Brigadier General Ismail Qaani’s public remarks offer some insights into the fundamental tenets of his thinking and ability to deal with delicate political problems, however they do not reveal Suleimani-style coded messages to the United States and Israel.
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Conflict is not new to Yemen, but for the first time in Yemen’s history, conflict is no longer contained by region, as war is raging across the entire country. After seven months of conflict and infighting, the “Yemen problem” seems almost too complex to solve. Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, stated after his August trip to Yemen: “Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years.” Moving from conflict to reconciliation will again require local and international mediation and coordination.
Economic and fiscal challenges
The costs of the current war are skyrocketing, and the biggest potential post-war challenge for the international community and any future Yemeni government will likely be the economic and fiscal burden of the war.
Costs include about 200,000 salaries of the army forces loyal to the government in exile and the popular resistance militias collaborating with them, and eventual costs of disarming and reintegrating militia fighters into local communities. During an eventual post-conflict settlement, expenses include: salaries of foreign troops who may be needed to ensure stability during the peace making process, compensation to be paid to the families of the martyrs and war victims (estimates report between 5,000 to 8,000 deaths), medical treatment of the wounded (reports of more than 25,000), and money needed to rebuild the damaged infrastructure.
There is also a dire need to increase the level of the country’s cash reserves in order to stabilize the Yemeni currency and to eventually compensate the south for its historical economic marginalization, a measure that was approved by the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) in 2014.
Costs are not just monetary; time and effort must also be quantified. Thousands must work to plan and implement the rehabilitation and integration process, to study how to stimulate the economy, and reinvigorate public and private institutions. The GCC will be the primary supporter of these and other reconstruction efforts. We must also look to the Friends of Yemen and other international organizations for post-conflict support.
A number of political challenges need to be addressed in order to stabilize the situation in the country. The top challenge is reaching an agreement among the political players on an inclusive government that can lead the way forward in Yemen. A delicate balance needs to be in place between having an inclusive government that represents the whole of Yemen, and making that government an effective one that can deliver results without drowning in political bickering—as witnessed in Prime Minister Basindwa’s cabinet that was formed after signing the GCC initiative in 2011.
The leaders of all political parties and movements should take responsibility for the deteriorating situation in Yemen. They must take active steps to comply with the Yemeni constitution and implement their party charters to ensure transparency, accountability, and internal democratic processes of their parties. There is much work to be done in order to ensure that youth, women, marginalized groups, and civil society at large are actively engaged in the political process, as agreed in the NDC outcomes.
Edging to reconciliation
When looking at the experiences of some countries that have witnessed national reconciliation, we recognize the vital role of members of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government, the religious authorities, political parties, the private sector, and civil society organizations (CSOs) in facilitating the achievement of the reconciliation process. In the context of Yemen, there are constitutional, legal, and political constraints facing these entities, which must be addressed by stakeholders before reconciliation takes place. For example, the Parliament’s last legitimate term expired in 2009 and it has failed to meet since the resignation of President Hadi in January 2015. The current Parliament that was elected in 2003 is overwhelmingly dominated by the General People’s Congress Party and lacks representation of new political movements such as the Southern Movement, Ansaru-Allah (the Houthi movement), and the Salafi parties. This is in addition to the under-representation of women, youth, and other marginalized minorities.
Following the fall of the government in Yemen in January 2015, the military as well as security institutions also collapsed. As a result, weapons fell into the hands of terrorists, tribal and militia partisans, and other non-state actors.
Despite the tendency of parties in the conflict to announce victories on a near daily basis, it is clear after eight months of war that no side is able to achieve a military victory. Unfortunately, there remain no signs on the ground of an immediate end to hostilities, or even the presence of good faith.
It seems that both parties are getting ready to mobilize their troops for the inevitable attempt to reclaim the capital of Sanaa, as indicated by the increasing deployment of coalition forces in Aden, Marib, Taiz, and other areas.
