A justified military response
Houthis, their foreign and domestic collaborators, turned the outcomes of the Yemen National Dialogue Conference into a travesty in the eyes of most Yemenis and those interested in the affairs of Yemen throughout the Arab world. Despite the passage of time, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states were willing to give peace every chance possible.
However, emboldened by Arab divisions and an inability to end Syrian crisis, the Iranian-backed Houthis became too arrogant in their approach. This was reflected in preposterous pronouncements and actions made by senior Iranian officials. In Iraq, not only is the true identity and role of the Badr Organization, led by Hadi Al-Ameri, now well known but so is the truth about the Popular Mobilization forces. These are both predominately “sectarian militias,” unsuitable to become the nucleus of any putative “National Guard” that would help reestablish national unity in Iraq.
As for Yemen, the media appearances of Abdul Malik Al-Houthi have become carbon copies of those of Hassan Nasrallah of Lebanon’s Hezbollah. It has become clear how the two followers of the one and same religious authority have applied the same “scenario” in their respective countries. The most important aspect of this is how they both preach dialogue and coexistence while they build up their arsenals on the pretext of fighting either “Takfirists” as Hezbollah claims, or Al-Qaeda as in the case of the Houthis. This pretext, i.e. fighting Sunni extremism, is the centerpiece of Iran’s regional strategy for normalizing its relations with the US, and it is also being exploited in the Syrian and Iraqi arenas.
However, the urgency that necessitated “Operation Decisive Storm” in Yemen has been the uncovering of the dangerous role being played by deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who threatens through his duplicity and tactical horse-trading to devastate Yemen and cause its disintegration. In this respect, the Houthi attack on the city of Taiz, their shelling of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s residence in Aden, and their move to occupy the provinces of Lahj, including Al-Anad air base and Al-Dhale, required a rapid and proportionate reaction.
Indeed, Saleh’s virtual coup d’état was made even more dangerous, albeit indirectly, by its convergence with Iran’s old political “investments” in both traditional clan loyalties and radical partisan links. This provided the tactical Saleh-Houthi alliance a useful presence, or rather a “time bomb” in the former South Yemen, which could have been rewarding had the alliance achieved its occupation of Aden and the province of Shabwah.
The overthrow of President Hadi’s legitimate government would have allowed emergence of an Iran-dominated Yemen controlling Aden, the Strait of Bab El-Mandeb and the Island of Socotra. Such a development would have created a huge strategic change in southern Arabia with untold repercussions.
Thus, the coming together of Saleh’s military and Iran’s expansionist ambitions manned and represented by the Houthis under the pretext of fighting Al-Qaeda, left neither the GCC nor the Arab world with any option but to take firm and decisive action in order to save what could be saved.
Iran’s immediate reaction was its criticism of foreign “intervention,” support for Yemen “sovereignty” and calls for “dialogue” and “combating terrorism.” This was not surprising given that these are the same slogans Tehran is peddling to justify its blatant intervention in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, as well as Yemen, and even in Bahrain and anywhere else its tentacles can reach. It is strange that Iran does not regard its direct military intervention — as symbolized by Gen. Suleimani’s in-your-face appearances and the active participation of his subordinate militias on the Iraqi and Syrian fronts— as making a mockery of this lamented “sovereignty.” As for Tehran’s call for “dialogue” and “combating terrorism,” the people of the region know only too well, which groups in Iraq and Syria, and also in Lebanon and Yemen, have continually rejected dialogue. They also know whose sectarian, discriminatory and marginalizing policies have created frustrations in the region. To learn the answer look no further than Nouri Al-Maliki’s former government and Bashar Assad’s intelligence-based regime. A few days ago, a brave decision was taken to save Yemen from the bleak future it was being driven toward. “Operation Decisive Storm” was the only way a proper political dialogue, rather than meaningless talks with guns pointed at the heads of participants, could take place.
It deserves the strong support of the international community in order to put an end to regional sectarian and ethnic hegemony, which is breeding extremism and provoking terrorism. The region has already paid a heavy price, endangering its security and domestic and regional dignity, as a result of the appeasement of Iran, which includes convincing its leaders to reach a nuclear agreement, while Iran continues to exploit this appeasement to create new realities of “occupation” and “turmoil” on the ground at the expense of coexistence, tolerance and mutual understanding.
It is high time we appreciated the importance of a new approach, bearing in mind that terrorism and extremism, which preoccupies the international community, can only be effectively dealt with through a comprehensive political-military strategy. “Operation Decisive Storm” is a good start.
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