Aden and the STC: 3 Views

Saudi forces on patrol in Aden, 2015. Ahmed Farwan

Three recent op-eds in three separate Saudi papers (Okaz, Al-Sharq al-Aawsat, Al-Jazirah) on recent developments in Aden.

Events in Aden – why now?

Perhaps the events in Aden were linked to the reports of behind-the-scenes efforts underway to reach international understandings aimed at reigning in some of the region’s crises, including the crisis with Iran and the related situations in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. The southern separatists may have felt it was time to make sure they were taken into account in calculations for any final settlement!

The decisive Saudi position on Aden has reiterated that abanding the main objective, of confronting the Houthi coup, is forbidden. Any other matter concerning the future of Yemen should be postponed until the end of the Houthi coup. The matter is too important for any distractions, especially from forces that have been formed, trained and built up for the purpose of fighting the Houthi and not to fabricate emergencies!

The political stance expressed by the Saudi Foreign Ministry statement was covered as a firm military stance to demonstrate [the Kingdom’s] commitment. Saudis understand the danger of events descending into separatist conflicts during this sensitive time. If this situation developed further it would generate complications that would be hard to resolve down the line, with the situation becoming completely chaotic – a “Somali” Yemen where only Iran and Al Qaeda will prove victorious!

Saudi Arabia has not been flattering [some] in Aden at the expense of higher interests and has continually reminded its friends of the essence of the coalition and its objectives. The project to restore legitimacy and resist the Iranian-Houthi coup is not a commercial project to reap profits and “exit.” It is a strategic project in which either all win by instituting a Yemen in which all of its components participate in forming the country’s future, participation of all its components Shaping his future, or a loss in which all of the components of Yemen fight each other!

  • Khalid al-Suleiman, Okaz, 8/14/2019

In Yemen, we know what the enemies want, but what about the rest?!

When the coalition countries joined the war in Yemen, they knew what they wanted. It was a clear goal: support the legitimate government and protect it from the Houthi coup that sought to turn Yemen into an Iranian colony like happened to Iraq and Lebanon. Achieving this goal has been clear to the Yemeni people, to the Arab and Islamic peoples, and to the international community that has endorsed the legitimate Yemeni national war against the coup.

Four years later, sacrifices of lives continue to be made by the coalition countries and the Yemeni people, while military and humanitarian assistance continues to be provided to the Yemeni people without interruption and without distinction between political or sectarian attitudes. Importantly, the Coalition of Countries to Support Legitimacy exists because the interest of the Yemeni people requires a clear stand regarding this conflict, not efforts to flatter or bid to buy off various parties.

But this position is threatened and weakened by the tensions of the political scene: the recent positions in Aden, and the efforts of various war participants to launch a coup against each other. This perfidy from Yemeni political leaders will make the Coalition’s position harder, and extend the duration of the war. Though we are afraid to say it, it seems these leaders have no problem prolonging the war and the  sacrifices it requires, as if to tell us: this war is the affair of the coalition countries and not a Yemeni matter!

The coalition’s goals in this (confusing) Yemeni situation may be lost. Their persistent differences and unclear stances gives us a disturbing view of the facts on the ground. These differences may put coalition governments in difficult positions with their peoples, who see their children sacrificing themselves in a war of murky activity and shifting priorities.

After the victories achieved in fighting against the Houthi terrorist coup gangs, Yemeni leaders should be careful and wise, and set aside their differences [for now] so as not to divide their ranks, and lose gains made on the field of battle. These [the Houthis] are the real enemies of the Yemeni people.

We will continue to practice goodwill, while we hope that the various parties in Yemen are struck by some “Yemeni wisdom.” They are the biggest losers if the political tensions continue, and they come to think that the coalition countries are unable to resolve events decisively, or are unable to reveal who is sacrificing the interests of the Yemeni people while profiting from (claiming to) support their cause.

Allied countries have entered the war to support the representative legitimacy of the Yemeni people, and will remain firm until victory is achieved against the Houthi criminal gangs. This lofty goal is not far away if Yemeni political leaders remain united in word and purpose, giving up their personal aspirations and political ambitions.

They are the ones who know best how the people of Yemen are suffering. These people have been exhausted by the unrest and wars of more than two decades; the supporters of the Iranian project in Yemen are the real enemy of the Yemeni people, and can only benefit from other disagreements [in the country].

