Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has told two former US officials that he “wants out” of the two-year war he started in Yemen, and that he is not against US rapprochement with Iran, Al Jazeera reported Tuesday (August 15) quoting leaked emails published by Middle East Eye.
The revelation sheds light on the thinking of Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the 31-year-old heir to the Saudi throne, also known as MBS, Al Jazeera said adding: The leaks pertain to discussions he held on the Middle East with Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, and Steven Hadley, who served as US national security adviser during George W Bush’s presidency.
The conversation took place at least one month before Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, accusing it of trying to undermine their war in Yemen and for having friendly relations with Iran.
The details of the meeting between MBS and the former American officials were revealed in an email exchange between Indyk and Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador in Washington, DC. The email exchange was obtained by the GlobalLeaks campaign group, according to Middle East Eye.
The conflict in Yemen has escalated dramatically since March 2015, when Saudi-led forces launched a military operation against the Houthi fighters who toppled the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi in September 2014.
Since the conflict began, more than 10,000 people have been killed, and millions have been driven from their homes.
The Saudi-led operation has been blamed for the spread of cholera in Yemen, where an estimated 500,000 have reportedly been afflicted.
The war has also left the country on the brink of a famine, with millions of people displaced, and an estimated seven million people going hungry, according to a UN report.
In Sanaa, Emma O’Leary of the Norwegian Refugee Council, told Al Jazeera that the needs of the civilians are “enormous” and “difficult to describe”.
“We are doing our best to respond to the crisis, but the reality is that this is an extremely difficult environment for all of us,” O’Leary said.
“Security issues, such as the air strikes and the ground fighting, as well as bureaucratic constraints” are a real concern, and that the warring parties must return to the negotiating table, she said.
Yemen crisis ‘an absolute shame on humanity’
International human rights organization CARE has denounced the humanitarian crisis in war-torn Yemen, which is also suffering from a cholera epidemic, as “an absolute shame on humanity”.
Wolfgang Jamann, the head of the CARE, told a news conference after a five-day visit to the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country last month: “We are now in the 21st century and the current situation is an absolute shame on humanity.”
“Thousands of civilians have died since the start of the conflict and millions more have been displaced inside the country,” he said adding: “60 percent of the country is food insecure and over half the population is unable to access safe drinking water. Many areas in Yemen are just one step away from a famine situation,” he said, and urged the international community to “end the suffering”.
The situation in the country of some 27 million has been worsened by a massive outbreak of the bacterial infection cholera. More than 600,000 people are expected to contract cholera in Yemen this year, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned recently.
Yemen’s war is actually a multifaceted predicament
According to Sultan Barakat, a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, Yemen’s war is actually a multifaceted predicament.
“Mistakenly viewed by many observers as a two-sided conflict between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels, Yemen’s war is actually a multifaceted predicament involving a volatile combination of local, regional, and international actors, all of them armed and having major and competing interests in the country’s future. The political transition process set out by the Gulf Cooperation Council back in 2011 failed to incorporate key sections of Yemeni society into the decision-making process, such as the southern separatist Hirak movement, the Houthis, and Yemeni youth and women.”
“As a result, Hadi’s transitional government was increasingly viewed as illegitimate and unrepresentative of the demands and concerns of the Yemeni people. Constructing a truly all-inclusive decision-making process to pick up where the National Dialogue Conference left off will be key to reaching any power-sharing agreement,” he concluded.
Several rounds of UN-mediated peace talks in Switzerland and in Kuwait have failed to produce an agreement.
The Houthis and the General People’s Congress (GPC) party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh are demanding an agreement on a new administration comprising all parties to run the country until new elections, while Hadi supporters say that the Houthis must hand over their weapons and quit the cities they have seized since 2014.
President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi was removed after Houthi forces took control of Sanaa in September 2014. His forces have regained territory since the intervention began, but the rebels still control Sanaa and ports on the southern coast.