Egypt participates in Ukraine International Travel, Tourism Exhibition    139 Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza    Palestinian under attack in 73rd anniversary of Nakba Day    Egypt's Health Ministry launches awareness campaigns against COVID-19    Egypt partakes in drafting OECD Recommendations on AI    Palestine's Telecom Ministry names top social media supportive hashtags for maximum engagement    Egypt fines mobile operators EGP 20m for number portability violations    Sudan pledges to investigate killing of 2 protestors during peaceful sit-in    Grand Egyptian Museum finishes installing Tutankhamun's 3rd shrine    Egypt discovers several ancient tombs in Sohag's Al-Hamdiya necropolis    Egypt scales up readiness of hospitals nationwide for Eid Al-Fitr holidays    Egyptian hospitals in Sinai on alert amid Israeli aggression on Gaza    Egypt announces Thursday 1st day of Eid Al-Fitr    Nuweiba: Egypt's paradise of serenity    Egypt's current account deficit jumps to $7.6 bln in 1H of FY2020/21: CBE    Egypt's trade deficit down 1.2% to $3.34bn in February 2021: CAPMAS    Global economic recovery to improve debt service coverage ratios: Moody's    Egypt's Parliament discusses abolishing imprisonment for female debtors    India signs an agreement to buy 300,000 doses of Remdesivir from Eva Pharma    Egypt will locally manufacture first 2m Sinovac vaccine doses by June-end    2021 South East European Film Festival celebrates cinematic diversity of 18 countries    Turkey seeks to restore 'historic unity' with Egyptian people: Erdogan    Elneny's Arsenal targets 'remontada' in Europa League semi-finals    Zamalek eye return to victories at expense of Smouha in Egyptian Premier League    Al Ahly face injuries as they take on Al Ittihad Alexandria    Egypt buys 30 Rafale fighter jets from France    Direct flights between Russia and Egypt will resume in June, Ambassador    Egypt's Ahly is establishing a new stadium, expected to be 'sports complex'    Blinken presses Ethiopia's Abiy to ensure full withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray    Forces opposed to Somali president control parts of Mogadishu    Nine people executed in Egypt over Kerdasa police killings in 2013    UEFA investigating Ibrahimovic's alleged ties to betting company    61 doctors died from coronavirus since start of April: Egypt's medical syndicate    Egypt targets 5.6% inflation rate in FY2020/21, 6% in FY2021/22    Egypt allocates EGP 132 bln to modernise railway system: Transport minister    Real Madrid not thinking about any Super League sanctions: Zidane    Total declares force majeure on Mozambique LNG after attacks    All the winners at the 93rd Academy Awards    Egypt's Ahly granted approval to build new stadium on Cairo outskirts    Aswan Int'l Women's Film Festival dedicates 5th edition to Kawthar Heikal    BREAKING: Egypt's information minister Osama Heikal resigns amid parliamentary criticism    'War was not Egypt's aim, but peace was the ultimate goal,' Sisi says on Sinai Liberation Day anniversary    Factbox: Key nominations for the 2021 Academy Awards    Old Cairo's Al-Fustat will be revamped on Egyptian President's directives    Veteran Egyptian journalist Makram Mohamed Ahmed passes away at 86    Allianz Egypt partners with IGNITE to equip brand ambassadors for 2021 Olympics    Hassan Allam consortium wins contract to manage, operate Grand Egyptian Museum    Seasoned Egyptian screenwriter Wahid Hamed dies at 76    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

Bidening the crisis
Published in Ahram Online on 09 - 02 - 2021

A political settlement of the Yemen crisis seemed more plausible than ever last week when American President Joe Biden outlined his administration's foreign policy. In a speech at the State Department in Washington, Biden said, “This war has to end... And to underscore our commitment; we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arm sales”.
Yet the American president reiterated Washington's position in support of Saudi Arabia defending itself in the face of external threats. That meant all defence arms deals will still go ahead.
