Aidrous Al-Zubaidi performs Eid Al-Adha prayer next to Rashad Al-Alimi at Maashiq Palace, July 09, 2022 (STC)

STC: Between Creating Pretexts and Offering Concessions


Sat, 16-07-2022 04:14 PM, Aden

Farida Ahmed (South24) 

Nearly 100 days after the establishment of the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) in Yemen, the general scene is almost a foggy one. During this period, it has been clear that resolving some files faces challenges. There are parties who have de-facto control on the ground and military weight. On the other hand, there are other parties who lack political or military weight on the ground but they own a strong web of interests. Such a conflict could establish a contrast stage among the PLC's partners and may obstruct their work in light of not achieving progress including the military and the political changes at the presidential and governmental level.

Moreover, the deterioration of the economic and the living conditions in the capital city of Aden along with the rise of terrorist operations in many parts in South Yemen contributed in the increase of public resentment especially after the 14% increase in the commercial gasoline prices within areas controlled by the government. Consequently, hundreds of angry protesters took to the streets where they set fires and closed the main roads in Aden. They protested against the decline of services and the rise of food and fuel prices. [1]

Undoubtedly, the eight-year war left behind a heavy legacy. However, the biggest thing that stirs the resentment of the street is that the eight PLC members practice their political tasks without speeding up demands to save the deteriorating economic situation and providing services. Additionally, the dilemma of keeping the regular and irregular military formations in their current form could push for deteriorating the security situation. This comes amid the intransigence of some stances and not making restructure or bringing about changes in the military institution or moving the forces from some sites such as Wadi Hadramout, Al-Mahra and Abyan to the fighting forefronts. These demands are part of what were agreed upon in the latest Riyadh consultations and the prior Riyadh Agreement. 

As for the Saudi position, Riyadh's moves towards the economic file are apparently slow although this could supposedly support the new PLC. This is in light of the ongoing presence of some old forces inside the scene. On the other hand, the scene moves in quick paces towards finding interiors to negotiate with the Houthis or the establishment of military forces under the name of "Happy Yemen Forces". There has been a lack of interest in giving support for correcting the path of the previous military forces or to pressure for dismantling the irregular forces in Taiz and other places. This could lead to a more confusing stage.

For example, days ago, joint units of the Saudi-led Arab Coalition forces and the newly-formed Happy Yemen Brigades, reinforced with dozens of military vehicles and equipments, went to Al-Maashiq Palace which is the headquarters of the PLC and the government in the capital Aden. [2] Southerners said that the arrival of these military forces, which received intensified training during the past period, aims at protecting the PLC and the government and also to gradually reduce the impact of the Southern forces affiliated with the STC which control the interim capital. More military forces affiliated with the "Happy Yemen" are expected to move to different places in South Yemen during the incoming period to make a balance among forces on the ground through attempts to undermine the military and the security entities connected to the STC.

There is an approach adopted by the KSA in dealing with the Yemeni parties even during managing the disputes between them. The KSA tends to support a weak party while weakening a strong party. It does not take into consideration the political dimensions, rooting the conflict and the Yemeni crisis and a lot of other factors. Riyadh's stance towards what happened and what is happening in Aden is apparently based on personal perceptions from those who are entrusted with suggesting scientific solutions based on realistic studies.

The Saudi vision which strengthens one party while weakens other aligned parties does not look wise. It is illogical from Riyadh to withdraw power from a party such as the STC which represents a military and a political weight to give it to a weak and incoherent party that has no big impact and has no unified leadership such as the various Northern parties. This will lead to weakening anti-Houthi parties gradually. It seems that the KSA has not so far a clear strategy to deal with the PLC or any of its affiliated parties. Although the PLC has apparently a realistic solution for the general political scene 8 years after the conflict, the lack of strategy may be a problem to the KSA itself before being a problem to the PLC. The Saudi policy towards the Saudi-backed Yemeni parties could serve the interests of the Houthis who are Iran's proxies in its southern borders.

Since the STC’s control on Aden in August 2019, the most frequent question was what has the STC done to fix the deteriorating economic and living conditions in areas controlled by it? The answer simply is that it hasn't made anything. On the contrary, it used to make up excuses to throw responsibility on the government. Although some of its pretexts were acceptable, other ones were not so. This came at a time when the STC was capable of making more pressures to impose its power in managing the scene in South Yemen at more than political, military and economic levels.

Despite this, the STC's decision to back away from self-management in late April 2020 was a move that revealed its inability to complete its implementation especially after it surrendered to the coalition's pressures to back away. This has harmed its image in front of its supporters as an entity which takes improvisational unplanned decisions before quickly retreating them. Moreover, the subsequent mechanism to expedite the Riyadh Agreement which was considered by the STC as a political gain hasn't achieved any gains for it on the ground. It kept blaming the government in which it has 5 seats. Even after the establishment of the PLC and the appointment of the Governor of Aden, Ahmed Lamlas, as a state minister and a cabinet member, it didn't make a tangible change by pressuring or motivating the government to expedite the handling of the services file in the capital city of Aden.

