By Jafar Razi Khan
Political experts believe that after Saudi Arabia and its regional and international allies failed to conquer Yemen’s Hudaydah port through military force, they are currently turning to diplomatic means in order to reach a settlement with the Houthi Ansarullah fighters, thus attesting to ability of the country’s popular forces to head off aggression against the Yemeni people.
Saudi Arabia and some 20 of its allies, including the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan, launched a brutal war, code-named Operation Decisive Storm, against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, and crush the popular Ansarullah movement.
The imposed war initially consisted of a bombing campaign, but was later coupled with a naval blockade and the deployment of ground forces to Yemen.
The aggression reached its peak last month when the Western-backed Saudi-led alliance launched an all-out assault on Hudaydah port city aiming to bring the Houthi resistance to its knees at the risk of worsening the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.
Saudi warplanes and warships pounded Houthi fortifications for several weeks to support ground operations by foreign and Yemeni militants gathered south of the port in the so-called Operation Golden Victory.
This reckless assault to capture Yemen’s main port threatened the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians.
The US, Israel, Britain and France reportedly took part in the assault along with Saudi and Emirati forces. The US has assisted Saudi Arabia and the UAE in “conducting aerial bombings in Yemen” and provided “midair refueling services” to their warplanes.
In a report on June 16, French newspaper Le Figaro reported that French special forces were present on the ground in Yemen with forces from the United Arab Emirates.
The newspaper gave no further details about their activities, but a French parliamentary source recently told Reuters that French special forces were in Yemen.
On June 15, the French Defense Ministry said France was studying the possibility of carrying out a mine-sweeping operation to provide access to Hudaydah port once the Saudi-led coalition had wrapped up its military operations.
Despite US support for the Saudi war, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, on Sunday confirmed that the Saudi-led military alliance had dismally failed in its bid to overrun the strategic western Yemeni port city of Hudaydah.
“The enemies’ scenario to march into Hudaydah has resulted in failure, because they heavily relied on psychological warfare and media propaganda, concealing the real facts on the ground,” Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network quoted Abdul-Salam as saying.
Abdul-Salam also added that Saudi Arabia and its allies have not allowed any peace negotiations to bear fruit ever since the Yemeni conflict broke out.
Under these circumstances, the US-led Western countries have stepped up their efforts to seek a negotiated settlement of the conflict.
Diplomatic sources said on July 18 that France’s envoy for Yemen had met the leaders of the Houthis in the Yemeni capital as part of Paris’s efforts to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the country.
“The objective of the envoy’s (Christian Testot) visit was humanitarian, to update the Houthis on the results of the June 27 experts meeting and to see what concrete results can be achieved on the ground,” a French diplomatic source said, confirming a report by Le Figaro newspaper.
Analysts, however, argue that the meeting between the French envoy and the Houthi officials was a clear sign that after a long effort by the West to ignore Yemen’s popular forces, the Western countries have come to realize that no solution to the country’s conflict would be possible if Houthis were not part of it.
This came a day after the UN humanitarian coordinator, Lise Grande, said that talks were at an advanced stage for the world body to take over the administration of the vital port of Hudaydah under siege by the Saudi-led coalition.
The Red Sea port is the main distribution point for commercial and humanitarian supplies into Yemen
The UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is trying to broker a deal for the port to be administered independently by the UN.
The United Nations says the Houthis have offered to hand over the management of the port to the world body as part of an overall ceasefire in Hudaydah Province.
The Houthi leader says Yemen will accept the UN’ supervisory role in Hudaydah if the Saudi-led coalition ends its aggression against the strategic port city.
US aiding Saudi ‘war crimes’ in Yemen
In early May this year, The New York Times, citing US and European officials, reported that the US had expanded its role in Riyadh’s bloody war on Yemen well beyond mere arms sales and logistical support by secretly deploying a team of elite commandos to the Yemeni border to help the Saudi military in battles against the Ansarullah movement.
Washington’s weapon sales to Saudi Arabia include a $110-billion deal signed last May when US President Donald Trump visited the kingdom in his maiden foreign visit. Along with the United States and Britain, France also sells weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
In November last year, US Congressman Ro Khanna in an exclusive interview with al-Jazeera said the US was helping Saudi Arabia commit “war crimes” in Yemen. Khanna, a Democratic congressman from California, said the US made a mistake in supporting the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign of Yemen.
“Today, I believe that we are aiding Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia’s committing war crimes,” Khanna said.
The Saudi-led war on Yemen has killed and injured over 600,000 civilians, according to the latest figures released by the Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights.
The US-led Western assistance has drawn strong criticisms from the international community and prominent human rights groups.