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Monday, June 1, 2020

The GCC woke up late to Yemen threat

by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

© APimages - Supporters of Houthi Shiites listen to a speech by Abdul Malik Al-Houthi
© Shutterstock

Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels have successfully achieved their long-held goal while the Arab World was sleeping. Under the pretence of seeking a more inclusive government, they have taken control of the country, including its capital Sana’a. After pressurizing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to resign on January 22 following armed Houthi protests, sit-ins and the takeover of government buildings, the militia has dissolved parliament and replaced it with a five-member revolutionary council.

The move has been condemned by all Yemeni political parties and is likely to result in either an all-out civil war or the splitting up of the country. There exists a very real risk that political and sectarian volatility will open a wide window for Al Qaeda, Ansar Al- Sharia and other terrorist groups to gain an even greater foothold than they’ve enjoyed to date and, certainly, a Shiite minority takeover will ramp up recruitment.

Not only is Yemen’s future as a unified sovereign state in peril, there are wider implications for the entire region. For one thing, the regional geopolitical map has been re-drawn to further empower Iranian ambitions to the detriment of Sunni Gulf States and, moreover, a Houthi-led ‘government’ poses a grave threat to Saudi national security.

The Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) member states are clearly rattled. Warning that the “coup would plunge the country into a “dark tunnel” the GCC has announced that it will take all necessary steps to protect its interests without going into specifics. The Council has also appealed to the international community and the UN Security Council (UNSC) to assist in resolving the crisis, which, sad to say, is like closing the gate after the horse has bolted.

I’m shocked that the GCC’s Secretary- General waited until the nth-minute to publically react to this menace and if he seriously believes that the UNSC or our so-called western allies will heed his call in any meaningful fashion, he’s in for a disappointment – and especially during a moment in time when the west is more interested in forming a rapprochement with Iran than cleansing the area from terrorist militias.

To say that I am personally frustrated that no action was taken much earlier to prevent this easily predictable state of affairs, is an understatement. For years, I’ve been discussing my worries with prominent decision-makers and writing columns outlining my fears that a Houthi power grab was on the cards while strongly urging Gulf States to take the matter with the seriousness it deserves.

Unfortunately, my warnings weren’t heeded. If a businessman like me could decipher the writing on the wall, why did our governments’ political advisors and intelligence analysts fail to do so? Why do we always wait until the sword is poised to cut our necks before we think about taking preemptive measures?

As long ago as April 1, 2010, I had published a column headed “Yemen needs help not criticism” arguing that poverty-stricken Yemen was in danger of becoming a failed state. I criticized then US Secretary-of-State Hilary Clinton for depriving the country of international aid, suggesting that “her disparaging tone must have been music to the ears of opposition leaders, insurgents, extremists and would-be secessionists.” “Rather than watch passively, allowing Yemen to go the way of Iraq or an ungovernable pirates’ paradise like Somalia, the Arab world must stand with the Yemeni leadership before it’s too late,” I wrote.

I followed-up the above analysis on November 29, 2011 with an article titled “Beware unintended consequences of Yemeni uprising!” In that, I warned that Houthis harbor an “expansionist agenda” and are endeavoring to openup a Red Sea route to import heavy weapons with which to attack the Yemeni capital and to infiltrate Saudi Arabia.

I wrote that the “Houthis’ hatred of Saudi Arabia is well-known and it is my belief that they have hatched a plan with the Iranian ayatollahs to sneak weapons and terrorists over the border into Saudi to launch terrorist acts aimed at destabilizing the Kingdom as soon as they get the green light from Tehran to attempt the destruction of our peaceful GCC societies.”

Then on September 25, last year, my op-ed “Iran’s agenda consolidates while the Arabs are distracted” showcased the boast of Iranian lawmaker Alireza Zakani to the effect that three Arab capitals (Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut) were now in Iran’s hands and affiliated to the Iranian Islamic Revolution with Sana’a well on its way to becoming the fourth.

“Yemen – a country considered the birthplace of the Arab nation – has fallen into the hands of Shiite Houthis, former separatists turned terrorists no longer content with striving for part of the cake, they now seek to consume all of it,” I penned, adding, “Due to our hesitance to stand alongside the Yemeni government against these terrorist Iranian puppets, we’ve enabled their aspirations.”

The last paragraph of that column illustrates my increasing despondence. “I can only cling to the hope that now some of our countries have been galvanized to act against the Islamic State and our armies and air forces will extend their operations to take back Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen before the Sunni Arab World is reduced to a shadow in a darkening Persian night.”

My last ditch attempt to convince major world powers to take decisive action was my column dated December 29, 2014 published under the headline “Global leadership lacking in 2014”. Among those I called to account was President Obama, who failed to thwart Yemen becoming an Iranian hub following the storming of the capital by Houthi rebels “just as he earlier failed to rescue the Syrian people from the missiles, the chemical attacks and the prisons of one of the most brutal dictators the world has ever known.”

The damage may already be done, but even so, we must not throw up our hands in despair allowing things to go from bad to worse or sit around drinking tea in hopes that a US cavalry will appear out of nowhere to save the day. America and its friends are engaged in their own missions, which may well contradict with our interests. We have the intelligence, the forces, the weapons, the airpower and the maturity to cut the heads of the snakes in Yemen, Iraq and Syria – whether Assad’s gangs or Islamic State terrorists – ourselves. The only element lacking is a decision; a joint decision by all GCC member states to do whatever it takes before those same multi-striped serpents begin hissing in our direction.

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