The coup by the pro-UAE militias weeks ago against the legitimate Yemeni government in the interim capital of Aden has worsened the country’s situation and the depend the uncertain future it faces.
While Yemenis’ aspirations for an end to the long-running war in the country, whether by military or peace negotiations, the coup by the UAE-backed southern transitional council in Aden complicates matters.
A divided coalition is not enough to tip any party, but it could mean that the fighting will last longer, and the parties will increase.
If Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi cannot speak on behalf of what he claims to represent, his legitimacy and credibility will be severely undermined, a goal the UAE has been seeking for years.
On the humanitarian side, any interruption at a vital port such as Aden complicates the work of relief missions working to address the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
But there is a glimmer of hope. What may have happened is a wake-up call to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others that any sustainable solution requires addressing everyone’s problems.
The Stockholm Convention in December focused on short-term goals, but the negotiations did not include the direct concerns of the South or its future aspirations.
With relative calm returning to Aden, and both sides agreeing to participate in Saudi-sponsored talks, there is still time to reconsider using old tactics.
The fighting in Aden weeks ago this time was not between the Saudi-led coalition forces and the Iranian-backed Houthis, as we have been used to in the past four years of the country’s brutal civil war.
But what happened is that factions within the coalition took up arms to fight some of them, killing dozens and threatening the alliance between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to a report by CNN.
By Sunday, 11 August, the secessionist Southern Transitional Council (backed by the UAE) effectively controlled Aden while its ally by name, the government of exiled President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi (Saudi-backed), was not visible in the picture.
During seven days of fighting between southern separatists and the president’s forces, 40 people were killed and 260 wounded. As the separatists made gains, the Saudi-led coalition stepped in to protect the government, hitting a vacant yard in the presidential palace after separatists took control of it.
Southerners saw the airstrikes as a warning and left the palace, but retained control of Aden.
Yemeni Interior Minister Ahmed al-Maisari described the events in Aden as a “successful coup” by admitting defeat in a video before joining the rest of Hadi’s government in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Relative calm returned to the city, days after street fighting that led to the siege of civilians in their homes.
The Southern Transitional Council has long sought independence for the south. But they temporarily abandoned that dream when the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in 2014.
The Southern Transitional Council then joined the Saudi-led coalition and agreed to operate under the Hadi government.
Recently, the Southern Transitional Council accused Hadi’s presidential guard of collaborating with the Houthis in an attack that killed one of their commanders. He also accused him of attacking his funeral.
The government said it was protecting state institutions from thousands of protesters. Long before the fighting spread to the streets of Aden, despite calls from regional leaders for calm.
Is this a proxy war between the UAE and Saudi Arabia?
Ahmed al-Maisari, Hadi’s interior minister, congratulated the UAE on victory and acknowledged defeat, in a short, frank talk that revealed the possibility of a proxy war between the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
There are long-standing political differences between the two sides. Riyadh is the de facto center of the Yemeni government, and Hadi and his ministers spend most of their time in Saudi Arabia. At the same time, the UAE has provided the separatists with power, relying on them and others to win battlefield battles.
But the UAE is at loggerheads with Saudi Arabia over Hadi’s inclusion of members of the Yemeni Reform Group, a political party, in his government. The party is known for its association with the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that the UAE describes as a terrorist organization that has prevented its rise over the past decade.
Leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates met to discuss the Yemeni issue last month, but images of warm welcome do not reveal the impact of recent infighting on their alliance.
Yemenis are unanimous in demanding the expulsion of the UAE from the Saudi alliance and ending its criminal war in light of the exposure of its ambitions and conspiracies aimed at pushing the division of Yemen and its fragmentation to plunder its wealth and capabilities.