The main question that needs to be addressed is not about military action, but rather its devastating outcomes. Will the warring parties avoid the bloodshed that has characterized past battles and reject the random killings, mutilation of prisoners, and other actions of violence and hatred? Will they turn to sectarian and tribal violence? And will they work to prevent the targeting of vulnerable minorities? It is unclear whether a cessation of the conflict or a military victory in any area will bring stability or will result in a power vacuum that could be be filled by terrorist elements and radical militias. All parties to the conflict must prioritize civilian protection and humanitarian needs to break the cycle of violence.
Post-conflict challenges and constraints are numerous and interrelated and foreign aid is expected to play a major role in addressing them. The GCC states must pledge to fund the enormous reconstruction efforts needed in Yemen. A key factor is for the government to set efficient mechanisms in place for the absorption of aid, but for this to occur, institutional and administrative efficiency must be prioritized.
Governments and international aid agencies must be persuaded to relax their conditions, especially if this aid is going toward economic and political reform. Donors should be prepared to be flexible and creative in their response to the Yemen crisis, to ensure that aid is delivered in an effective and efficient manner.
There are two scenarios for the future: either a political and security crisis persists, or a breakthrough occurs and a legitimate authority emerges.
Under the first scenario, donor countries should have a primary role in the direct and immediate planning, contracting, and communication with individual and organizational recipients and local authorities and beneficiaries. This mechanism will allow donors to accelerate the implementation of the projects. Donors can transfer funds directly to existing and reliable institutions, such as the Social Fund for Development (SFD) and the Public Works Project (PWP), as they have efficient financial and administrative capabilities, and reliable monitoring, evaluation and reporting systems. Institutions such as the SFD and PWP are already established and self-reliant and therefore satisfy the requirements for aid-receiving institutions stipulated by laws in many donor countries.
Civil society organizations should be encouraged to be involved in the implementation process of donor projects, particularly on social and humanitarian aspects. A special coordination forum should be organized with the relevant governmental institutions to coordinate efforts and to ensure the alignment of the donors’ pledges with the reconstruction priorities in Yemen, as well as prevent any duplication of funding. Donors should develop a fast track mechanism for the allocation and disbursement of pledges, by reviewing the existing procedures and identifying constraints at each stage of the aid absorption process and address them with proper actions.
If the second scenario emerges, the formation of a legitimate authority that can take the lead in Yemen, the following should be considered:
It will be necessary for the new authority to develop a clearly-defined national vision based on the development priorities and requirements (foreign aid strategy). This will ensure effective coordination between the government and donors, and between different governmental institutions, and clarify the tasks and roles among them. A monitoring and evaluation mechanism for foreign-funded projects should be put in place to improve, implement, and ensure proper coordination with the stakeholders and ensure that the interventions are processed according to the Recovery and Reconstruction Plan.
In order for the post-war normalization processes to be implemented, all national actors need to reach consensus on the following issues:
- Embrace an inclusive agreement built on good faith, tolerance, and consensus.
- Agree that the right to own and store heavy and medium weaponry is to be exclusively restricted to military and security institutions. All individuals and political and tribal militias will have to deliver all weapons in their possession to the state through an agreed-upon process. Priority shall be given to issuing a law to regulate weapons possession and ban the carrying of weapons in heavily populated areas.
- Establish a neutral foreign policy that ensures Yemen is not involved in any regional or international conflicts (with Oman as an example).
- Implement a sound reform of government services (such as education, health, electricity) and the judicial system to spearhead the fight against corruption, nepotism, and regionalism and consolidate the principles of transparency, responsibility, and accountability.
The international community should exert maximum influence on the parties to the conflict to:
- Reach a cease-fire, speed up peace talks, and ensure that youth and women are part of the peace process.
- Lift the siege on ports that supply basic imported goods to Yemen.
- Minimize the influence of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Yemeni politics.
- Establish a viable political transition in Yemen, which will ultimately result in elections.
The United States, the Gulf Arab states, and Israel face escalated threats, both rhetorical and real.
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