The crisis in Yemen and the prospects of Russian diplomacy | Colonel Cassad

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Review material on the Yemen war and perspetiva diplomacy of Russia in relations with the participants of this war.

The crisis in Yemen and the prospects of Russian diplomacy

Beginning in January 2011, the Arab spring has plunged the Middle East region, which before could hardly be called a Bastion of stability in a period of protracted turbulence. The first wave of popular unrest in Tunisia and Egypt that led to the change of government, was followed by mass protests in a number of countries in the region. Where, as in Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, governments managed to neutralize them by the concessions and measures of social and political nature. Somewhere, in Bahrain, the protests turned out to be suppressed by force.Somewhere, as in Libya and Syria, they went into an uncontrollable phase and led to an internal civil conflict. Of special note is the situation in Yemen, where held first in peace inner conversion, even called one time a model “political transition” in the Arab countries fell in the end to civil war and foreign intervention.

It so happened that the situation in Yemen in recent years is the focus of attention is mainly “narrow” specialists in the region, diplomats and the military. Wide of Russian, and world community are interested in it is less than conflicts in Syria, Iraq or Libya. Politically, the Yemeni conflict is perceived as somewhat peripheral. In its armed phase is directly involved only regional powers (again, unlike Syria, Iraq and Libya).The country itself has a reputation as a chronically unstable (with the numerous civil conflicts) and economically backward, “the accelerated pace moving from the XIV to the XV century”, in his time, not without bitter irony said there komandirovochnaja domestic military experts.

It seems that the Yemeni story currently deserves more attention. Including taking into account the sharply increased in recent years, the involvement of our country in the middle East, a regional Sunni-Shia (Saudi-Iranian) context and the difficult period in Russian-American relations.

Chronicle of events

Let us remind the reader the main stages of development of the modern Yemeni crisis. It all began in accordance with the familiar in other Arab countries scenario — in January 2011, in the capital Sana’a has developed an anti-government demonstration demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who at that time ruled Yemen for more than three decades.In may of that year, under the mediation of Secretary General of the cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) led to the draft of the inter-Yemeni agreements on the settlement of the political crisis, approved by the representatives of the opposition and the ruling Yemen party “General people’s Congress” controlled by the President.

In June 2011, Ali Abdullah Saleh was seriously injured in the attack. In connection with the incapacity of the President, his powers were temporarily transferred to Vice President Abd rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who became responsible for the negotiations with the opposition on the subject of transfer of power. Contacts were conducted with the active assistance of the GCC, the special envoy of the UN Secretary General Jamal Benomar, as well as the US, EU, China and Russia, and led to the signing in Riyadh on 23 November 2011 plan of peaceful transfer of power. In accordance with the then arrangements A.Saleh formally renounced his powers in favour of Vice-President Hadi, who was subsequently elected to the presidency.

However, the political process for the formation of a secular democratic state in Yemen was disrupted when at the end of the summer of 2014, escalated armed confrontation between the Shiite movement “Ansar Allah” (represents the interests of Shia-Zaidi, 30% of the population of Yemen), on the one hand, and supporters of the Sunni party “Islah” and army units loyal to President Hadi, on the other.Ended up getting capture by fighters of the Shiite militia (known as Houthis after the name of their late leader, Hussein Houthi) of the nine Northern provinces of the country, and then the Yemeni capital and located in the government agencies. The movement “Ansar Allah”, unexpectedly for the regionals and the international community as a whole, become a leading player on the political scene of Yemen and a major contender for power in the country. The Houthis forced the President A.Hadi to sign a peace Agreement and national partnership, in which the Yemeni Parliament approved a new government of technocrats, headed by Khaled Baja. A key government posts went to representatives of Ansar Allah.

Manifested the Central government intransigence on the issue of formation of the agenda of the national dialogue, the unwillingness to consider the interests of different factions of the Yemeni society with consensual interchanges the growing political and economic crisis led to a sharp aggravation of the situation in the country. The Houthis, who opposed not satisfied with their draft Constitution, organized armed clashes, which in January 2015, led to the resignation of President Hadi and the government of H. Baja. Both leaders were placed by militants of the Ansar Allah under house arrest.

Begun under the auspices of the special adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Yemen John. Benomar talks involving the main political forces of the country about the formation of an interim Supreme body of power in the country — the so-called “presidential Council” — was inconclusive. In these circumstances, the United States, UK and other European countries and the GCC countries, citing the rapidly deteriorating situation in the security field, evacuated their diplomatic missions from Sana’a.

