Nasser Arrabyee answering questions about the latest developments in Yemen after 18 months of US-backed Saudi aggression and war crimes
Over the past few months and with the postponement of the third rounds of negotiations, there have been some notable changes in Yemeni power structures as well as shifting of alliances. Can you briefly explain the main changes?
1) Explain the formation of the new council between the Houthi, and Saleh and when did it start and why?
On July 28th, 2016, and after Saudi princes thwarted Kuwait talks, the Houthi, Ansar Allah group and its allies and Saleh's party GPC and its allies officially agreed to form a supreme political council, that's ruling council to rule and fight the US-backed Saudi aggression.
With this, Houthi and Saleh became partners to rule in addition to being partners to resist Saudi invasion and occupation. Before March 26, 2015, Saleh and Houthi were still opponents but Saudi aggression on that day united them to fight external enemy but only the Houthi was on power.
On August 13th, 2016, the 301-seat House of Representatives held a historic session despite public Saudi threats to air strike them with the F16s. The HR ratified the 10-member ruling council (5 from Saleh 5 from Houthi) with 5 MPs more than the constitutional quorum which is half of the all MPs.
A total of 142 out of 275 MPs attended the session. The speaker of parliament Yahya Al Raye and all MPs started the session with one-minute mourning over 26 MPs who naturally died over the past period, announcing 26 seats vacant, which means the total number is 275 and not 301.
Some sick MPs asked relatives to carry them on sickness bed such as Rashad Al Shawari who came propelled by 4 of his relatives because of paralysis. One day before the session, the Saudi jets deliberately destructed all main roads leading to Sanaa to prevent PMs from 20 provinces from attending, and banned air flights from landing in Sanaa airport to prevent MPs outside Yemen from attending.
The MPs Yaser Al Awadhi of GPC and Sultan Same'e of Socialist party, were among 10 MPs who voted via TV circuit from Oman. A total of 154 MPs attended the second day's session when the chairman and members of the ruling council took the constitutional oath before the parliament.
The 12 late MPs took long time to repair the destructed roads or take more difficult and even longer roads to arrive in Sanaa. Observers called such a dangerous session of the parliament the "death" session.
The US-backed Saudi jets kept hovering over parliament and striking in some places in the city of Sanaa during the whole 90-minute long session. With huge media covering everything live,thousands of of Yemenis and activists demonstrated in the streets around the parliament building 3 hours before the "death" session started.
On August 20th, millions of Yemenis from all country's 22 provinces gathered in an unprecedented and historic referendum-like demonstration to support the supreme ruling council and his constitutional chairman Saleh Al Samad ( from north) and his deputy Dr Kasem Labooza ( from south).
During this demonstration, the US-backed Saudi jets fired 24 missiles on already hit places nearby and around the square and streets where millions were chanting against the war and supporting the ruling council.
Two of the missiles hit the gate of the Presidential Palace which is located in the same square (Sabeen Square) of demonstration killing 4 demonstrators and injuring 10 others. All that was painstakingly documented by media. This historic demonstration was with one flag (united Yemen flag) and one voice yes to ruling council no to war.
2) How is it different from the previous council (the revolutionary council)? Does it replace it?
This council united the two major forces in the south and north of Yemen ( Houthi and GPC). It united the revolutionaries with those who the revolution came against .
The arrogance and atrocities of US-backed Saudi aggression made the impossible possible.Th ruling council replaced the revolutionary committee.
3) Explain the Hadi’s appointment of Ahmar, and what it means for the government in exile?
Hadi's appointments have done nothing not from Riyadh but also his appointments over the 3-year term before Saudis intervened militarily.
For appointment of Ali Muhsen (Al Ahmar) as vice president, it made things even worse and more complicated to Hadi and international community. Muhsen is enemy number 1 of Houthi, Saleh and Hirak of the south. The 70-year old general is very close to Salafis from where Qaeda/ISIS come.
He lost much of his tribal popularity by Saudi killing and injuring of tens of thousands of civilians asleep in their houses, schools, mosques, hospitals, factories, farms etc.
His appointment was only one of Hadi's evil skills to make the situation without solution. The only thing that Hadi is good at is to make unsolvable problems even to himself. Saudis liked it (Ahmar apointment) only to try to divide the Sanhan tribes, to which Muhsen and ex-president Saleh belong without success.
The US-backed atrocities changed the map of alliances, the social, tribal, political and even the sectarian alliances in favor of Houthi-Saleh.
4) Briefly describe how alliances shifted in light of these changes, where does each actor stand (including Islah, the secessionists, tribal powers, anyone else I might have forgotten).
The two major groups strengthened and officially announced their alliances by this council, because the step was a popular demand from the beginning of the US-backed Saudi aggression.
Their opponents ( Islah, Qaeda, ISIS, and Saudis and their fake justification Hadi) bet only on US-backed Saudi military solution and more bloodshed and more destruction. The more bloodshed,the more complicated it gets to them and to all stakeholders.
5) How many power structures does Yemen now have? (the government in exile under Hadi, the new Houthi/Saleh council? etc)
Yemen now and all time since March 26, 2015, has 3 powers. The first one is on the ground fighting with majority of people against US-backed unjustifiable Saudi aggression and seeking a modern state for all with freedom,dignity, and sovereignty.
And the second power is in Riyadh-based exile. All its strength is coming from the term (internationally recognized legitimacy) and from the money and weapons of Saudi Arabia who wants to settle accounts with Iran in Yemen using them.
The third power is also on the ground working and fighting very hard. It is the power of Qaeda/ISIS and Hirak, the separation movement of the south. Hirak symbolic leaders are divided into many: Some work with Hadi, some with Saleh, some with Houthi, some with Saudi Arabia, some with UAE and some work with Qatar. While Qaeda/ISIS has one leadership,one goal and one enemy. The biggest winner of the war is Qaeda/ISIS. It has been increasingly gaining everyday since the very beginning of the war.
What is the new council hoping to achieve and where does that leave the other structures vying for power inside and outside of Yemen?
1) What does the council hope to achieve?
To form a government whose main task would be the preparation of elections. Parliamentary, local and presidential elections.
2) Do they want to run the country or break the country into two with them controlling the northern part?
The ruling council and the would-be government are unionists and their main goal is to preserve the unity. The vice chairman of the ruling council is Dr Kasem Labooza, from very symbolic family from Radfan, south. The family of Labooza were all pioneer revolutionaries against the British colony in 1950s and 60s. The southerners, from all backgrounds, all levels, all parties, all sects, are much safer now in Sanaa than in Aden. I personally know some southerners who bring family members and properties to Sanaa and then go back to Aden to fight with Saudis or Emirates forces against Houthi-Saleh. Sanaa has about 2 million displaced persons from all over Yemen about 500,00 of them from the south. All this means that unity is a necessity.
3) Does Saudi have any inclination to let them control the north?
Saudi has always the will to make Yemen a back garden of slaves. Without a State. Saudis work hard to prevent any kind of respected State. It wants a controlled chaos not even like now with real Yemen fighters taking towns and cities in Najran, Jaizan, Asir and astonishingly arming themselves from advanced US-Saudi weapons.
Saudi does not care much about unity or separation as long as it has the key of controlling the chaos.
4) If this is their aim where does it leave the rest of the political actors? How are they reacting, or will react to this?
The aim of Saudis is to keep Yemen weak, poor, lawless , stateless and always in a chaos controlled by them (Saudis). It's historic fact unfortunately.
The third round of negotiations fell through in early August, where do talks stand at the moment?
1) Briefly explain why the last round of negations fell apart?
No negotiations or any kind of talks succeeded before or would succeed from now on as long as the problem maker is not punished. The problem maker is simply Saudi Arabia. The last round of talks fell apart like the previous ones because Saudi Arabia wanted to gain with such talks what it did not gain with more than 18 months of war with 10 armies and most advanced weapons and mercenaries from all over the world. Saudi Arabia wanted Yemenis to surrender and be slaves after all that sacrifices of blood and infrastructure. This is the impossible thing to happen.
2) Briefly explain what Saudi wants and why is it difficult for them to give up on Hadi at the moment?
Publicly, Saudis want Yemenis only to implement the "UN" resolution 2216 by handing weapons to Hadi and withdrawing from cities. And secretly, it actually does not want peace but it wants complete surrender and complete hand over of weapons to Qaeda/ISIS leaders who posed as members of Hadi's "internationally recognized" government. US Treasury Department designated as global terrorists 3 of the Riyadh-based Hadi government. Abdul Majid Al Zandani, Abdul Wahab Humaikani, and Naif Al Qaisy. The last one Al Qaisy was appointed as governor of Al Baidha. And Al Humaikani was sent to Geneva to represent Hadi. They all now fund and lead Qaeda/ISIS operatives from luxurious hotels in Riyadh.
3) Under what circumstances would the negotiation yield a more sustainable solution or at least a cessation of hostilities?
Simply, cease-fire means only stopping US-backed Saudi airstrikes and lift of blockade. The Yemenis (Houthi-Saleh) would also stop automatically as they only defend themselves with very modest weapons.
