Saudi-Iran deal opens the door to peace in Yemen
One of the most important issues linked to the recent agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran is a possible end to the conflict in Yemen. This month’s deal was a step in the right direction, as the Iranian government has asserted that rapprochement with the Kingdom will help achieve this critical objective.
The Iranian leaders appear optimistic that the detente between Tehran and Riyadh will indeed bring peace to Yemen. In a meeting with UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg just a few days after the agreement was sealed, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian insisted that his government “backs any negotiations which would help establish peace and stability in Yemen.”
It has also been reported that Iran’s permanent mission to the UN believes the deal with Saudi Arabia stands to contribute to the realization of a permanent ceasefire in Yemen. A statement released by the mission said that the reinstatement of diplomatic ties would have “positive” implications on the bilateral, regional and international levels. “It appears (therefore) that reestablishment of political relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia will accelerate the achievement of a ceasefire in Yemen,” the statement noted.
Several other positive developments have occurred since the Saudi-Iranian pact was reached. For example, the UN has initiated “intense” diplomacy as a result. Grundberg told the UN Security Council this month that there has been “a step change in the scope and depth of the discussions.” He also urged Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels “to seize the opportunities” created by the new momentum. Grundberg added: “The parties must seize the opportunity presented by this regional and international momentum to take decisive steps towards a more peaceful future … This requires patience and a long-term perspective. And this requires courage and leadership.”
One critical step that would help bring peace and stability to Yemen would be for Iran to stop delivering weapons to the Houthis. The Iranian government can order the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to refrain from providing any military assistance to the Houthis. Fortunately, the Iranian leaders have pledged that they will do so, according to The Wall Street Journal, which reported that Tehran has agreed to “halt covert weapons shipments to its Houthi allies” in “a move that could inject new momentum into efforts to end one of the region’s longest-running civil wars.”
One critical step that would help bring peace and stability to Yemen would be for Iran to stop delivering weapons to the Houthis.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
By halting its deliveries of weapons to the Houthis, Iran’s legitimacy will be enhanced not only in the region, but also on the global stage due to the fact that Tehran will show that it is respecting international law and honoring the UN’s arms embargo on the Houthis. UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which was passed in 2015, stipulates that “all Member States shall immediately take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to” the Houthis. It covers “weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, and technical assistance, training, financial or other assistance, related to military activities or the provision, maintenance or use of any arms and related materiel, including the provision of armed mercenary personnel whether or not originating in their territories.”
One of the major reasons for the intensity, scope and length of the conflict in Yemen is the Houthis’ ability to acquire weapons, without which there would be a greater incentive for the group to reach an agreement in order to bring an end to the conflict. While Yemen does not pose a national security threat to Iran, it does to Saudi Arabia, since it shares a border with the Gulf state.
Generally speaking, when nonstate actors believe that a government is backing them financially and militarily, they will have less incentive to reach a deal.
Another benefit that the Iranian government will gain from shifting its policy toward the Houthis and halting its weapons deliveries is economic. Halting its financial, advisory, intelligence and political support to the Houthis would not only enhance Tehran’s legitimacy, but it could also save the Iranian leaders a significant amount of money.
In a nutshell, thanks to the Saudi-Iranian agreement, Tehran can play a critical role in bringing peace and stability to Yemen. And the latest development to come out of Tehran — Iran’s reported decision to stop arming the Houthis — is a positive step in the right direction, which will undoubtedly increase regional peace, security and stability.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh