1231 GMT November 18, 2018
Washington’s Wednesday call on Saudi Arabia for a swift cessation of hostilities in Yemen, was, in fact, a measure of last resort for US President Donald Trump’s administration to escape public opinion’s pressure on the White House.
Under the present circumstances, none of the parties involved in the Saudi-led war, namely, Saudi Arabia and its allies, on the one hand, and, the Yemeni resistance forces, on the other, is in a situation to be able to forecast its victory in the war. The conflict in the Arab state has turned into an attrition warfare that can drag on for decades.
The continuation of such a conflict is neither in favor of Saudi Arabia, which has so far suffered heavy costs in its invasion of the Yemeni territory, nor the US.
Since the very beginning of the war, the US was under pressure of public opinion and humanitarian organizations. However, the release of a number of news and reports within the past few months has intensified the pressure. First, reports were issued stating that the number of victims of this war has gone up – although the exact figures are not disclosed yet. As a matter of fact, in addition to bombs and damages caused by military invasions, spread of contagious diseases, such as cholera, are increasing the number of this war’s casualties on a daily basis. Following that, news of the Saudi-led coalition’s fighter jets targeting a bus carrying Yemeni children, drew extensive criticism against this war and those who have waged it. And eventually, the United Nations issued a report declaring that 14 million people in Yemen face the risk of dying, if not from the conflicts, from famine.
While the pressure placed by public opinion on the US, due to Washington’s relations with Riyadh – which has imposed the war on Yemen, was still gradually mounting, news concerning the disappearance of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and, later, his murder, in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, exacerbated the situation for the Trump administration. Following CIA Director Gina Haspel’s travel to Turkey to investigate Khashoggi’s death, the US realized that not only the Saudi journalist’s murder was pre-planned, but senior Saudi officials were also accomplices in the killing.
Thus, the US government had no other option, but to find a way out of the international pressures. Therefore, it chose the most convenient route: Imposing sanctions on a number of Saudi citizens. Public opinion, nevertheless, demanded something more than that. The Trump administration eventually decided to react to this issue adopting a strategy that does not lead to any alteration in the Arab state’s structure, but would assuage public opinion inside the US – ahead of the November 6 midterm elections – and outside the country.
Calling for a cease-fire in Yemen, which was favored by both Washington and Riyadh, was the best ploy the Trump administration could resort to, to solve this problem. Working out a solution to Yemen’s crisis is of special importance to Iran as well. The Arab state is where the major differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia are arising from. If Yemen’s issue is resolved, a part of the two countries’ differences will be settled. However, it is important to wait and see what the implication of the US cease-fire proposal would be and what Washington and Riyadh seek to achieve by starting negotiations to that end. Nothing will be solved in case they seek to continue their military war through talks in a bid to eradicate Houthi Ansarullah movement.
However, if through adopting a more realistic approach, they intend to form a coalition government in the country where all parties and groups are represented, a peaceful end to the war will not be a pessimistic scenario.
* Qassem Mohebali is a Middle East expert.