From the gilded suites and granite lobby of a luxurious five-star hotel here, the remnants of Yemen’s embattled government sees a daily lineup of Yemeni tribal leaders, Western diplomats, and Saudi military commanders.
Over countless cups of bittersweet coffee and dates, and lobster and seafood dinners, Yemeni ministers calmly toss out phrases like “national dialogue” and “institution building” as they talk up their postwar political plans.
I'm thinking "postwar political plans" might be jumping the gun a bit. The hopes for Hadi seem to rest on putting together a coalition of tribal fighters from Central and Southern Yemen to rise up against the Houthi. There is also the offer of amnesty to those loyal to Saleh who will defect and join the effort to defeat the Houthi. That seems to be less strategy than wishful thinking.
The Houthi-Saleh fighters boast superior firepower due to the fact that Saleh’s supporters include entire military units with fierce allegiances to their political and financial backer. Some of this equipment is a legacy of US military aid to Yemen during Saleh’s rule, which continued under Hadi’s government.
The Houthis control vital military installations outside Sanaa and warehouses of RPGs, tanks, and armor-piercing grenade and rocket launchers.
Given this superior firepower, the Hadi government’s strategy is to overcome the militias with greater manpower and urge tribal and political factions to rise up town by town, village by village against what many Yemenis view as Houthi “invaders”.
Meanwhile, the Saudis, Egyptians, US, Western powers and pretty much everyone else are sending nothing but their best wishes for a good outcome.
However, weary of being dragged into a protracted fight, Riyadh and Cairo have stopped short of committing ground troops to a wider war across Yemen.
The Hadi government has also received little commitment from the US and its Western allies; officials say they left recent talks sessions with Western diplomats “frustrated” and “dismayed.”
In a rewrite of the Aiken Rule, I believe we should probably back the winner (or stay out of it altogether) and declare victory.
Exiled officials concur that by arming and militarizing Sunni tribes across the country, they may create a “second Libya” where tribal militias roam unchallenged and refuse to answer to a weak central government.
“We do not want to place heavy arms into the hands of tribes and have them act outside the army,” says Transport Minister Badr Mubarak Ba-Salma, who has led talks with tribal representatives.
Yes, we seriously do not want that.