Yemen Needs a Cease-Fire

By Akif Sattar.

Formulation of military alliances is a part of strategic calculus of international politics, global military operations and interventions. Unfortunately, there is no central system which could authorize the legitimacy of military alliances at global level. Some military alliances have geo-strategic interest while the other pursue their geo-political interests without any set principle. For instance, current military alliance and foreign intervention in Syrian crisis is operating to topple the legitimate rule of Assad regime while contrary to that, almost same kind of military alliance is in action to back the legitimate rule of Mansur ul Hadi in Yemen. Perhaps this contrast is ridiculous then the unfortunate. That is why idealists believe that there is no central authority in international system which could keep its check over different violations. However, believers of “Might is Right” argues that “Might is Right” is itself a guiding principle to operate in the international system of states.

Middle Eastern Monarchies exactly following the same contrary policies to guard their own geographical, political and sectarian interests. The most disastrous factor is the powerlessness of international organizations like United Nations. However, it is no more a secret that UN and UNSC have fatally failed to resolve major international disputes including Kashmir and Palestine. Role of United Nations in Yemen Crisis is limited to the countdown of humanitarian loss and cease-fire appeals to international powers. According to UN reports, sum of 4000 civilians lost their lives among 11,000 other causalities. Moreover, around 31 Million people are internally displaced, so the crisis is far severe than anyone can imagine.

The dilemma is that the powerful always find its way through the power he holds. Being mighty and powerful, a state hardly think about other options including talks and political settlement. History has taught bitter lessons to the giant military alliances in Iraq and Afghanistan. NATO and ISAF were the leading military alliances in Afghanistan, nevertheless, at the end, all global powers including US seeking the way forward through dialogue with Taliban. In the same way, US invasion of Iraq has been a proven failure of use of power. However, political engagement somehow worked in Iraq and a democratic setup took charge of affairs. No doubt, complete political stability will definitely take a long time yet it is far better than a complete chaos.

Yemen possess a history full of crisis. It was a bone of contention between Ottoman Empire and British Colonial regime. Then it was battle ground between the powers of North and South. Yemen remained divided into Yemen Arab Republic (controlled by Army rebels in north) and People’s Republic of Yemen (controlled by the revolutionaries of south). Unification of Yemen was taken place in 1990 after almost 12 years of bloody civil war. Unfortunately Yemen has plunged into another civil war situation after famed Arab Spring of 2011.

The most disappointing factor in the crisis, is the Alliance of Gulf Cooperation Council to use of force, particularly air strikes on the Houthis, which is self-proclaimed revolutionary group against the central government’s President Hadi. The coalition partners including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar and Sudan argues that we are fighting against the rebels to strengthen the central government. If we agree to this principle, than these forces or other foreign forces should also fight against rebel forces of Syria to strengthen the Assad regime. Obviously, this is not the case. Wars had never fought on principles but on vested political and geostrategic interests. All the coalition partners should calculate the dividends of this war from the example of recent wars. Post 9/11 US invasion in Afghanistan had nothing to do with Pakistan, but for one or the other reason, Pakistan jumped into that and supported US invasion on strategic, diplomatic and moral fronts. Resultantly war dragged into the territories of Pakistan and Pakistan has lost 80,000 thousand lives including 48,000 civilians and estimated financial loss is US 188 billion dollars. Therefore, foreign forces should act sensibly and push Yemen towards the political way out.

While seeking a peaceful solution, we also cannot expect a democratic move in Yemen to tackle the current chaotic situation. Democratic change will be another impossible choice as Middle East is a region full of monarchs, some are absolute and some monarchies are constitutional. Therefore, Middle Eastern political elite will not approve a democratic way out. How these monarchies could accept the democratization around. Egypt with a strong dictator also a leading partner in the coalition, therefore democracy would never be an option, not even the last option. Transitional government could be a viable option for both sides and coalition forces, a government that has representation from both sides with a mutually agreed power sharing formula. The immediate focus should be on discontinuing violence and cease-fire instead of long-lasting solution of the dispute.  Complete division of North and South could be another alternative but cannot be opted in this situation. United Nations can take the lead in division, once the situation get under-control and lives become normal.

Violence, use of force and wars cannot be used as a route to stability in 21st century. If the use of force could bring the stability, Kashmir would have been the most stable region of the world. If the violence could have an ability to ensure peace, Palestine would have the most peaceful location. If the foreign invasion could bring political stability, Iraq and Afghanistan would have been politically stable after decade long invasions. We should not expect any reasonable way out from USA, UK and France who are supporting the intervention of Gulf countries in Yemen Civil war. However, Pakistan should take the lead to convince brotherly states of Middle East for immediate cease-fire. Parliament of Pakistan unanimously decided to be neutral in the crisis, yet I think that practical neutrality demands the efforts to persuade opposing parties for negotiated settlement instead of observing silence.  Neutrality only clarifies your position that you’re not party to conflict, however, neutrality does not bar you to play your in conflict resolution.


The writer is associated with an international developmental organization.

He can be reached at


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