The impact of the STC looks a little one in comparison with the expected image at the presidential and the government level. For example, the STC's fifth national assembly, held on June 22nd, called for speeding up the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement. The most prominent of those items include the establishment of the joint negotiation delegation, restructuring and activating the higher economic and supervisory bodies, the appointment of governors and security directors in the Southern governorates, restructuring all state institutions especially the Defense and the Interior ministries and repositioning of all military forces and moving them to the war fronts against the Houthis. [3]

Southern activists argue that calling for these demands, which is an essential right for the STC as a partner in the official authority, is illogical as it is capable of making and activating them as well as pressuring for them without such calls. The national assembly said: “if there are any attempts to alienate the STC from the war-end negotiation table, the Southerners won't recognize any of its results". Such a narrative made the STC appear in a weak position while it was able to assert itself as part of the authority in any final peace negotiations in Yemen.

On this regard, the STC's joining the government structure previously and being part of the new PLC came against the will of its fans in return for little gains which didn't make a big difference for it although giving consecutive concessions and the refusal of other parties to deliver what is it worth in return.

The STC made major concessions during the Riyadh Agreement negotiations in November 2019, and agreed to reduce the share of its representatives in the government. It also accepted the power transition mechanism which came in conjunction with the Riyadh Consultations in April this year and led to sacking former President Hadi and the establishment of the PLC in which the STC has only a share of 1:8 of its members.

The STC sometimes tries to maneuver with some cards. However, after taking brave steps which are basically in favor of Southern people at the middle and the long terms, the STC quickly backs away from them without achieving tangible strategic outcomes due to the pressures made by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. This uncalculated decline in its performance will likely infuriate its supporters gradually.

Opening roads

Recently, the STC announced the opening of Al-Dhalea-Sanaa Road. Its spokesman Ali Al-Kathiri [4] said that “this move asserts, at the local, the regional and the global levels, that the STC interacts positively with every effort to open crossings and securing food, medicine and fuel for humanitarian reasons. Despite the humanitarian aspect of this move which is considered as a goodwill gesture from the STC towards peace, it looked as a free concession without any return from the Houthis who recently doubled their military attacks on the north of Al-Dhalea fronts and their violations targeted civilians and houses. Those close to the council argue that this move was intended to basically throw the ball into the Houthis' court and embarrass them in front of the international community.

However, Hans Grundberg ignored praising this move and other steps made by the joint forces in Mocha. In a statement after the declaration, Grundberg said that opening the roads as a principle "is a long-term operation and not a onetime procedure". [5] Grundberg's statement revealed that the priority at the moment is for Taiz as a first stage. Nonetheless, Grundberg's statement can also be understood that any proposals made by the Houthis find priority on the Swedish diplomat's agenda, while others are making proactive concessions without guarantees or gains.

Accordingly, the STC's ongoing adoption of free concessions policy gains which it may see as a kind of temporary tactic could lead to losing its grassroot momentum gradually. The STC has to change its slackening calculations to calculations which serve its adopted strategic goals and at the same time contribute in the course of the struggle toward peace, without making major concessions in exchange for small gains or stirring the anger of its supporters and allies.

It is important to say that the STC, established in 2017, is the only party whose power stems from the popular mandate despite being institutionally connected with the decisions of its affiliated bodies. Taking this into consideration is a strategic and wise necessity for the STC which should not be ignored. 

The ongoing unbalanced concessions after the political and military gains achieved by the STC on the ground over past years would undermine its work and limit it in an unpredictable circle. The STC will likely face future pressures to make more concessions against its will at the expense of crucial important issues such as the Southern issue. The STC has long stressed that it came to represent the Southern issue and people's interests in South Yemen.

The Australian Institute for International Affairs said during analyzing the nature of truce with the Houthis in Yemen said: " We may need to start accepting the fact that when only one side of a conflict makes concessions and the other side makes demands, it’s not a truce — it’s surrender". [6]

In his speech during the 5th National Assembly, the STC President Aidrous Al-Zubaidi [7] said: "From the ground, we will decide how the peace will be, the peace we fought for and not the unrealistic peace. Our sacrifices won't accept flawed peace which is surrounded by defeat. There is no peace without restoring the Southern state and without Yemen's return to the Arab arms".

Farida Ahmed 

South24 Center Executive Director 


1- Yemen: Nightly protests against the rise of fuel prices (RT Arabic)
2-Forces affiliated with the "Happy Yemen Brigades" undertakes the tasks of protecting and securing the presidential palace in Aden (
3- The Final statement of the 5th National Assembly (
4- A press statement by the STC 's official spokesman regarding the positive interaction of the Southern Armed Forces with efforts to open the crossings (
7- The STC announces the stage of rearranging the internal ranks (

South YemenSTCHans GrundbergYemen trucePLC