Every party in the region interpreted Biden's statement the way they liked, but realistic analysts concluded that ending the war in Yemen would require much more than a “Biden call”. As one Western diplomat who has previously served in the region put it, “The anticipated change in the US position on Yemen would not have much impact on the dynamics of the conflict in the war-torn country.”
Many are drawing an analogy with Barak Obama's policy in the region, which actually made no difference. When Iran-backed Houthi rebels ended up controlling most of the country, ousting a legitimate government in 2014, a Saudi-led coalition backing said government intervened militarily in the country to push the rebels and reinstate it. All this took place under Obama, when Biden was vice president.
Prominent columnist Abdulrahman Al-Rashed wrote in Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Biden's stand on Yemen could be the best approach to “the most difficult issue” in Saudi-American relations. “We were surprised by Biden's vow to protect Saudi Arabia from attacks by Iranian Houthis. It is a step forward, even beyond Trump's administration… we expect one of two things: either the Houthis will stop targeting Saudi cities, which would be a positive development making a political solution more viable, or they will send drones and rockets over the border, enabling Saudi F-15 fighters to respond. The Houthis would then be violating an American ceasefire.” Al Rashed suggests that then US would be part of the escalation and stand by its promise to support Saudi Arabia.
But the Houthis went for the second option. Just 48 hours after the American administration notified Congress that it would remove the Houthis from its list of foreign terrorist organisations, Saudi defences intercepted drone attacks from Yemen. The Biden administration's response was to warn the Houthi rebels against ongoing attacks on civilians. A State Department statement on Sunday said, “As the president is taking steps to end the war in Yemen and Saudi Arabia has endorsed a negotiated settlement, the United States is deeply troubled by continued Houthi attacks… We call on the Houthis to immediately cease attacks impacting civilian areas inside Saudi Arabia and to halt any new military offensives inside Yemen, which only bring more suffering to the Yemeni people”.
For many Saudis, that is not so different from the Trump administration's reaction to attacks on Saudi oil installations in 2019, claimed by Houthis and believed to be launched by Iran. Riyadh expected the Americans to strike Iran, but Trump just expressed verbal support.
But diplomatic rhetoric will not solve the Yemen debacle; even if Yemen is included in an American-Iranian deal on the latter's nuclear programme and regional interference. More than six years of war and destruction in the country have left it close to “irreparable”.
Whether it is Trump or Biden in the White House, it might not make that much difference as the internal scene in Yemen has become more complicated and local parties are now entrenched in a destructive course. Fragmentation on tribal, sectarian and to a lesser extent political lines is wiping out even the small changes external military intervention achieved – mainly weakening the presence of terrorist groups, especially in the south of the country.
The Biden administration's policy might even add to that complication if its anticipated deal with Iran is not comprehensive.
From the start of the war in Yemen, the coalition knew there would be no military solution. At the end of the day, local Yemeni parties would settle the conflict politically. But the Saudis are wary of the Iranian presence on their southern borders via their proxy, the Houthi militia.
Saudi commentator Abdul-Aziz Alkhames told Al Ahram Weekly, “It was the initial goal of the coalition to support the legitimate government. [There was] no military solution in Yemen and the crisis would be settled politically. The military campaign was mainly in opposition to Iranian interference through the Houthi militia”. But Alkhames sees the new American position as an opportunity is a different way. “Washington's disengagement makes room for other powers to play an active role in the region. France is a good example, and President Macron is working closely with allies like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE to sort out many regional issues. The Biden administration's restrictions on arms sales to Saudi Arabia give us to diversify our sources.”
Yemenis inside the country welcomed the change in Washington, the main beneficiary of which will probably be the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate Islah Party, now a component of the Saudi-backed government. Some 80 per cent of the Yemeni population cannot satisfy their basic needs, and they only care about retrieving normality. As one Yemeni commentator put it, “They are less interested in Trumping or Bidening the crisis.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 11 February , 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Clic here to read the story from its source.