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'Aid means continuation of hostilities': Scholar reviews Yemen conflict developments, ramifications

By Saeb Rawashdeh - Apr 05,2018 - Last updated at Apr 05,2018

Yemeni scholar Farea Al Muslimi speaks in front of the audience gathered at Columbia Global Centres on Wesdnesday (Photo courtesy of Columbia Global Centres)

AMMAN — The recently concluded UN donor conference on Yemen's decision to raise $2.5 billion to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population means “the continuation of hostilities”, a scholar and political scientist said on Wednesday.

Once the NGO sector receives large amounts of funding, the war continunes, Farea Al Muslimi, an associate fellow at London's Chatham House noted during a lecture titled “An Update from War-torn Yemen: A Talk by Farea Al Muslimi”.

“We all know aid is the beginning of a sustainable conflict, as aid is more of an apology than a problem solver,” Muslimi said at the event organised by the Columbia Global Centres in Amman.

 Opening his presentation, Muslimi said that March 26 marks the fourth year since the beginning of the military intervention in Yemen led by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and several other countries, noting that we entered the fifth year of the Houthi war in Yemen.

When the war began, the international coalition around Saudi Arabia had four objectives: "to bring back the legitimate government to power; implement the UN resolution 2216; protect Saudi Arabia’s border and security; and resume the political process in Yemen,” Muslimi highlighted.

Some of the unspoken goals of the military intervention included the new regional order sought by Saudi Arabia or the "new Saudi domestic order", which was led by Mohammad Bin Salman and aimed at countering Iranian influence in the Middle East, he outlined.

The Saudi-led coalition successfully expelled Houthis from Aden and from "80 per cent of the country”, he said, stressing that it is “a deceptive number” as most of the population is still under Houthi control.

“Despite its claim, the Yemeni government is still in Saudi Arabia running its affairs using Facebook and Whatsapp from Riyadh,” Muslimi emphasised.

In regards to the implementation of the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2216, Muslimi elaborated that even the government itself violated that resolution, claiming that the recent sacking of Khalid Baha by the Yemeni government was "a kind of a coup d’etat".

The goal of securing the border with Saudi Arabia also failed, given that Houthi militia launched seven missile attacks over the last few months, he continued, adding that it “may increase the length of the war”.

“Either ways, it leads us to the second set of goals which are non-Yemeni objectives; one of being an attempt by Saudi Arabia to create a new regional order, which succeeded to a certain extent,” the political scientist explained, adding that the rise of Prince Mohammad coincided with the electoral win of US President Donald Trump in 2016.

For the first time since president Obama won two presidential terms, Americans and Saudis are “on the same page”, he highlighted.

Muslimi drew the parallel between the influence of the regional actors in Lebanon and in Yemen, concluding that “what worked in Yemen doesn’t work in Lebanon and it backfired”.

Unlike Hizbollah and Assad’s regime, Iran does not look at Houthis as strategic allies “since there’s a limit in weaponry that Tehran provides to Houthi militia”, he claimed.

The scholar pointed out that Yemenis have been stuck between two geopolitical calculations:  Tehran and Riyadh, Moscow and Washington, Houthis and Hadi, adding that the economic impact of the crisis is more negative than the fighting itself.

Six million Yemenis “didn’t receive salaries for months and the Sanaa airport [has been] closed for two years”, he said, adding that the de-evaluation of the Yemeni rial affected 60 per cent of the population.

A country like Yemen, he continued, imports 90 per cent of its food, so any depreciation of the local currency will worsen the humanitarian crisis, he emphasised.

The collapse of the public services, particularly the Ministry of Education, left millions of children out of schools who then became easily recruited by local militias, the scholar stressed.

“Yemen is not Syria, which is too internationally divisive, nor is it Libya, where violence is too decentralised; it was a war that no one expected,” Muslimi observed.

He also cited the expulsion of minorities who had lived in Yemen for centuries — Jews and Bahais — as the first in history, conclluding that it will "forever change the character of the country".

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