23 February 2015 President Hadi fled to the former capital of southern Yemen, Aden, declaring his temporary political capital of the state. In fact, Yemen’s dual power: Ansar controlled Sana’a and resident of the state apparatus and power structures; at the same time, the legitimate President Hadi tried to control the Yemeni from Aden, with the support of the southerners.

In vnutriyemenskogo against the Houthis gained an unexpected ally ex — President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and he controlled the forces of the army of Yemen. Despite the difficult history of relations (during the reign of Saleh between the Houthis and the Central government for many years was satohama, it flared war), discontent with the former President and his entourage exclusion from political and economic levers of power and desire to restore the former influence has played a crucial role in tactical Alliance with former enemies.

The rapid advance of the units of the Houthis, with the assistance of army units A. Saleh in the direction of Aden ended with the encirclement of the southern capital of the country. A. Hadi fled to Riyadh.

March 26, 2015 Saudi Arabia, in response to the request of President Hadi on military intervention, initiated air military operations against Ansar Allah, called “the Storm of determination.” The air force of the Kingdom with the support of the Arab States of the Gulf (except Oman), Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Sudan, Egypt and Morocco launched strikes on the positions of Houthis in Sana’a, Aden and other major cities and provinces in the country. Egypt’s Navy blockaded the approaches to the Yemeni ports.

In connection with a sharp aggravation of the military-political situation in Yemen, the leadership of Russia decided to evacuate Russian citizens and citizens of other States who wished to leave the country. In March-may 2015, the aircraft of the defense Ministry of Russia had exported more than 1500 people, and only a third of them were citizens of our country. The operation of evacuation of Russian citizens, including employees of the Consulate General of Russia in Aden, and brought the ships of the Russian Navy, “Azov sea”.

In April 2015 the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2216 with a call to the movement “Ansar Allah” immediately withdraw its troops from occupied areas, including Sana’a, and lay down their arms. A resolution was introduced an embargo on delivery of arms to the Houthis and salehova. Russia during the vote abstained.

In June 2015, in Geneva, under the auspices of the UN consultations on settlement in Yemen with the participation of representatives of Ansar Allah, the government and several political parties. However, because of serious contradictions the consultation was inconclusive. Failed to even agree on a ceasefire and the establishment of a humanitarian ceasefire.

In August 2015, with intensified military-technical support of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates the formation of the Sunni “people’s committees” loyal to Hadi have been able to dislodge the Houthis from Aden and surrounding areas. However, the coalition command and fighting on the ground, Pro-Saudi forces did not manage to establish full control over southern and Central parts of the country, where teams of Houthis continued to put up fierce resistance. Repeated attempts by supporters of Hadi to seize the provinces of Marib, Taiz, al-Jawf and to develop the offensive in the direction of Sana’a have not brought results.Ansar and salakovci retained control of Northern Yemen, including Sana’a, as well as several areas in the Central and southern parts of the country.

The power vacuum in Yemen took advantage of the extremists, who traditionally was present in some areas of the country, and the government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, with the support of the Americans with varying degrees of success, fought with them. After the actual dismantling of the Central authority in large parts of the country the local branch of al-Qaeda (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), and gaining popularity in extremist circles of the franchise, the IG has extended its influence to large areas in the South and East of the country. The Saudis and supported by the government A.Hadi closed his eyes, seeing terrorists his temporary ally in the fight against the Houthis.

Despite the bellicose promises of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to continue fighting to the bitter end, the costs of the operation struck a serious dent in them and so leaky due to the fall in oil prices budgets.
Held in Oman in September 2015 the second stage of the inter-Yemeni negotiations ended as unsuccessfully as the first — parties to the conflict continued with the interrogation position, was not ready to make concessions, to find mutually acceptable solutions to the protracted civil war. Some progress has been made in the course held under the auspices of the UN in December 2015 in Switzerland, the third round of consultations the Yemeni parties on the settlement of the armed conflict.For the first time failed to agree on mechanisms to address priority issues of a political, military and humanitarian character, including the exchange of POWs and political prisoners. Was also agreed on confidence-building measures, humanitarian access in the third largest city of Taiz and other areas.

Hopes for a final settlement was entrusted to held in Kuwait during April-August 2016 fourth round of the Yemen consultation. But the negotiations again came to nothing. The attempts of a UN mediator Ismail Ahmed to save face and to announce the approval of the road map, the situation changed in early August, the coalition resumed its bombing campaign in Yemen. With the new force broke out fighting as Yemen and Saudi border provinces.

