Interviews

Thu - 24 May 2018 - 10:47 PM ،،،

Defense One


 The Houthi rebellion in Yemen is “softening” under military pressure from the coalition of Saudi, United Arab Emirates, U.S. and others there, according to the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs. But the possibility of a prolonged coalition presence in Yemen after the rebellion ends is very real, says Dr. Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash.

Gargash was in Bratislava, Slovakia, for the annual GLOBSEC conference and sat down with Defense One for a conversation at a cafe along the banks of the Danube river.

“I am hoping that this time once a political process starts and the Houthis recognize that there is international community intent on bringing this conflict to an end, politically, I hope… this will signal what you call the end of the conflict,” said Gargash. “The parties failed to solve it last time because the Houthis refused to pull their militias out of the capital and some of the urban centers.”

The beginning of the end of the rebellion, Gargash said, was the death in December of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Houthi ally. “That marriage of convenience came to a violent end with his killing. Clearly, now, the Houthis are fighting, but they are really trying to maintain their hold on where they are. They are not expanding. We are seeing a softer enemy in many places. Having said that, the military pressure is designed to change the calculus and bring a political solution. We aren’t looking for a total military victory,” he said.

The coalition’s pressure campaign, however, continues to be rebuffed by Iranian support for the rebels. U.S. military and intelligence officials claim that Iran is arming the Houthis with missile components (although the Houthis had a sizable stock of old Soviet ballistic missiles as well.) Gargash echoed the assertion that Iran is exacerbating the crisis by shipping missiles to the Houthis, mostly in pieces to avoid detection.

“There was no… equipment such as this in the beginning of the conflict. So, clearly, while we are controlling the flow of Iranian weapons to Yemen, in terms of quantity, it doesn’t mean we have been completely successful in closing the routes for these. A lot of these are coming from one central port in Iran, which is Bandar Abbas, and then taking different routes, in many cases they are disassembled and put together,” he said.

While the missile threat is real, Gargash downplayed their importance to prolonging the war as nothing more than a Houthi ploy to “divert attention among the Houthis away from their receding control of the land in the current battles.”

Ultimately, he argued, the defeat of the Houthis will not necessarily end the need for Saudi-led forces in Yemen, and whether a new Yemeni government is capable of counterterror operations.

“Any Yemeni state that will emerge will in the beginning be a weak state, and will be harassed if we are not addressing the terrorism aspect of it,” he said. “I think this is a golden opportunity for us to decimate al-Qaeda. We have huge success in various areas against al-Qaeda,” according to Gargash.