Space For Rent

Space For Rent
Friday, April 10, 2015, Chaitra 27, 1421 BS, Jamadius Sani 19, 1436 Hijr

Deepening Yemeni crisis and conflicting role of friends
Saleem Samad
Published : Friday, 10 April, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 169
Saudi Arabia would never be comfortable when Iran is on their backyard of war-torn Yemen, raging a quadrangle military conflict between government forces loyal to ousted Yemini government, Houthis, or Ansarullah, Al Qaeda and Islah party. The crisis in Yemen cuts through the country's political, tribal, regional and sectarian layers to create a complex conflict for centuries.
While the Saudi Arabia's led 10-nation Arab coalition airstrikes enters 15th day to neutralise the Houthi rebels military might in the south and north Yemen, the leaders in Iran and Pakistan pledged to work to find a negotiated solution to the conflict in Yemen. Iran has condemned the military campaign in Yemen and appealed for dialogue.
A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been bombarding Houthi rebels in Yemen in a bid to restore the government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, who is in exile in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has deployed 100 jets in its air campaign, alongside 30 from the UAE, 15 each from Kuwait and Bahrain, and 10 from Qatar. Sudan, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco have also supported the campaign. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of providing military support to the Shia-sect Houthis, a charge the Islamic Republic denies.
Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told his Pakistan counterpart Sartaj Aziz in Pakistan's capital Islamabad of a four-stage plan for talks: an immediate ceasefire followed by humanitarian assistance, dialogue among Yemenis and the formation of an all-inclusive government.
Iran's neighbour Pakistan, a close ally of Saudi Arab seems cool and instead said that the Yemenis should decide how to settle the crisis. Aziz does not agree on Iran's idea of an immediate ceasefire, saying it 'would consolidate the existing ground position', which currently has Houthis in control of large parts of Yemen, including the capital Sana'a. But Iran claims to have a 'consensus' which emerged around the four-point plan, following talks with Oman, Turkey and Pakistan.
Saudi Arab has pressed Pakistan, a close and longstanding ally, to join its coalition ground force against the Houthi rebels, but Islamabad has so far resisted. Pakistan is in a fix in providing military support in Yemen, but reluctant to offend Saudi Arabia, with which it has long enjoyed close military and economic ties, but also not wanting to get involved in a war that is likely to escalate sectarian violence at home.
As parliament debates on sending troops to Yemen, Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif cleverly said that he will defend Saudi Arab's 'territorial integrity' but did not make any commitment.
The Arab allies' imposition of an air and naval blockade on Yemen has prompted Iran to dispatch two warships, including a destroyer, for what they argue would patrol the Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea to protect Iranian shipping from piracy. Saudi Arabia's leading role against the Houthis has turned Yemen into the latest theatre of a regional proxy conflict between the Middle East's leading Sunni and Shiite powers - a struggle also playing out in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
Saudi Arabia, United States, Britain and France are worried that the presence of Iranian naval ships which is likely to invite political tension in the region. The area is one of the world's most important shipping routes and a gateway between Europe and the Middle East.
Further east, Al Qaeda's Yemen franchise - seen by the US as the militant network's most dangerous - sought to tighten its grip on Shabwa province, while the Saada province remains a stronghold of the Houthis.
Observers have earlier warned that Al Qaeda could fish in troubled waters to expand its control following the withdrawal of US troops from al-Anad air base. Until now, Yemen would continue to sink in further crisis, as international bodies are looking into the military success of Arab coalition to retake Yemen, which seems an undaunted task for 10-nation coalition leader Saudi Arabia.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow, is Special Correspondent, The Daily Observer. He writes on current affairs

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
Published by the Editor on behalf of the Observer Ltd. from Globe Printers, 24/A, New Eskaton Road, Ramna, Dhaka. Editorial, News and Commercial Offices : Aziz Bhaban (2nd floor), 93, Motijheel C/A, Dhaka-1000. Phone :9586651-58. Fax: 9586659-60, Advertisemnet: 9513663, E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]