Thus, attempts at a peaceful settlement, in fact, deadlocked. The coalition, led by the Saudis have relied on a military solution to the crisis and will obtain from the Houthis surrender (which in reality is unlikely). They actually ignored A. Saleh, and led by the largest party of Yemen “General people’s Congress”. More radical positions of President Hadi.

In this case neither one nor the other position is not going to pass — recently, the Houthis and salakovci decided to establish a Supreme political Council, which actually led to the creation of a parallel government and has become another step to consolidation of existing areas of administrative realities. All this, of course, does not agree with the prospects for a peaceful settlement.

Almost two years of fighting, coupled with the actual trade blockade has put the country, and not noted for a high standard of living, on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

According to estimates of the office for the coordination of humanitarian Affairs, the UN, the scale of destruction of infrastructure and suffering of civilians in the Yemeni crisis is one of the toughest in the world. Since the beginning of the conflict the fighting has killed more than 7,5 thousand persons, about 40 thousand were injured. The number of refugees has reached 250 thousand people, IDPs — 3.15 million In urgent need of assistance 21.1 million Yemenis, or 82% of the population, including food assistance — 14 million

Regional prism

The Yemeni conflict is to be considered in the General logic of the regional situation today, the confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran. And although the actual participation of Tehran in the Yemeni event, apparently, is not too great, Riyadh wants to exclude the possibility of occurrence in its “underbelly” of the Shiite enclave in the future — an Iranian ally.

Moscow since the beginning of the Yemeni crisis held equidistant from all sides of the conflict position.
While led by Saudi Arabia, the coalition is tangible military and image losses. Despite the bellicose promises of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to continue fighting to the bitter end, the costs of the operation struck a serious dent in them and so leaky due to the fall in oil prices budgets. And indeed the Yemeni campaign was not a cakewalk.In the capitals of the coalition is aware that some air strikes and a naval blockade of the defeat of the Huthis and salehouses not be achieved, but to begin large-scale ground operation they have neither the resources nor the determination — after the course of the war showed that the actual combat capabilities of the armies of the countries of the Persian Gulf where stated below.

All this is accompanied by a growing misunderstanding between Riyadh and Washington on regional subjects. Mistrust of American intentions that emerged from Saudi Arabia after the failure of the US to force the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad in 2013, dramatically worsened two years later, following the deal on Iran’s nuclear dossier, against which the Saudis openly. On Yemen from Washington also appears reluctant to run ahead of Riyadh.This situation fuels the insecurity of Saudi Arabia to the United States in the future to bring serious sacrifices on the altar of the interests of Riyadh in the field of defense and security.

Open question — can something be changed in the position of the Americans in case of more heavy diplomatic involvement of Russia in the mediation efforts in Yemen. Perhaps, for a more precise answer you need to put the correct diagnosis to the whole complex of the current Russian-American relations that goes far beyond the scope of this article. The Syrian experience in this regard is disappointing. Including why previous approaches of Russia to the Americans with a proposal to form an International support group of Yemen (on the model of similar structures in Syria) to no avail.Washington has shied away from the unwinding of this initiative — probably out of fear to displease the regional allies.

However, in a regional context, the value of the Yemeni plot for Russian interests ahead of what will be discussed below.

The role of Russia in settlement

Moscow since the beginning of the Yemeni crisis held equidistant from all sides of the conflict position. Continuing contacts with the legitimate authorities of Yemen, headed by President Hadi, the Russian diplomacy has built a relationship of trust with other key players in the country — especially with the Houthis and former President Abdullah Saleh and his entourage. After fleeing the government of Hadi to Saudi Arabia and start of the hot phase of the conflict, Russia remained the only major international player that has preserved, albeit in a truncated form, a diplomatic presence in Sanaa.

The passive position of our country does not correspond to its real and potential intermediary due to more tactical considerations.
Russian Embassy in Riyadh has established working contact with settled there A. Hadi and the government in exile. However, over the last two years, Moscow has repeatedly received the representatives of various Yemeni political forces, including Ansar Allah, “the General people’s Congress”, the southerners from the “southern movement”, the functionaries of the Socialist party, the Baath party, etc.

However, the first role of international assistance, the Yemeni peace process Russia has not been nominated. Before the war our diplomats in Sana’a operated in the framework of the “Group of ten ambassadors,” which was later expanded to the “group of eighteen”. In the same format we played in the course of inter-Yemeni talks in Kuwait, where he was sent by Russian Ambassador to Yemen Vladimir Dedushkin.

