Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 March 2018

Yemen talks underscore Iran’s ‘Shia crescent’ plan

The Arabic-language media analyses the talks in Riyadh about Yemen's future, featuring Al Ittihad, Al Hayat and Asharq Al Awsat.

Events in Yemen have created a bottleneck that the GCC, acting at the request of beleaguered president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, is trying to clear by hosting talks in Riyadh to which the Houthis are invited.

Salem Salmeen Al Nuaimi, writing in Al Ittihad, the Arabic-language sister newspaper of The National, asked how and when Yemen will come out of this.

“The undeniable truth is that all the key players in the conflict have found their interest and the Arab region is exposed,” he wrote.

“Interests intertwine among states as each tries to surround and trap the other to widen its influence or break imposed political isolation.

“The conflict in Yemen is extremely complex. The Arab states felt compelled to restore harmonious relations among themselves and with Turkey, with a rapprochement that included corollary negotiations with Iran to stop Iranian expansion.

“Miscalculations have left the doors wide open to the Houthis since the beginning of 2014, particularly with regard to concessions made by the Yemeni state with the aim of weakening the State Reform Party (Muslim Brotherhood) which controlled the Yemeni scene since the Gulf initiative led to President Saleh relinquishing power. But did he truly do so?”

Al Nuaimi concluded that “joint political interests will bring together former enemies and could put Yemen on the right path towards liberation by some of its countrymen ahead of foreigners, away from sectarian and religious solutions”.

George Semaan, writing in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, said the talks diminish the options.

“The Houthis will not succeed in stopping preparations for the resumption of talks in Riyadh. Their actions will not stop the political process that is now back n the hands of the GCC,” he wrote.

“They took the habit of responding to every step that goes against their objectives – whether internal, external or in the GCC – with a step that highlights their devotion to the Iranian strategy.

Abdullah Malek Al Houthi understands that he will be left out of any eventual solution that features two Yemens, he said.

“He will be the first victim of his regional ally who will not allow a power greater than its own to become a challenge. He may be left with no other choice but to attend, perhaps to represent the Houthis at the talks.”

In the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat, Shamsan Bin Abdullah Al Mannai wrote that Iran’s backing of the Houthis “is not solely based on its will to achieve its internal interests, whether political or sectarian or security.

“It is a regional strategy that focuses on an attempt to gain a winning card that will allow it to exercise pressure on the Gulf states, whereas Yemen represents the strategic and human depth of the Gulf region,” he wrote.

“The Houthis’ expansion in Yemen would compel the GCC countries, Saudi Arabia above all, to draw red lines in front of Iran’s excessive presence in the wider region.

“Iran’s battle to expand its sphere of influence is a fateful one, as this would bring it close to achieving its political project and dream, one that has eluded the rulers of the Islamic Republic since the beginning of the Revolution – the dream of a Shiite crescent.”

Translated by Carla Mirza