For the sustainable solution, it is there and every body knows it, but Saudis want something else. The solution is a unity government recognizing the new changes ( Houthi and Saleh new realities, new and high popularity) taking all weapons from all militias and handing them to this government not to an "unknown" third party as John Kerry said in his last initiative of Saudi coastal city of Jedda late August, 2016. The first and foremost task of this transitional unity government is to prepare for elections on a date agreed upon and announced.
What impact has the recapture of Mukalla, Jaar, and Zinjibar had on AQAP and possibly ISIS as well?
1) Briefly explain how the conflict has benefited AQAP and ISIS? Not just in terms of operating more freely by gaining external support?
First of all, Qaeda/ISIS still exist in Aden, Mukalla, Zinjubar, Jaar and everywhere in south as long as Yemen is stateless. About 200 recruits (jobless young people) were killed last week in the heart of Aden by ISIS suicide bombing. The victims, the jobless young people had been told by warlords to go fight with Saudis in Najran. The suicide bomber Ahmed Saif, Abu Sufyan Al Adani was a Quran teacher in Aden. Qaeda/ISIS is deeply rooted in the social and educational systems thanks to Saudi money.
Second, everything in US-backed Saudi war against Houthi-Saleh was and is in the interest of Qaeda/ISIS. Leaders in Riyadh, Qatar and Turkey take money and weapons and hand them to the "resistance" which means Qaeda/ISIS.Yemenis around Hadi in Riyadh either direct Qaeda/ISIS leaders such as the 3 I previously mentioned or Islah leaders, brotherhood leaders whose supporters in the ground fight with Qaeda/ISIS against Houthi-Saleh in the south, Mareb, Taiz, Jawf, and Baidha.Hadi has no popularity at all neither in the north nor in the south. Even those around in exile, they know that he is very important for them only to have the "title" of internationally recognized legitimacy. Nobody expects from him to play more than such a nominal but essential role for this stage.
For Saudis, Hadi is a sustainable and renewable mine of gold, bonanza. To do whatever they want of atrocities without being responsuble. The Saudis keep telling the world, shamelessly, they want only to restore the internationally recognized legitimate Hadi, without remembering what this legitimacy is for and about after all this unprecedented war crimes and devastation. Because of Hadi, Saudis portray themselves as peace lovers not war criminals, and mediators not party.
2) What is likely to happen to both groups if Houthis/Saleh succeeds?
If Houthi-Saleh succeeds, the Qaeda/ISIS will be vanished especially if the cooperation with US and international community for terror fighting is enhanced again . The Houthi and Saleh are the enemy number 1 for such groups, and no one would fight them more effective than them.
These groups almost vanished from Sanaa and all northern provinces during 2015 and 2016 after they had strengthened and expanded over the period 2011-2014 when the brotherhood rode the wave of the so-called Arab Spring, the age of Qaeda/ISIS prosperity.
3) What is likely to happen to both groups if Saudi succeeds?
If Saudi succeeds, it will be a big victory for Qaeda/ISIS as the war was a big benefit to them to recruit, expand and move freely. The leaders will return from Saudi Arabia including the 3 I previously mentioned who are designated as global terrorists. More than 3500 Salafi schools will return to work outside the regulations of the government with finance and control from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They seem to be normal schools, teaching Quran, but all Qaeda/ISIS operatives graduate from such schools which are not under the monitoring of the goverment.
However, it does not mean that under Houthi-Saleh , these schools will be banned, but will be monitored to commit to and comply with certain laws and regulations that require all groups and sects to respect each other and coexist with others to turn the diversity to positive thing for more security and stability.
At the present in Sanaa and all northern provinces, Salafi mosques and schools open and exercise their rights but under strict monitoring for fears of security problems and some of their leaders escaped to Saudi Arabia after they refused or failed to comply with new security instructions to maintain security at the time of war.
The Saudi-backed Islah party, brthoerhood, for example, refused to hand over weapons in 2014 when Houthi said all groups must hand over weapons to the state not only Houthi. Furthermore, Qaeda/ISIS does not recognize the state nor democracy or any kind of ruling outside their interpretation and Houthi and other Yemenis are considered to be apostates in their eyes until they believe.
The situation in Yemen is increasingly becoming one of the most significant humanitarian crises in the region, what’s the prevailing feeling within the Yemeni population regarding the international community’s response.
1) The humanitarian situation, access to food and medicine?
Because of US-backed Saudi blockade, more than 20 million of the 30 million population are in need for food and medicine. More than 50,000 civilians were killed and injured most of them women and children,according to local right groups.
Over 3 million Yemenis displaced from their houses most of them to Sanaa which became the safest city in Yemen despite the fact that no single day passes without Saudi airstrikes here or there. But no assassinations, no plundering, no thefts no suicide bombings like in Aden.
UN agencies and other local and international organization exert great efforts to help. The people themselves help each other in a way that astonished every one. For instance, in every small neighborhood in Sanaa, you find water tanks being filled every morning and some times twice a day. This is done by richer people from the same neighborhood.This happens in all cities now.
2) Who do Yemenis blame for the protracted conflict?
The Yemenis blame the Obama administration for most of their suffering. This is why they keep nation-widely campaigning under slogan (America Kills the Yemeni people) . You find huge posters in the streets with this slogan written on them. Anti-America sentiment is running high and it gets higher and higher when US-backed Saudi jets kill whole families in their houses and when they commit huge massacres in weddings, schools, hosiptals, factories, mosques, and markets where hundreds
of women and children brutally get killed.
The Yemenis are very sure that Saudis would not have dared to do all that to them without Obama's consent. The Yemenis get happy, however, when they hear and see media and social media, in particular, the criticism of free people from America to Obama administration about Yemen's war crimes and weapons sales. They circulated the tweets of Senator Chris Murphy,for instance, and portrayed him and many others as a heroes in big rallies. This improves a little bit the image made by the (America kills the Yemeni people). All Yemenis know that the war against them was announced from Washington not from Riyadh.
3) Is Saudi Arabia at all worried about popular sentiment in Yemen given proximity?
Yes, Saudi princes and Saudi citizens are very worried not only from rising hatred anti-Saudi sentiment but also from the Yemeni attacks on the south of Saudi Arabia, from the photos and videos published almost daily showing defeats of Saudi army with the most advanced weapons in front of Yemeni bare-footed fighters. Everything turns against Saudis. War, blockade and hunger. The 30
million Yemenis would find an easy way to eat if US-backed Saudis keep starving them. Saudis used every dirty means to make Yemenis surrender. Now, Saudis, for instance, wants the world to stop dealing with the central bank of Yemen. Saudis get angry why this bank still pays salaries to army fighting with Saudi Arabia in Mareb and far east of Hudhrmout. The works professionally and neutrally but irritates Saudis. Yemenis not seem to be worried if US-backed Saudis stopped the bank.Yemeni are already in the south of Saudi Arabia and they will not die of hunger, but they like to die in cause of defending themselves and their homeland.
Yemenis made and circulated a lot of jokes about Yemeni fighters seizing American Abrams tanks and Bradley armored vehicles. The jokes boast of Yemeni brave fighters and make fun of Saudi fighters. Since middle of August and now when these scenes were shown almost daily and sometimes twice a day, the Saudis blocked or hacked Al Masirah Tv that reports from Najran, Jaizan, and Asir. Al Masirah shifted to a new frequency in less than 24 hours. The biggest concern of Saudis is the ballistic missiles that accurately hit vital targets such as military bases and oil facilities like Aramco of Najran that was hit late August with ballistic missile and Saudi retaliated by hitting all electricity stations that had been already hit and oil facilities of Ras Isa in Hodeida and many in her places
killing&injuring more than hundreds of civilians.
Is there a possible to end the conflict?
The only possible solution is a just and fair one imposed by major powers and more specifically by US. Fair and just solution is known by everyone in all sides. But the biggest challenge is who would implement it?
Fair and just solution between Yemenis and then fair and just solution between Yemenis and Saudi Arabia who made the problem to allegedly protect itself from Iran.
When Saudi gets persuaded with this fair and just solution between Yemenis it will be even easier to reach a fair and just solution between Yemenis and Saudi Arabia.
The first step to this solution is that Saudis should acknowledge that they are the first party and all Yemenis are the second and only party.
1) What would it take to resolve this conflict
It would take only American will, American will, American will to resolve the Yemen conflict. The war was American will to just placate Saudis after the Iran nuclear deal that drove the Saudis crazy.
2) Who will have to rebuild the country? Saudi has been destroying civilian structures, presumably they will have to rebuild, why are they destroying something they know they will have to rebuild?
Saudis are happy to kill and pay, destroy and compensate, damage and rebuild. But this is not what humans and US should accept.
Yemenis think of how to get independent from Saudis much more than rebuilding? Yemenis feel that Saudi regime wanted to keep them busy with rebuilding over the next 100 years. And if they rebuild everything, who would return to life the dead and the injured.
The 300-year old problem between Saudis and Yemenis must be re-solved. The solution is easy. The Saudi regime must let Yemenis alone to create their modern state and peace will come to all.