UN Truce in Yemen: Little Opportunities and Much Titubation


Wed, 11-05-2022 03:24 PM, Aden

Raad Alrimi (South24) 

On April 2nd, the UN truce in Yemen, announced by the UN Envoy Hans Grundberg, took effect. It was scheduled for two months and it can be extended if the parties agree on that. However, the truce faces failure amid mutual violation accusations among the military parties in Yemen.

In the West Coast, the Joint Forces accused the Houthis of committing more than 341 military breaches during April. The Southern forces said that the Houthis committed 480 military breaches in the northern Dhale fronts during the same period. Moreover, the forces affiliated with the Yemeni government in Marib accused the group of committing 390 breaches. 

On the other hand, the Houthis claimed that their rivals in all fronts committed 5000 military breaches during the first month of the truce. 

The fate of the truce

Many analysts, politicians, and observers of the Yemeni scene believe that the mutual accusations of committing truce military violations in Yemen denote its weakness and fragility especially in light of the expansion of these violations at the field level. 

For his part, Military Expert Brigadier General Thabet Hussein Saleh, Military Affairs Advisor at “South24” said: ”There are two scenarios for the truce, whether to be extended or to collapse”. He believes that the collapse is more likely to happen. 

He said “the first scenario is the extension of the truce and maintaining the status quo. In this case, the Presidential Council must focus on making a tangible difference for improving services and living conditions in South”.

According to him, “the second scenario is that the clashes could turn into a comprehensive war”.

He elaborated that “the war against the Houthis this time won’t differ from previous ones unless the Presidential Council makes deep reforms in the war plans. It has to mobilize the forces towards engaging in the war against the Houthis in light of the Riyadh Agreement. Furthermore, a clear and serious anti-Houthi will have to be available along with the Arab Coalition’s support”.

He added: “The Presidential Council should take initiative to make a decisive high-tempo attack to go deeper towards North. However, this depends on the extent of taking measures in a way that differs from what happened during the National Army's war preparations.".

Analyst and Military Expert Lieutenant Colonel Waddah Al-Obali described the truce as "incomplete" and "ineffective".

He told "South24": "Actually the presumed truce is nominal not a real one due to the documented violations from its very beginnings till now".

Al-Obali pointed out that "there are current measures and steps by the UN to prolong the truce to avoid any unilateral Houthi move to launch a war in the last minutes of the truce".

He added: "If the UN does not begin early arrangements to prolong the truce, I think the Houthis won't wait until the last minutes of the truce to launch their attacks".

He believes that "the Houthis will create pretexts to justify this move. They don't care about any international stances when they see suitable opportunities to achieve valuable operational victories on the ground and political gains on the negotiation table".

Joint Forces' spokesperson, Colonel Waddah Al-Dubaish, accused the Houthis of exploiting the truce "for other goals and purposes". He told "South24" that "for the Houthis, the truce is a military tactic to achieve goals including gathering their forces, redeploying them and enhancing them with weapons".

He added: "The Houthi militias previously exploited the Stockholm Agreement to achieve similar goals as they violated it countless times. They launched a comprehensive war amid silence from the sponsors of the agreement".

Journalist and political analyst Saleh Al-Baydani said that the truce is "unable to withstand".

He told "South24" that “the sky of the real Yemeni political operation is cloudy and dark due to the obvious failure in completing the humanitarian UN Initiative's humanitarian part and the continuation of the daily cease-fire violations".

He added: "I don't believe that the truce is able to withstand or to turn into a reliable permanent cease-fire to revive the blocked political path of the Yemeni crisis since the Stockholm Agreement in 2018".

He added: "It is clear that the UN and the international community are well aware of the complexities of the Yemeni file and the several obstacles which obstruct the road of peace in Yemen, foremost of which are the ideological dimension of the Houthi acts and the group's strong ties with Iran as well as the agenda of its diversified interests. Thus, there is an attempt to settle the Yemeni conflict by copying the scenario of the fragile Stockholm Agreement in Hodeida''.

The Presidential Council

After the announcement of the establishment of the Presidential Council in Yemen on April 7th, its Member, General Aidrous Al-Zubaidi delivered a speech to draw the future image and the map of the conflict with the Houthis in both peace and war”.

The most prominent Southern commander and the STC President said: “our message to the regional and the international community is that we move forward to establish peace, security and stability in the region as well as to fight terrorism. However, we will fight the Houthis if they continue their intransigence and their rejection of peace calls”.

By the end of the truce, the newly-formed Council will face the first real test against the Houthis, with a heavy heritance of long military failure against the group during the former Yemeni “legitimate” leadership especially on the Northern fronts. 

Al-Obali believes that the battle with the Houthis in case of the failure or the end of the truce will be different this time through the presence of the Presidential Council.

However, he added: “our belief is still at cautious levels. In fact, we have not seen or monitored things to assert these beliefs apart from making political balance in the top levels of the power. This is in conjunction with the continuous presence of the same tools that eat away the core parts of State’s institutions, circles, bodies and agencies. 

He went on saying: “The military side has not experienced any moves regarding arrangement and preparation for the incoming battle which requires proactive steps. This is represented in decisions to carry out even a small part of the necessary reforms at the leadership level and the team who manages the battle”. 

He pointed out that “the battle has to be managed by using other tools instead of those which failed and caused setbacks over past years”.

Al-Obali described the Presidential Council's preparations as “sluggish”. He dubbed its stance towards the UN as “exaggerated idealism”.

He added: “I am sorry to say that the Presidential Council adopts a too ideal way in dealing with  its pledges to the UN along with the Arab Coalition. Thus, the Council won't certainly be the initiator regarding attacking the Houthis. We have little prospects that the Council would resort to such a move as a response to any Houthi moves. I don't exaggerate by saying that the Houthis still control the war initiative including attack".

Saleh Al-Baydani agrees with Al-Obali that the battle against the Houthis under the Presidential Council could be different.

He told "South24": "The Houthis can't conceal their concerns about the sudden shift within their foes' camp. This shift was out of the context of complexities experienced by the legitimate government and the power centers established within it over past years. This contributed in thwarting the battle to liberate Yemen and to confront the Iranian project represented in the Houthi militias".

"Naturally, the huge change in the structure of internationally-recognized government which largely aligns with the size of political, popular and military impact of the top-level power components (the Presidential Leadership Council) will cast shadow in the next stage in terms of the nature of dealing with the Houthis in both peace and war times through a more effective and coherent way" he added. 

Important fronts

Both experts, Thabet Saleh and Waddah Al-Obali agree that all fronts are important in the war against the Houthis. But they believe that the Marib front is “of great importance for both sides. For the Presidential Council, it will help it to defend the army’s stronghold and command centers as well as the source of sovereign wealth “oil, gas, electricity”. As for the Houthis, the Marib front represents the same strategic value as well as it is  the nearest front from Sanaa”. 

On the other hand, Shabwa, Dhalea, Yafa, Kirsh (eastern Lahj) and the West Coast fronts are equally important for both parties’ calculations according to experts who believe that some of these fronts could be the target of Houthi attacks to threaten the stability and the presence of the Presidential Council in Aden.

The Houthi stance

“South24” attempted to contact Houthi officials in Sanaa to comment on the fate of the UN truce in Yemen, but we have not received a response yet.
On May 4th, the Houthis’ spokesman and the head of their negotiation delegation, Mohammed Abdulsalam warned the UN truce could be undermined after the Houthis declared shooting down a spy plane affiliated with the KSA. 

Abdulsalam said: “Going too far in such hostile acts would undermine the already-threatened truce after not implementing its articles regarding reopening the Sanaa Airport and facilitating the arrival of ships to the Port of Hodeida”.

Raad Alrimi
Journalist at South24 Center for News and Studies
Photo: Pro-government soldier in Marib (Getty) 

YemenHouthisUN TrucePresidential Council