Editorial: Yemen may be on the verge of peace – it needs our help to stop the wreckers

IssueDecember 2023 - January 2024
Comment by Milan Rai

The world’s attention is fastened on Gaza at the moment. This issue of PN is almost completely taken up with Palestine.

At the same time, there is an important opportunity right now for British peace activists to help bring an end to another devastating war, and another horrifying humanitarian catastrophe.

As I write, the internationally-recognised Yemeni government has just called on the US, Britain and other Western governments to designate the Yemeni rebel movement Ansar Allah as ‘terrorists’. Ansar Allah (‘Supporters of God’) are called ‘the Houthis’ in the Western media, after their first leader, Hussein al-Houthi.

On 21 November, a senior US official, John Kirby said the US had ‘begun a review of potential terrorist designations’ in relation to Ansar Allah.

If the US and Britain do label Ansar Allah as terrorists, this is likely to derail the Yemeni-Saudi peace process which has made a lot of progress recently.

As regular readers will know, Saudi Arabia intervened in the Yemeni civil war in 2015, with full British support – and with £23bn-worth of British arms.

Experts say there have been over 150,000 direct conflict-related deaths since 2015, and over 377,000 direct and indirect conflict-related deaths, including from a lack of health services or water, because of the war.

For a variety of reasons, including foreign pressure, Saudi Arabia has been tiring of this unsuccessful war since early 2022.

After China helped to broker peace talks with Iran in March, Riyadh became even more serious about ending the Yemen War.

An Ansar Allah delegation travelled to Riyadh with Omani mediators on 14 September. Five days of talks produced ‘positive results’, according to the Saudis.

In November, the Saudis presented the UN-recognised Yemeni authorities with a detailed roadmap to peace that would mean foreign forces, including those from Saudi Arabia, leaving in six months.

The International Crisis Group warned that a deal agreed just between Ansar Allah and Saudi Arabia will not meet the needs of other major military groupings in Yemen – who will then undermine the peace process and plunge the country back to war.

Even so, the agreement that has been reached so far is an important stepping stone towards a better future for Yemen.

The reason the US is considering re-designating Ansar Allah as a terrorist group is that it has launched several attacks on Israeli-linked vessels in the waters off northern Yemen, in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

The Houthis even fired missiles in the direction of a US destroyer, the USS Mason, after prevented the attempted hijacking of an Israeli-linked tanker, the Central Park, on 26 November.

Don’t wreck it

Is Ansar Allah carrying out acts of political violence in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden? Yes.

However, it is completely bizarre to consider listing them as terrorists for these actions when Israel is carrying out a war of annihilation just a few miles away, with no threat of being designated a terrorist entity, and with full diplomatic and practical support from the US and Britain.

People concerned with peace and justice need to exert what pressure they can to prevent the British and US governments from wrecking an Omani-led peace process which may be on the verge of ending a horrifying war and a humanitarian catastrophe.

  •  On a positive note, we should record that the FSO Safer, the rusting oil tanker lying just off the crucial Yemeni port of Hodeidah, was drained of all of its 1.1mn barrels of oil between 25 July and 11 August. Determined UN action, including crowdfunding $121mn, has achieved the impossible. The UN is now trying to raise the final $22mn needed to tow the Safer away for green recycling, safely capturing the oily residue inside – which still poses a major risk if the tanker breaks up.
Topics: Yemen
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