Political leaders and all Yemeni elites await the reconstruction of their country. By God’s grace, we will reach the stage of peace. Political leaders know that nobody is truly victorious in wars; who can claim victory when everyone stands on the ruins, ruins of a country that was sheltering and helping the Somali people. Now part of the Yemeni people have become displaced and are refugees in Somalia!

  • ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Fayez, Al-Jazirah, 8/14/2019

Battle of the night of Eid in Aden

First of all, I congratulate you on a happy Eid. Yet the holiday was almost marred by the acting out of the Yemeni Southern Transitional Council, beginning a tragedy that could have gone on for years. They almost destroyed what was achieved in Yemen – what they themselves participated in achieving! – and damaged their political project, independence from the authority of Sana’a in the future. This will not be achieved by stirring up chaos and fueling hostilities.
The battle on the night of Eid in Aden was sparked by two attacks on Thursday, when al-Qaeda carried out a suicide car bombing at a police station that killed 13 people. On the same day, the Houthis also carried out a ballistic missile attack, or perhaps used a drone, that targeted a training center and killed 32, including the commander of the First Brigade, a Southerner. Aden was filled with funerals, and calls for vengeance rang out – but they targeted the forces of the (Coalition to Restore Legitimacy), which had chosen Aden as the provisional capital and seat of government. The Transitional Council claims an act of vengeance! This is a political movement that aspires to an independent southern Yemeni state, which existed during the Cold War, and fell at the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. 

Southerners have the right to aspire to the establishment of their state, yet what the STC did that day strengthens the Houthi coup and Iranian interference, leading to a potential civil war. It also threatens to open up a new front in the Yemeni war with support from Qatar and Turkey. It was a dangerous development that also threatens the security of the countries of the region, primarily Saudi Arabia!

Perhaps the STC imagined that he could exploit the weakness of the Legitimacy [Coalition] forces, embarrass the Coalition countries, and use the wrath of Adenians from the horrific attacks as a pretext for seizing Aden, declaring secession and the new state, but perhaps not accounting for more complex and dangerous complications.

The dream of secession is rampant around the world and rarely fulfilled. Close to Yemen, on the western end of the Gulf of Aden, the STC can see the experience of Somaliland, a territory that declared itself a republic in 1991 as a result of the collapse of Somalia. Taking advantage of the war in the rest of Somalia to established a separate political system, with a constitution, two chambers of parliament, currency, flag and elections. 

Somaliland’s history is very similar to South Yemen. The region was not part of Somalia at the beginning of the 20th century and agreed to unite voluntarily. When the civil war broke out, the United Nations refused to recognize it and it will return to Mogadishu’s control unless it the two were legally and consensually separated. This is a living example for Yemeni separatists. 

There are many other examples, most notably the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The Kurds are nationalist in their own language, and their language is different; historically, their territory was forcibly annexed to Baghdad during British rule. Despite all these considerations, and 50 years of demanding independence, the international community has failed to achieve their independence. It is necessary for independence to be approved by Baghdad and the countries of the region.

In my opinion, Southerners can achieve independence, but their approach is wrong in language and in action. They need to convince their brothers in Sana‘a after the liberation (of the capita) and the return of political life. Without their consent, they will not receive the approval of the United Nations or the consent of regionally important states. North Yemen may, in objective circumstances, accept a political formula suitable for both parties.

I do not want to anger the brothers of the Southern politicians by reminding them that the South has long suffered from conflict between ambitious power-seekers – even the British had to rely on 12 different Sultans and Emirs to rule the Southern regions. The Soviet Union did the same by supporting a troika of three communists to govern Aden, and the President at the time, Ali Salim al-Baydh, was forced to go to Sana‘a and surrender the keys of his capital, Aden. Not because he loved the idea of unity, but because he wanted to prevent his rivals from seizing power in Southern Yemen! That is why we fear today that without a peaceful transition, political consensus, and international ratification, the South will be divided into states that will fight each other, and evil states such as Iran will find new territory to infiltrate.

What the Transitional Council did, the day before yesterday, was shoot itself in the foot. This may in turn deal his project a mortal blow, having raised the suspicion and harmed the regional relationship. Not only the Houthis applauded, but also the Iranians and the Qataris! All the STC’s excuses do not justify the coup, otherwise it could have accepted the Houthi coup and concluded a deal with them, and with other power-seekers in Yemen!

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