Major symbolic move in Yemen as former president transfers “power” 

April 8, 2022 - 17:10

TEHRAN- Former Yemeni President, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who Saudi Arabia declared war on Yemen seven years ago to reinstate in power, says he is delegating “his full powers” to a Presidential leadership council.

Many Yemeni officials argue that Hadi never had any power or influence on Yemeni affairs and policies ever since his term ended in late 2014 and he fled the county soon after. 

They also say the conflict is between the Saudi-led coalition and forces both loyal to the new government in Sana’a and the popular Ansarullah movement which led the Yemeni revolution in 2014. 

Hadi, who is based in Riyadh, said on Saudi state media "I irreversibly delegate to the Presidential Leadership Council my full powers in accordance with the constitution and the [Persian] Gulf Initiative and its executive mechanism.”

The irony is that from the beginning of the Saudi war on Yemen; Hadi, who has also dismissed his “deputy”, did not have any power in Yemen for him to now be “delegating” power. 

It does appear more likely that Saudi Arabia is seeking to try and finally end this war after it welcomed a two-month truce last week. 

Riyadh has now realized that Hadi has no influence to advance peace talks for the shaky truce to become permanent.

The new “Presidential Leadership Council” is made up of different Saudi and UAE-backed factions that are on the ground in Yemen and will most likely try and take on the role of negotiating a lasting ceasefire deal with Ansarallah. 

Saudi Arabia is sending a message to Ansarallah about it’s a commitment to a long-lasting truce while at the same time attempting to save face in a war many say it has lost. 

Yemen’s Supreme Political Council’s Chief Negotiator welcomed the development it “has refuted allegations of the countries that attacked Yemen under the pretext of confronting coup plotters against him.”

Mohammed Abdul-Salam saying added, “the international community and the UN no longer have an excuse to continue using the term ‘internationally recognized Yemeni government’ to massacre the Yemeni nation and enforce a tight siege on the Arab country.”

In Hadi’s statement, the new council has the authority to hold talks with the government in Sana’a.

However, Saudi and UAE-backed factions have a history of infighting between themselves with regular heavily armed clashes in Southern Yemen not so long ago. 

It remains to be seen if this “council” will hold together and what role it can play effectively to bring peace to Yemen. 

At the end of the day, Riyadh pulls the strings here and it hasn’t exactly taken the wisest decisions in the past. 

The former member of the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen, Gregory Johnsen, believes "this is an attempt, perhaps a last-ditch effort, to reconstitute something resembling unity within the anti-Ansarallah alliance,” but he added, “the problem is that it is unclear how these various individuals, many of whom have diametrically opposing views, can work together.”

In any case, it is a very symbolic move as it exposes a harsh reality for Riyadh and Western propaganda that Hadi was a legitimate President and the war on Yemen was aimed at defending the people. 

The people of Yemen have over the past eight years displayed their resilience and increasing military might on the front line.

This while Yemen witnesses huge anti-American and anti-Saudi protests, on a regular basis, filling the streets of the capital Sana’a and other cities across the country with such a high turnout that not even drone footage can capture the mass demonstrations.

The other question is will the new council be seeking peace in Yemen or try to achieve what Saudi Arabia failed to militarily?

Footage has been published on Saudi state media, showing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's meeting with the eight-member council, led by Rashad Al-Alimi (a former government minister), who has close ties with both Riyadh and the Yemeni Islah party.

The new body also includes several leaders of United Arab Emirates-backed factions, including Aidarous al-Zubaidi of the separatist Southern Transitional Council, which has never trusted Islah and vied with Saudi-backed militants for control of Aden in Yemen’s south.

Riyadh has urged the new council to negotiate with Ansarallah who have launched repeated retaliatory attacks on oil installations in Saudi Arabia, including a missile strike on Jeddah last month as the port city was hosting the Formula One Grand Prix.

But what Riyadh also wants is a unified anti-Ansarallah alliance in case the peace talks fail; it’s proxies on the ground will continue battling Yemeni forces with more unity as Riyadh looks for a way out. 

The Kingdom has been reluctant to abandon Hadi as it allowed the Saudis to justify their war on Yemen by claiming they were trying to reinstall a Western-backed government.

At the same time his role was problematic for Saudi Arabia, analysts believe, because he was viewed as leading a weak, divided administration outside of Yemen and out of touch with Yemen. 

Case in point, when Yemeni forces launched a retaliatory operation in September 2019, when 25 Yemeni made drones were used to attack oil processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais deep inside Saudi Arabia. 

The operation forced the kingdom to shut down half of its oil production and call for emergency summits in Mecca including an Arab League Summit. 

At the Arab League, Hadi, (who Saudi Arabia and the West claim is the President of Yemen) did not speak and could hardly be seen. 

This is while, General Borhan of Sudan’s controversial military transitional council, who had been in power for about a week, delivered a statement and spoke at length. 

So when the Saudi Kingdom says it has welcomed “President” Hadi’s decision to transfer power, the reality is it has forced “President” Hadi, who makes few statements and announcements as you would expect from a “President” whose country is at war, to make this decision. 

The Saudis do desire a permanent peace deal in Yemen. But not from a change of heart for the hundreds of thousands of Yemenis that have died and millions of others who have starved.

Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen has been a public relations disaster. Even it’s allies in the West are increasingly wary and reluctant to support one of their biggest partners in West Asia. 

The Saudi military losses, the attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities, and the sight of malnourished Yemeni kids being highlighted ever increasingly by UN aid agencies is not something the West wants to be seen as affiliated with. 

Labeling Hadi as the “legitimate President of Yemen” justified the quite horrific bombing campaign and the hundreds of billions of dollars Western arms manufacturers made in profit by selling weapons to Riyadh.

But it was more than just manufacturing weapons and making money. 

Yemen is a strategic country in West Asia sitting on the Red Sea and with a civilization stretching back to more than 3,000 years.

The popular revolution that began in 2014, demanded free elections in the country, and Hadi, ever loyal to Riyadh, overstayed his term. 

Yemen is also Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbor so demands of “free elections” sent shockwaves all the way to Riyadh and Washington even Tel Aviv. 

Free democratic elections mean change, it means change in policy; both domestic and foreign. Change that can reshape West Asia and change that can end America’s hegemonic plots in the region. 

The status quo in Saudi Arabia and other monarchies in the Persian Gulf and wider region is something that sits well with America: Kingdoms that listen to instructions from Washington instead of taking orders from its people.

Change from monarchical or dictatorship rule to elections, sovereignty and territorial integrity spell the end of America’s presence in West Asia.

This is why the war on Yemen passed its seventh-anniversary last month.

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