x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Yemen sets out on the path to recovery

Sanaa will need all the international help it can get, writes Abdullah Iskandar, in Al Hayat. Other topics: Syria (Tariq Al Humaid, Asharq Al Awsat) and Saudi Arabia (Mohammed Fahad Al Harthi, Al Bayan).

Yemen finally escaped a bottleneck when President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi signed off on the federal administrative division of the country, but it remains in the circle of danger and has a long way to go before the federal state and its regional administrations turn the page on the failure that was, writes Abdullah Iskandar, columnist in pan-Arab Al Hayat.

No sooner had the ink dried than the Huthi movement declared its rejection of the new administrative division. It had entered into an armed conflict with the tribes at the gates of Sanaa, which required strenuous efforts to impose a ceasefire that was frequently breached in the hours leading up to the sign-off.

Before, throughout and after this decisive moment, the government, the military and security forces – especially in the South – were targeted by Al Qaeda and armed groups from the Southern El Hirak movement, who aspire to rule over a southern region that corresponds with the boundaries of the former southern state.

The day preceding the signing, the streets of Sanaa saw popular protests calling for the departure of the current government, accusing it of negligence and inability to solve social and economic problems.

In essence, implosion-causing elements remain prevalent, with regional, tribal, sectarian and social divisions. In the meantime, the government, the military and security forces endure the heavy burden of confrontations that have lasted far too long, whether with Al Qaeda, the Houthis, or between rival tribes, trying to protect government facilities and pipelines from attacks.

“Yemen will not be able to overcome its abortive condition without regional and international support, for the Gulf’s political initiative paved the way to a roadmap leading to a transitional government, thus leading to a federal structure,” Iskandar wrote.

The initiative was enforced due to international action within the UN Security Council and pressure exerted by big powers within that Council on the previous government to move forward with this transition, which will hopefully save Yemen from drowning in disarray. This will prevent terror from crossing its borders.

The Security Council has yet to finish its task, so as not to expose Yemen to any setback, because the country needs international political and financial backup in these times more than it ever has. The initiative launched by the Gulf Cooperation Council will require tremendous efforts and economic and political support to be successful.

“With birth of the federal state come new burdens related to the equitable distribution of the minimal available wealth and the achievement of balanced development. These issues require international efforts, expertise, financing and care,” Iskandar concluded.

Geneva talks a chance for Assad to buy time

The second round of Geneva talks between the Syrian regime and opposition is, to say the least, just another of President Bashar Al Assad’s manoeuvres, wrote Tariq Al Humaid in the London- based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, all Mr Al Assad has done is buy time through diplomatic statements while his regime’s killing machine has not ceased to drop barrel bombs and impose sieges and starvation on the people.

Mr Al Assad and his allies have been manoeuvring to buy time to reach the time of presidential elections. Only then serious negotiations on Mr Al Assad’s departure, and not the fall of the regime, will start.

Yet, there is no point in waiting for the presidential elections. Just as Mr Al Assad did not commit to handing over chemical weapons under the excuse of a “security situation”, he may well postpone the election – if he is to be pressured not to run for re-election – again due to a “security situation”.

This scenario is very likely, though one might argue that Mr Al Assad will risk weakening his position and that of his allies. The truth is that someone kills more than 130,000 people will not mind any laws, legitimacy or embarrassment.

President Al Assad is merely trying to buy time in hope of winning the conflict or causing the opposition to collapse.

The reasons behind Saudi’s eastern shift

There has been talk about Saudi Arabia shifting to the east in view of its dissatisfaction with the US over critical issues in the region, argued Mohammed Fahad Al Harthi in the UAE-based newspaper Al Bayan.

The US administration has said that President Barack Obama is planning a visit to Saudi Arabia in March, amid reports that Saudi is extremely dismayed by US policy over the Syrian conflict and Iran.

Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is planning to start an important visit on Saturday to Pakistan, India and Japan. Commentators have interpreted this as a sign that Saudi Arabia is seeking to pursue its interests in the east.

In fact, several visits have been conducted by Saudi officials to Asian countries in the past weeks. Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal went to Pakistan last month, as did Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, the deputy minister of defence.

Apart from the Syrian conflict and Iran, economic changes also affect US-Saudi ties, particularly a surge in shale oil production in the US and the presence of neighbouring countries with oil supplies.

Heading east is a sound decision by Saudi Arabia that shows the country’s understanding of realpolitik, the columnist concluded.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk