The UAE, as Anwar Gargash put it, was “reborn” by the conflict in Yemen. Speaking at a Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Ramadan majlis on Wednesday, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs acknowledged the testing time that the country had undergone as it joined the Arab coalition to remove the Houthi’s grip on Yemen and restore a legitimate government.
“War was never the choice but it was the only solution,” he said, pointing out that, as dialogue over the future continues in Kuwait and the majority of Yemen’s land is back under the control of the legitimate government, the UAE had played an important part and will continue to do so.
Going to Yemen was never going to be an easy decision – as Dr Gargash acknowledged, among the victories there were also “tears and emotions” at the sacrifices of UAE servicemen – but it was necessary to stabilise an important neighbour. This is exemplified by the city of Mukalla, where UAE and Yemeni troops pushed out Al Qaeda in April this year. Not only did this return an important port city to Yemen’s authorities, but it also denied Al Qaeda a city it was using to generate revenues and train its cadres. This is why the Yemen campaign has been so important – without it, militant groups like the Houthis and Al Qaeda would have free rein, to terrorise civilians and plot attacks across and beyond the Peninsula.
But now attention must turn to the political process. After 50 days of talks in Kuwait, there is still no will on the part of the Houthi rebels to compromise. The broad outlines of a peace proposal are there, as suggested by the UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. These are the withdrawal of Houthi troops from the capital Sanaa and the region around it, the handing over of weapons by the group and an eventual return of the legitimate government. So far, the rebels are stalling.
The UAE, said Dr Gargash, is monitoring the situation and assisting the government. But it is ultimately Yemenis who must build the country and the nation. That is perhaps the most pernicious aspect of the Houthi’s war – the country they are destroying is their own, and, despite being offered a role in the future, they refuse to make peace. But there is no choice but peace on offer – Yemen, and the Gulf states, can settle for nothing less than a lasting political solution.