It appears that the passive position of our country does not correspond to its real and potential intermediary due to more tactical considerations, partly because the current status quo is beneficial for Russia — savossa in Yemen, Saudi Arabia objective can not be diverted to Syria, where Russian-Saudi contradictions are especially acute. However, at some point Russia may be involved in the process much more active and has a chance to achieve a breakthrough in a seemingly stalled process.

Given the current state of relations with the United States, Moscow should work directly with the regional players.

There are several reasons. Active participation in resolving the Syrian conflict, Russia has greatly increased its credibility in regional Affairs. After our consolidation as a major and lasting player in the middle East more and more countries and political forces in the region began to turn their attention to Moscow as an “honest broker” free from the influence of the West and the largest of the regions and having at the same time, real life exposure to what is happening in this part of the planet.

In the situation of Yemen, the reputation of Russia is supported by a well-established contact with opponents of the Yemeni government, which a large part of the international community ignores. Neither the Houthis, or supporters of Ali Saleh is not accepted neither in regional, nor in Western capitals as rukopozhatnogo negotiating partner. The only exception is Oman, a diplomatic calibre of which, however, is small and not able to really change the situation.

Coupled with a solid weight in the region and untainted relationships with parties to the conflict, Russia, in fact, the only serious international player, is able to broadcast the position of the Houthis and salehouses. Those, in turn, is very sympathetic perceive Moscow as a mediator and repeatedly signaled the desirability to increase our mediation efforts.

Another card in the deck, Yemen became the South of the country where there was a very mixed picture: there is de facto no Central government, and the territory is divided into pockets controlled by different armed groups, including terrorist. There is a growing secessionist movement based on nostalgia for the times of independence. The main acting force in it stands a former officer corps of the army of South Yemen, the vast majority received a military education in the Soviet Union and has retained a special relationship to Russia.Our country could use this resource to engage southerners in obselesence the political process, from participation in which, those, by and large, yet shy.

The inclusion of Russia at a later stage in the foreign mediation efforts to resolve the Yemeni as a leading international force could be beneficial from several points of view.

First, it will further strengthen our status as an active military-political player in the region that can make real contribution to settlement of crisis situations from the standpoint of an impartial mediator. The interweaving of Russia in military-political processes in this part of the Middle East will create a new “front diplomatic tensions” for the key regional powers, especially Saudi Arabia, that will give us extra points in interacting with them in other subjects, including Syria.

Second, the success of the Russian diplomatic efforts at reconciliation, the Sunni coalition and legitimate government with Shiite rebels–Houthis will allow us to adjust prevailing among the Arab population (because of the support of B. Assad and the special relationship with Iran) image of Shia ally.

Thirdly, the strengthening of our position in Yemen and tying themselves in political terms, the Houthis and southerners will allow Russia to establish a foothold in this strategically located at the crossroads of world trade routes of the country (or rather, to restore it, because at the time, South Yemen was in the orbit of Soviet influence). Indirect evidence of the interest of the Yemeni parties to this are the statement of Ali Abdullah Saleh in a televised interview in August of this year on the readiness to comprehensive development of relations with Moscow, including the provision of military bases on the territory of Yemen.

Honorable exit from the war as the formal winner would be desirable for a young and ambitious successor, the crown Prince, Minister of defense, KSA Mohammed bin Salman.
Finally, it will strengthen the international image of Russia as peacemaker, and to promote the torpedoing of the line West to demonize our country.

Given the current state of relations with the United States, Moscow should work directly with the regional players, including using disputes between different members of the coalition, primarily KSA and UAE. The coalition is allowed to save face and declare their military victory, and its opponents to prevent the final destruction of the country and at the same time to consolidate its position and to ensure a quota in the government of Yemen.

You will need to use and domestic deals in the main acting force of the coalition — Saudi Arabia. Honorable exit from the war as the formal winner would be desirable for a young and ambitious successor, the crown Prince, Minister of defense, KSA Mohammed bin Salman. It’s important to him in the political sense and would work on his image as a successful military leader, which in turn will strengthen the positions in struggle for the throne.Given the great importance of the personal factor in the Arab world, Russia has given the mediation service and developed interaction could in this case become a valuable resource in building the future of Russian-Saudi relations and convergence in regional Affairs. Especially against the backdrop of significant cooling between Riyadh and Washington.

Thus, for the inclusion of Russia in “the Yemeni game” you need to choose the right time. But the political result may substantially exceed the costs.

http://russiancouncil.ru/inner/?id_4=8796#top-content – zinc

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