi confession of failure."

Gomaa explained that there are different views between major partners inside the Saudi-led coalition, while the U.S. position seems to have given up support for further military operations in Yemen.

"Overall, the Saudi military-based position and the Houthi escalation via government formation, have greatly complicated the Yemeni crisis and diminished chances for a peaceful settlement," the expert told Xinhua.