Why is peace with Houthis next to impossible?

Why is peace with Houthis next to impossible?

By Yaseen Khaled


The United Nations' peace mediator for Yemen has said he plans to invite the government and Houthi rebels to hold talks in the Swiss city of Geneva in September.

Beforehand, I can tell the that there will be no peace with Houthis whatsoever. I am not a foreteller and not a prophet of gloom and doom either.

But I base my predictions on the BIG FACT that the United Nations and its peace mediator Martin Griffiths seem to ignore; that Houthis are an uncompromising violent religious group that will either be militarily removed from power in the northern part of Yemen or they will stay there as a forever de facto authority and threat to the government-held part of Yemen and the whole region. 

This fact is in everyone's head but Yemeni politicians did not give it a due thought, much less will the UN and international officials do. 

The group's ideology take its root from an extremist form of Zaydi Islam that provides for the right of prophet Mohammed's descendants to rule unrivalled. Anyone who wants an alternative form of governance or believes in democracy should be eliminated; disappeared and tortured to death or disability if they are civilian and killed right away if they are a soldier.

 I think that all Yemeni politicians and all foreign think-tanks and experts in Islamic sects in Yemen know this about Houthis.

Houthis label their war that sabotaged the democratic aspiration of the Yemeni people "Jihad" and name the government's camp Kuffar (infidels), the exact same language of al-Qaeda and ISIL.

Their widely publicized literature and Jihadist recruitment campaigns are saturated with motto of 'Harsh to Unbelievers', a  Quranic verse under which they excommunicate oppositionists from the religion of Islam to justify their physical elimination.

Houthis never tolerate the mere allusion that President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's internationally recognized government has a mantle of legitimacy. You can only guess what such a radical movement will want to offer in next September's round of peace talks in which they will supposedly cede the arms and cities they hold.

"We will fight to the Day of Judgment" is a constant phrase the Houthi militants consciously reiterate on many of the video statements as dictated by their leadership. This motto is also constant in their TV network  "Al-Masirah".

Historically the group never even dabbled in political action. Yemenis always knew them as a Jihadist group that fought "six wars" against the former regime and were distinguished by their jihadist clips that, on YouTube, boasted surprise attacks against government soldiers "the loyalists of the Jews and Christians" and capability to ambush and blow up armored vehicles with the menacing chant "Allahu Akbar death to America and Israel" in the backdrop of the scene. 

Between every two of the past six wars (from 2004 to 2009) with Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime, the regime and the Houthis signed a truce which Houthis annulled shortly afterwards and sparked a new more violent round of conflict.

In their 14 –year-long insurgency, Houthis unilaterally broke nearly 61 agreements they had entered – all in bad faith! The most significant of these was the Peace and Partnership Agreement which themselves imposed on all Yemeni political parties upon seizing the capital Sana'a in 2014. Realizing then that all interest groups were weak and under their mercy, they abandoned the deal and resorted to a bloody campaign of expansion southward which triggered the ongoing war!

In the series of negotiations with Saleh's regime (2004-2009), as in the latest negotiations with the incumbent government in Geneva and Kuwait, the Houthis had used myriad ways, both frank and cunning, to avoid relinquishing their accumulated gains.

They rejected and evaded sitting for talks the longest possible time as a first step, practiced hair splitting and lots of invented delay tactics during course of the talks as a second step, created excuses not to sign and withdrew in the last moments or signed and later found a way out of their commitment without bothering a bit.

The militia believe that it is possible to maneuver and play games for ever and ever as long as they have tongues in mouths to say something in argument.

Anything to turn the blame on the other side – the government. 

What gives them the carte blanche for open-ended deceit is their belief in the God-given right to dynastical reign and the legitimacy of Toqiya (concealing their ultimate goal in the course of struggle to attain it.)

Like the maximalist al-Qaeda and ISIL organizations, Houthis accept nothing less than the full defeat of the foe - the Yemeni government and Yemeni nation.

They no longer pursue this goal in actions given the years of bombing that weakened them into a defensive mode of combat, but it still fills their relentless Jihadist rhetoric on al-Masirah  just the same as it was in 2014.

The only way they are different from al-Qaeda and ISIL in this aspect is that they have a narrow margin for rare and tightly controlled political maneuvering that never leads to offering any real flexibility, but to somehow dampening the observers' satisfaction that Houthis are a maximalist group.

They may sort of be compelled to attend the talks. So they may go!

But with the intent harbored beforehand to never ink a deal that dethrones them or to never let the deal find its way into implementation!



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