“Political Solution” In Yemen May Be Closer Than We Think

As the civil war in Yemen continues, political leaders are calling for a return to the negotiating table. According to Al-Jazeera, on Tuesday, Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman released comments about wanting to push Iran and the rest of the Middle East toward success. He also called upon the Houthi rebel group to de-escalate violence in their attacks and return to negotiations with Yemen’s government.

In Yemen, there is a coalition of Saudi-led Sunni Arab states which has been supporting pro-government forces in their war against the rebel Houthi movement since 2015. The Houthi movement has been rumored to be backed by Iran through the support of proxies and funneling weapons into their country, all for use against the state government. Of course, officials out of Tehran insist that Iran is solely helping the Houthi’s politically.

Supposedly, talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran were brokered through Iraq as a third party. While neither officials from Iran nor Saudi Arabia confirmed the talks between Salam and Zarif, an official from Iraq confirmed he was “briefed” about the potential meeting. These positive comments said by Salam coming from a primarily Sunni Muslim country about Iran, which is primarily Shia Muslim, gives a good indication for growth between the two. This growth was demonstrated through Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javas Zarif’s comments during his visit to Oman. During the visit, Zarif met with a spokesman for the Houthi’s to confirm Iran’s support for peace talks and a cease-fire in Yemen, per Al-Jazeera. Foreign Minister Zarif also reiterated Iran’s support for internal, Yemini-Yemini talks and stressed his belief in the “political solution being the only solution” according to France 24. The Saudi crown prince also commented on their relationship with Biden and the U.S. stating that “there is no doubt that the United States is a strategic partner” (Al-Jazeera).

President Biden has made efforts to strengthen relations between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. by ending the support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Biden also has been advising a tougher stance surrounding the Saudi’s human rights track record. Yemen is currently facing one of the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” as stated by the United Nations, and the civilians of the country have faced issues with access to food, healthcare, and have suffered infrastructure collapse as a result (Al-Jazeera).

As the people of Yemen continue to suffer at the hands of Saudi-led conflict in their country, the “political solution” called for by Zarif is in the works. The solution being kick-started by requests for peace negotiations between the Houthi rebel group and Yemeni government officials. The plausibility of a peaceful Yemen becomes higher if these talks are supported and facilitated by more neutral third parties, such as Iraq. However, some places for concern still arise surrounding President Biden’s sparing of Salam after his confirmed involvement in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 (Al-Jazeera). The report released by Biden earlier this year only furthered the findings of Agnes Callamard, who is the former UN special reporter on extrajudicial killings. Callamard found “sufficient credible evidence” of Salam’s responsibility in the murder, and this evidence was then confirmed by U.S. intelligence (Al-Jazeera). As we see President Biden aiming to better foreign relations with Saudi Arabia and pulling U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, this will hopefully prompt the talks between conflicting Yemeni groups.