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Yemen: Who reaps the fruit of the storm? Open in fullscreen

Bushra al-Maqtari

Yemen: Who reaps the fruit of the storm?

The Yemeni crisis is becoming more complex writes Bushra al-Maqtari [AFP]

Date of publication: 9 September, 2015

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Comment: While regional powers compete over their interests even within the Saudi-led coalition, Yemenis will only reap more crises and violence, writes Bushra al-Maqtari.
Foreign assistance to any political group is based on a number of reasons, primarily the strategic interests of the foreign power providing the aid - and deals usually end up with some kind of dominance over the country being assisted.

Foreign interests might overlap with the interests of the country in question, however the foreign interests are always prioritised, even if they contradict the interests of the country being assisted.

This is the case with Yemen, which for more than five months has witnessed a bitter and costly war that has nothing to do with Yemenis - a war waged between regional powers for their own gains, while Yemenis reap only death and destruction.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni crisis is becoming more complex - not only due to the struggle between the regional powers, but also due to the disagreements within the Saudi-led Arab coalition.

The Saudi-led military coalition that was formed in March to support the authority of interim president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi is witnessing Saudi-Emirati disagreements and competition. For Yemenis, these disagreements are very serious, because they relate to identifying the cities that will be "liberated" by the Saudi-led coalition, and the cities that will be left as open theatres of confrontation to wear down the enemy and internal warring factions.
     It was not easy for Saudi Arabia to form an Arab military coalition under its leadership to protect its strategic interests

The Saudi-Emirati disagreements are also about the nature of their future influence in Yemen and their ability to formulate the future of the country and dictate the Yemeni parties that take part in the post-war Yemeni state.

It was not easy for Saudi Arabia to form an Arab military coalition under its leadership to protect its strategic interests as a dominant regional power. However, it utilised its Arab media dominance to promote the image of an Arab unity that would intervene to quell the Houthi rebellion and reinstate the authority of President Hadi.

Yet the apparent unity was merely a facade, and Riyadh had to resort to its vast financial resources to make deals with non-GCC members of the coalition. It struck a deal with Egypt and granted Sudan a reported investment deposit of $4 billion, in return for Sudan sending ground troops to Yemen.

Divergent interests

Despite the dangers posed to the UAE's interests and security by alleged Iranian expansion in the region, the country has other motives behind participating in operation Decisive Storm.

The UAE hopes to expand its influence southwards, specifically to Aden, where it wants to control the city's port to ensure that it does not compete with the port of Dubai - thus it has been working to create inroads with the southern Hirak movement to gain political influence in the south.

As dangerous as the Houthi coup had been to the UAE's interests, Abu Dhabi did not want the Saudis to destroy the Houthis, along with the forces loyal to deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but merely wanted to force them from of the cities, while keeping them active in the political scene.

This was due to the UAE's fear that eliminating the Houthi and pro-Saleh forces would lead to the Muslim Brotherhood, represented by al-Islah party, dominating the state in Yemen.

     The divergent views between Riyadh and the UAE on al-Islah's role have slowly surfaced

For Saudi Arabia however, despite its own reservations towards the Muslim Brotherhood, it views al-Islah as the most effective local force to achieve its interests, in addition to viewing Emirati concerns as unjustified or a point of disagreement that should be postponed.

Thus, Saudi Arabia has been working to utilise al-Islah's tribal and military connections in the war and has even been working to enable the party to govern the country in the future.

The divergent views between Riyadh and the UAE on al-Islah's role have slowly surfaced with the participation of Emirati forces in the liberation of Aden - as, instead of heading towards the city of Taiz to liberate it from the siege imposed by the Houthis and their allies, UAE forces headed eastwards to clear the rest of the southern coast.

The UAE views the anti-Houthi fighters in Taiz as being a Muslim Brotherhood force, while Saudi Arabia has done nothing to alleviate Emirati fears. On the contrary, it appointed an Islah member as the governor of Aden.

The Saudi-Emirati disagreements over the Muslim Brotherhood are becoming more entrenched, and are affecting the coalition's military operations - in addition to their local allies on the ground, including al-Islah party.

However, while the regional powers and local Yemeni forces compete to reap the fruit of the "storm", they ignore the fact that Yemenis will only reap more crises and violence, which is what led to this war in the first place.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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