Manish Rai

Talks Can Only Fix Yemen

A United Nations sponsored Yemen’s peace conference that was to start in Geneva has been indefinitely postponed. The talks were meant to end weeks of heavy fighting and Saudi led air campaign against Houthi rebels amid a humanitarian crisis that has left millions in the Arab world’s poorest country short of every necessity of life especially food and fuel. The U.N. had urged all parties to attend the talks, which was announced last week, without any preconditions. Earlier also efforts were made for the peace talks in Saudi Arabia by the exiled government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. But Houthi rebels rejected it by demanding that peace negotiations should be held in a neutral country. The latest setback for the new round of peace talks meditated by UN came as fighter jets from the Saudi-led coalition pounded Shiite rebel positions in the capital and across the country in fresh rounds of airstrikes. These new talks was also not accepted by everyone whole heartily Houthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh backed the talks and said they would participate, but exiled Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi had demanded rebels should first withdraw from cities they seized before being allowed to participate. But still they were hopes that talks can resume but these hopes shatters after talks have been postponed.

With ground combat worsening only peace talks can provide relief to ordinary Yemenis. The most important aspect of the war is not its intensity, but the disintegration of Yemen’s domestic political, Social and tribal alliances. With every passing day the country is getting divided on the sectarian, regional, and tribal lines and national character which is the most important element which bonds a state is deteriorating day by day. Yemen has several notable cleavages. First, there is a basic north-south divide which, at one time, divided it into two countries. There is also a religious divide of Shia and Sunni and strong rivalries exits between different tribes and leaders. All the warring sides in Yemen should be aware of the hard reality that there is no other solution than a political settlement and no one can win this war just through the military means. All sides have declared their willingness to enter talks, but none have taken steps so far to halt the fighting.

The ongoing scenario in Yemen presents four potential possibilities for the future. They are:-

Civil War: If the exiled government and rebels both will be adamant on their stance than this existing internal conflict will further deteriorate into an unlimited civil war. Thus Yemen will become another Libya or Syria and civil war may continue for years to come.

Division of the country: If the division continues among the parties, it seems likely that they will solidify and polarize to avoid further conflict with the Houthi group in the north and the others centred in the south representing a return to pre-unification in 1990. Division of Yemen into two separate states once more would arguably represent an even greater danger to stability than the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran or the wanton barbarism of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Ansar al-Sharia or, for that matter, of Islamic State in Iraq and the al-Sham offshoot in Yemen.

Retreat: The Houthis rebels may retreat if a good deal looks likely and/or they lose their nerve based on international pressure. This also seems to be very remote possibility as Houthis are the most dominant force on the ground as of now.

Political Solution: All the parties may realize the ground realities and be convinced including the Houthis, to stay in dialogue and negotiation to find a political and peaceful solution. The Houthis may be beyond the point of no return now and it may equally be difficult for the other parties to sit with them in dialogue. But hopefully reason will prevail and the parties will realize that all the above scenarios make them all losers.

Now by weighing each of these possibilities only the possibility of political solution seems to be in interest of every warring faction in Yemen conflict. It’s a reality that Yemen remains a poor country with high unemployment, poverty, malnourished youth and illiteracy. With the ongoing conflict the situation will deteriorate. Yemen is surviving on foreign aid without aid, Yemen will fall into the abyss. Yemen’s economy, an oil-producing one since the 1990s, ran out of steam and foreign investment, primarily because of endemic corruption among the political class. Yemeni leaders have to decide whether they want to make Yemen a failed state, or at least as a sovereign nation. Above all, the parties must take a serious look at their actions and the implications. They must stop focusing on their personal interests and focus on Yemen’s national interests. Politics and talks is the only way forward. This largely depends on the political will of Yemeni leaders. They all bear responsibility for the current state of affairs, as well as responsibility for finding a way to pull the country from the brink.

(Author is a columnist for Middle-East and Af-Pak region and Editor of geo-political news agency Views Around can be reached at

About the Author
Manish Rai is a columnist for the Middle East and Af-Pak region; Editor of a geo-political news agency Views Around (VA)