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Houthis are to blame for long spell of violence in Yemen

Salman Al Dosary (Conflict Zone)
Filed on April 5, 2017 | Last updated on April 5, 2017 at 12.33 am
A tribal fighter loyal to Yemen’s government takes position as he fights against Houthi terrorists . The militia continues to shun Arab moves for talks at the behest of Iran.- AFP file photo
A tribal fighter loyal to Yemen's government takes position as he fights against Houthi terrorists . The militia continues to shun Arab moves for talks at the behest of Iran.- AFP file photo

It is a legitimate, natural, and expected question. No one really wants war, let alone one that is continuing with no end in sight.

Two years after the 'Decisive Storm' in Yemen to weed out the coalition of the Houthi militia and the Ali Abdullah Saleh group, the question remains: When will the war end in Yemen?

It is a legitimate, natural, and expected question. No one really wants war, let alone one that is continuing with no end in sight. But how can we answer that question without addressing its root causes?

Surely, it is impossible to end a war while the reasons that caused it to erupt are still present. All things indicate that Houthi-Saleh militias still pose major challenges to Yemen's attempt to achieve peace and end this war.

The militia has violated 150 ceasefire in Yemen, and 30 on the Yemeni-Saudi border. And as the militia still refuses any initiatives for peace after the Kuwait talks, there is no solution in sight other than continuation of the coalition operations until they accept a political solution.

It is clear that the Houthi-Saleh militias understand only power. They do not appear keen on negotiations and treaties. Therefore, the political and military tracks have to run parallel to get things moving in the country. For any political operation to be successful, it needs participation of both parties - something that is not happening in the Yemeni crisis.

There is one party that represents the legitimate Yemeni government which accepts initiatives and sits alone at the negotiation table. This government can't find a party to negotiate with and there is no way other than pressing ahead with military action.

So, what is delaying a military resolution?

Houthis deploy their military posts and civil bases in populated areas in Sana'a and other major cities under their control. So it is only natural that a military solution cannot be achieved as quickly as expected. This exposes the difference between how states and militias deal with the issue.

Military operations conducted by the coalition are done according to strict rules to preserve the lives of civilians as much as possible. Surely, there are some mistakes that no one wants to commit. Yet, and in rare cases, the coalition mistakenly caused civilian causalities while targeting military locations. The Houthis target the Saudi border randomly, with an aim to inflict maximum civilian casualties.

In two years, the militia randomly launched over 40,000 missiles, mortars, and other bombs on Saudi cities killing 375 civilians, shutting over 500 schools, and displacing over 17,000 people from 24 villages.

Some might refer to the incident at the Sana'a funeral house in October, which happened because of wrong information. The Arab coalition issued a statement back then saying that it was a mistake because a source passed wrong information.

Last week, an international coalition raid targeted civilians in Mosul, which also occurred based on wrong information given by Iraqi troops, according to US Department of Defense.

But the matters were dealt with differently. Innocent people are affected in any military operation. Yet, in the first situation, the incident was exaggerated as if it was done deliberately, whereas the second was considered a military mistake that could happen during such operations.

Two years after the war in Yemen, coalition forces and the Yemeni government are in control of over 80 per cent of territory. The coalition succeeded in establishing a Yemeni state from scratch with its own government and army, after years without sign of government.

We now have a legitimate government and a coalition in accordance with the references to reach a peaceful settlement, as opposed to a militia that prefers war to peace and resorts to power instead of negotiations. As long as the insurgency persists, there is no way other than continuing the war until the underlying reasons are eliminated.

- Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al Awsat newspaper.


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