The US-British call for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire between the Iran-backed Houthis and the legitimate Hadi government (which is supported by the Gulf and the international community) comes at a crucial time. It may also be beneficial to end Yemen’s ongoing misery, which began when the Houthi militias overthrew Hadi in late 2014, provided that these criminal, extremist militias actually respect the cease-fire this time.
Apart from allowing wounds to heal, and providing a chance to return to the negotiating table, this cease-fire will help the Saudi-led coalition reassess the troublesome revelations which have recently emerged that the Yemeni government has provided wrong intelligence which has led to last week’s unfortunate Sanaa funeral strike.
It must be noted here that at the time, the coalition announced an immediate investigation with the Joint Investigation and Assessment Team (JIAT), and said it would seek US advice — given America’s experience in the matter — over the issue. Later, Riyadh announced that families of the victims will be compensated and that procedures will be taken to do what is needed with those responsible.
The cease-fire would also be a chance for the Yemeni government to regroup and reassess its negotiation strategy, particularly that Saudi Foreign Ministry’s position has always been that the Houthis — despite their crimes against Yemen — remain a vital part of the country’s components.
This cease-fire should be also a chance for this wicked militia to see what it has managed to achieve over nearly two years, apart from death, destruction and devastation.
More than huffing and puffing
However, one should draw the line between what is attainable and what is merely wishful thinking. The Houthi militias — currently busy firing missiles on the US Navy stationed in the Gulf of Aden — have never respected cease-fires; they have always used such opportunities to regroup, rearm and then re-launch new attacks targeting innocent men, women and schoolchildren in the southern border cities of the Kingdom.
So, the US and UK are welcome to demand this much-needed cease-fire; however, for Washington and London to be reasonable and respected, they must also ensure that the Houthi militias don’t — yet again — utilize this opportunity to commit more crimes against their own people, Saudi Arabia or the US armed forces.
Yet, after America ignored its own red-line in Syria in 2013, and given that the Houthis have waged not one, not two… but THREE missile attacks on the US Navy over the past week without fearing any serious repercussions; one should be forgiven for not thinking huffing and puffing by world superpowers will act as a deterrent to these criminal religious fanatics.
If anything — and given the current administration’s “hands off” foreign policy — one may also be excused for thinking that this new cease-fire will serve Washington with a way to be “saved by the bell.”
After all, it would require significant — and a rather interesting — justification back home for the US to explain to voters how the Iran nuclear deal ended up empowering and funding the very same militia, which is attacking the US Navy in Yemen!
Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News. He can be reached on Twitter