The conference in Riyadh for Yemeni national dialogue began this week. An invitation to attend was extended to all parties, including those linked to the party of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the General People's Congress, as well as those who went against the legitimate authority on 21 September last year. The coordinators agreed to divide representation equally between the north and south in all elements of the dialogue, including the preparatory committee.
The reason for the conference is the severe military and humanitarian conditions in Yemen that require firm determination on the part of the participants in Riyadh. At the same time, the UN Special Representative, Ismail Ould Sheikh Ahmed, has contacted of all the Yemeni, regional and international parties, but he has failed so far to secure a cease-fire for humanitarian purposes. The battles are still raging in all of the south Yemen provinces and the Houthis are preventing the entry of humanitarian aid to those in need within the combat zones; they have gone so far as to seize aid waiting at the Hodeida port. Ould Sheikh Ahmed actually failed to understand Yemeni affairs, which is, admittedly, a difficult task.
I am afraid that the UN representative is in Yemen to act as a mediator between the Houthis and the US administration, thus reinforcing the role of the former in Yemeni affairs over that of other forces in the country, because they believe that he is qualified to root out Al-Qaeda. He is also required by the Houthis to move the Yemeni dialogue out of Saudi Arabia, in response to the demand of Iran and its representatives in Sana'a. In addition, his contact with the UN Secretary-General is useless because Ban Ki-moon, despite his powers outlined in the UN Charter, failed to implement Security Council Resolution 2216. The Gulf Cooperation Council states insist on committing to their initiative with regards to the Yemeni issue, and so the location of the dialogue should not be moved away from the GCC Secretariat headquarters – Riyadh – no matter what.
It seems that our Yemeni brothers attending the Riyadh conference are still living in the pre-September 2014 era, as if the ongoing war in their country does not concern them. They are discussing the division and distribution of positions and benefits, and dividing Yemen into north and south, or six regions. Former President and Prime Minister Ali Nasser Mohammed is also busy proposing a detailed Iranian project, as if Yemen is not being burned and destroyed by Iran's proxies.
I believe that the Yemeni leaders gathered in Riyadh have not learned from world history and the behaviour of other national leaders, such as General Charles de Gaulle, who stood against the division of France by the Germans, and supported the heroic resistance against the Nazis. He and his generals did not support such a division simply to share power with General Petain, a Nazi sympathiser. Another example is Nelson Mandela, who went to prison in support of his people's freedom. He did not demand that the Apartheid government should share power, with a "half white, half black" administration. History is full of such examples and the Yemenis are known for their wisdom and ability to learn; wisdom, however, is currently absent from the minds of many of their leaders who are allowing their homeland to be a hostage to Iran in order to achieve selfish sectarian goals. Meanwhile, others are only concerned with dividing the people and resources of Yemen, as if they are going to last forever.
To the honourable people of Yemen and their brave soldiers I say, your homeland has been blessed with wealth and natural resources. If you do well, then the goods of your land will be yours, but if you don't and if you fight over sectarian and personal gains, then be sure that you will lose. Why isn't your only concern liberating Yemen from its kidnappers, the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Salah, and restoring the legitimate authority to Sana'a or Aden? It is worth noting that President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is slow in making critical decisions, and he has not addressed the people in their time of need in order to encourage them and raise morale in the defence of legitimacy. His soldiers have not been paid for over six months, have no supplies on the frontline and are receiving no help or attention from their leaders living in Riyadh. Why doesn't Hadi go to the refugee camps in Djibouti and elsewhere in order to reassure the refugees and provide them with aid? If he did, the GCC countries will surely be generous in the face of his requests.
Public opinion in the Gulf calls on President Hadi to delegate a large part of his power to his vice-president and prime minister, Khaled Bahah, as he has received support from all of the right-wing parties and is able to move about, even in the liberated parts of Yemen. He is also eloquent and strong, and can manage crises. Yemen needs such a man at this time. Bahah needs to choose a handful of Yemen's finest military leaders who have been tried and tested in battle, and those loyal to the legitimate authority, to support him. There are some of General Ali Mohsen's men who served to protect the revolution's youth in 2011; only those with hatred in their hearts will deny this.
Mohsen may have had positions that some of his men did not agree with, and each had their own reasons, but I would like to remind everyone of Khalid Ibn Al-Walid's victory against the Muslim army led by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the Battle of Uhud. He was also on the brink of defeating the Muslims in the Battle of the Trench until God blessed His Prophet with victory. Khalid then embraced Islam and led the Muslim armies to victory in more than 100 of their subsequent battles. The Prophet did not take a negative position against Khalid, despite the fact that he defeated the Muslims; he even called him Sayf Allāh al-Maslūl (Drawn Sword of God).
There are senior officers in Yemen, including General Abd Al-Rab Al-Shadadi, General Abdulrahman Al-Halili and General Al-Daheri Al-Shadadi, who are strong men. There are many more that I have not mentioned as the list is long. I hope that they are by Bahah's side for the sake of Yemen. I also include the respectable leaders of the Yemeni tribes who reject Iran's dominance of their country through the Houthis.
I will end by saying that I hope that the goal of the Riyadh Conference is to unite the ranks and goals of the Yemenis in order to regain their country from the hands of its captors, and to disregard the conclusions of the previous Sana'a talks, as they are now outdated.
Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid, 18 May, 2015.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.