Saudi Diplomacy Won’t Bring Peace to Yemen

Last Sunday marked the eighth anniversary of a Saudi-led alliance’s intervention in the Yemeni civil war, intended to defeat the Iran-backed Houthi militia that had overthrown the previous government. In the wake of the rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran, diplomats are hoping that the talks between the Saudis and the Houthis—which have been ongoing since last summer—will finally succeed in ending the war. To Nadwa Al-Dawsari, such an outcome seems highly unlikely:

The Houthis’ military gains have allowed them to dictate the path of international diplomacy in Yemen. They know Saudi Arabia is desperate to extricate itself and the international community wants the Yemen problem to go away. They do not recognize and refuse to negotiate with the [Riyadh-supported] Presidential Leadership Council or other Yemeni factions that they cast as “Saudi mercenaries.”

Indeed, even as the Houthis were making progress in talks with the Saudis, the rebel group continued to expand its recruitment, mobilization, and stockpiling of arms during last year’s truce as Iran significantly increased its weapons shipments. The group also carried out a series of attacks. . . . On March 23, the Houthis conducted a military drill close to the Saudi border to remind the Saudis of “the cost of no agreement and further concessions.”

The Houthis are still part and parcel of Iran’s so-called “axis of resistance.” With the Houthis gaining international political recognition, . . . Iran will have a greater chance to expand its influence in Yemen with the blessing of Western powers. The international community is eager for a “success story” in Yemen, even if that means a sham political settlement that will likely see the civil war continue. A deal with the Houthis is Saudi Arabia’s desperate plea to wash its hands of Yemen, but in the long term it could very well position Iran to threaten regional and international security. More importantly, it might set Yemen on a course of protracted conflict that will create vast ungoverned spaces.

Meanwhile, tensions in Yemen between Saudi Arabia and its ostensible ally, the United Arab Emirates, are rising, while the Houthis are developing the capability to launch missiles at Israel or to block a crucial Middle Eastern maritime chokepoint in the Red Sea.

Read more at Middle East Institute

More about: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen


Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden