Alwaght- The constant and big victories of the Yemeni forces in their confrontation with the Saudi-led forces and the loyalists to the resigned President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi over the past few months have totally changed the political equations between the major actors in the war-torn country. Ansarullah and the army triumphs’ influences are large to an extent that forced deep changes to the major plans and strategies of the anti-Ansarullah front.
The very obvious face of these changes is the Saudi concentration on controlling the southern parts of the country which are ostensibly under the rule of the fugitive government of Hadi but are in practice controlled by the southern separatist forces part of which are represented by Southern Transitional Council (STC) that acts under the umbrella of support of the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Arabia once struggled to occupy Yemen from north, controlled by Ansarullah and allies, to the south, controlled by separatist southerners. But was defeated. When the Saudi leaders saw the UAE downscaling its involvement in the war and focusing on control of the south using its allies, they feared that Ansarullah could materialize its threats even more strongly after Abu Dhabi retreat. The Saudis who saw themselves the main losers of the Yemen war after spending billions of dollars are setting their eyes on the areas of UAE influence in the south in an effort to decrease their defeat scale.
The new Saudi strategy has caused several rounds of confrontation between the former allies and current rivals, though not directly but through proxies. On August 10, UAE-backed southern militia fighters took control of presidential Maashiq Palace from Hadi guards.
Such an encounter, the most important upshot of which was demonstration of illegitimacy of Hadi government across the country and hence illegality of the Western-backed Saudi-Emirati war against Yemen under the guise of reinstalling the “legitimate government”, forced the Saudi rulers to rush to prepare the ground for negotiations and agreement of Hadi and STC to save face.
The agreement, which was based on sharing power by a promise to pick 12 out 24 ministers of the new government from the STC, showed signs of collapse since the initial days of implementation.
The southerners protest that Saudi Arabia and Hadi violated the deal since the beginning. On the opposite side, Hadi argued that the STC actions were the main obstacle ahead of implementation. Saleh al-Jabwani, minister of transportation in Hadi’s cabinet, on Sunday in a Twitter message said that the UAE and its militias have axed the Riyadh agreement. Earlier, Rajeh Badi, the spokesman to the government of Hadi had accused the STC of breaching the deal through blocking the passage of a convoy of Hadi mercenaries in Lahaj, a southern city located between Aden and Ta’izz. The differences have stirred fresh threats over the past few days, risking new clashes between the rivals.
On Sunday, hundreds of STC-aligned southerners in Aden protested against Saudi Arabia and mainly Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman outside the Saudi consulate. Holding flags of “South Yemen”, a state existed in southern and eastern provinces of present-day Yemen from 1967 to 1990, they called for full withdrawal of Saudi Arabia and end of the Arab kingdom’s intervention in Yemen.
This protest, though not a new thing, is very important in the current conditions as it ushers in new equations that are in the making in the war-ravaged nation. Here are the new equations:
First, the protests were arranged by the STC with the management of Abdulrahman Ghandi, a senior STC official, in Aden. The separatist council is fully swayed by Abu Dhabi, which means any imagination of moves of the council without coordination with the UAE is wrong. The UAE founded the council in 2017, after Hadi sacked Abu Dhabi-loyal Aden governor Aidarus al-Zoubaidi. Last week, the UAE officially declared its full pullout of Yemen. That is while over the past few months, Saudi Arabia reportedly transferred heavy weaponry to the south to reinforce Hadi loyalists in the face of the southern militias. That is while the UAE is not present in the Saudi-Ansarullah negotiations to discuss how they can end the war and this can give rise to pessimism in Abu Dhabi leaders about their Saudi allies.
Second, the southerners were not present in the negotiations. The southerners have never had a good experience from the Saudi intervention in their country. During their independence, Saudi Arabia backed northern Yemen. The STC needs to act as a force antipathetic to the Saudi meddling at least to save its face in the eyes of the southern public. It takes cues from the Southern Yemen Council, another separatist group in the south that has always called for Saudi Arabia and the UAE to end their interference in the southern Yemeni affairs.
Additionally, one of the main drives behind occasional southern uprisings against Saudi Arabia is the emergence to the public of Saudi failures in Yemen’s developments and the fact that this country has no initiative to unveil to manage the course of developments. It is clear to all Yemenis that the Saudis are playing a role in Yemen to repel the geopolitical threats they are facing. They even nurture Al-Qaeda and ISIS terrorist groups in Yemen towards this goal.