Yemen Crisis: Destabilizing the Muslim World
Yemen crisis cannot be seen in isolation, as it has provided the anti-Muslim countries and lobbies with a golden chance to destabilize the Muslim World.
It is of particular attention that faced with an unending resistance in Iraq and other volatile Islamic states, the US had planned to spark a civil war between the Sunnis and Shias. In this context, a study of a leading think tank Rand Corporation, titled ‘US Strategy in the Muslim World After 9/11’ was conducted on behalf of the then US Deputy Chief of Staff for Air Force. The report of the Rand Corporation which was released on December 27, 2004 advocated that Sunni-Shia sectarian division and Arab-non-Arab ethnic differences should be exploited to promote the US objectives in the Muslim World.
The report of the Rand Corporation was first implemented in Iraq where American CIA fuelled sectarian violence. In 2004, major terror-attacks were carried out against the Shias in Karbala and Baghdad. Afterwards, a chain of Shia-Sunni clashes started between Iraqi Shias and Sunnis, targeting each other’s mosques and religious leaders through bomb blasts, suicide attacks etc. After experiment in Iraq, more deadly pattern of sectarian violence was conducted in Pakistan which still continues.
As a matter of fact, by acting upon the old formula of ‘divide and rule’, some US-led western countries including Israel and India leave no stone unturned in creating disunity among the Muslim countries. In this regard, by availing the international phenomena of terrorism in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, some American and western lobbies have joined the Indo-Israeli lobbies, and are collectively working in America and other European countries by equating the “Global War on Terror” with “war on Islam” and acts of Al Qaeda with all the Muslims.
Pakistan, being the lonely atomic power in the Islamic World irritates the eyes of the anti-Muslim entities. If India considers Pakistan as its enemy number one, Israel also takes it and Iran in the same sense. Recently, Tel Aviv has strongly opposed the nuclear deal between Tehran and the US. However, all these similarities of interest have brought various western countries—Israel and India to follow a common secret diplomacy with the tactical support of Washington to target Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia etc. in one way or the other.
However, in the backdrop of forced ouster of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in Yemen and seizure of power by armed Houthi (Zaidi) militants led by Hadi’s predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh, a joint aerial operation code named “Decisive Storm” is being conducted by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan etc. The joint action has endorsement of Arab League and support of many Muslim and Western countries. It is being highlighted that Turkey which also considers providing logistical support to the Saudi-led operation is reluctant to do so. Some of the opinion makers are also suggesting Pakistan to insert its forces into Yemen.
It is notable that Yemen has an area of 5, 27 829 Square Kms., and a population of 2, 3833 000. Out of this population about 40% belong to Houthis. Yemen is largely a tribal society with dwindling natural resources, which has contributed to rise in tribal conflicts from time to time. In Yemen, no matter if you are rich or poor; you must have guns as part of culture. Therefore, instead of shopping for food or clothes, customers prefer to buy weapons and arms.
The terrain of Yemen is mountainous with some patches of desert and a strategically important coastline. The area is generally acknowledged as Afghanistan of Middle East. The country is facing internal strife since 1926. Undoubtedly, the nature of conflict in Yemen has been socio-political. While, now it is being presented by the anti-Muslim countries and their media as sectarian mainly because of the alleged Iranian support to Houthis.
In the 1962 civil war, republican revolution of Yemen was supported by seventy thousand troops from Egypt. In that conflict, Houthis were secretly supplied weapons by Israel to fight against the Egyptians. Since then, religio-political movement of the Houthis took a violent shape under title of Ansarullah (Partisans of God). It has created a space for local, regional and extra-regional forces to play devilish politics to destabilize the Islamic countries. Most of the Middle East countries have already been weakened by world powers through economic sanctions, civil strife and military attacks. The only country which has so far remained stable is Saudi Arabia.
It is mentionable that some anti-Muslim entities are trying to create fissures in Pak-Saudi friendship since April 10, this year when through a unanimous resolution, Pakistan’s Parliament urged the government to stay neutral in the Yemen conflict and refrain from getting embroiled in any military offensive due to its drastic implications in the region. Parliament called upon “warring factions in Yemen to resolve their differences peacefully through dialogue.”
The resolution noted that the war in Yemen “is not sectarian in nature, but has the potential of turning into a sectarian conflict which will have critical fallout in the region including Pakistan. It said that in the case of “any violation of Saudi Arabia’s territorial sovereignty and any threat to Harmain Shareefain (Holy places), Pakistan will stand shoulder to shoulder with Saudi Arabia.” Calling for unity among Muslim countries, the resolution urged Pakistan to play a diplomatic role to end the crisis—also through the UN Security Council and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen. On the same day, a corps commanders’ meeting presided over by Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif expressed similar thoughts. On April 13, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also held a high level meeting with civil and military leaders, and reiterated Islamabad’s similar stand, mentioned in the Parliament’s resolution. Earlier, in a meeting with the visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zari, Prime Minister Sharif sated, “Besides the loss of innocent lives, the Yemen crisis can undermine the unity of Muslim world.”
And, during a joint press conference in Tehran, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian counterpart explained on April 8, “We talked about Iraq, Syria, Palestine…had a long discussion about Yemen and agreed for political solution of the crisis…we both think war and bloodshed must stop in this area immediately and a complete ceasefire must be established and the strikes must stop” in Yemen.
Meanwhile, same lobbies which are destabilizing the Muslim World exploited the statement of the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash who warned Pakistan of having to pay a heavy price for ambiguous stand—Tehran and Ankara seem to be more important to Islamabad and than the Arab-Gulf countries—the vague stands of Pakistan and Turkey are an absolute proof that Arab security—from Libya to Yemen—is the responsibility of none, but Arab countries.”
Besides, Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Saleh bin Abdulaziz who visited Pakistan termed the Parliament’s resolution as its Pakistan’s internal matter, elaborating, “Saudi Arabia has strong ties with Islamabad, and we expect an encouraging response from Pakistan.” While, Saudi Chief Adviser for Religious Affairs, Dr Abdul Aziz termed the mediation talk about Yemen crisis a joke.
In fact, Islamabad has always played a key role in unifying the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia is a brotherly country and people of Pakistan hold them in high esteem. Pakistanis are ready to scarify their resources for the safety, security and integrity of Saudi Arabia. At the same time, they do not wish that Riyadh gets weakened in a protracted war having serious consequences. Pakistan has suffered the cost of such wars in last three decades. Muslim World has also seen the destruction and weakening of Iran and Iraq through such stratagem of world powers.
Hence, Pakistan’s approach to solve this issue is based on attaining the political objectives through other than military means. Anyhow, this does not preclude the military support to Saudi Arabia, if situation demands. But, fact remains that the territorial make up of Yemen and the groups involved in destabilization would embroil anti-Houthi forces in a prolonged war which the US-led NATO powers have been experiencing in Afghanistan for 14 years. So, it will consume the military muscle of the Muslim countries.
Houthi activists and forces of the ex-President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi supported by the regional and extra-regional powers are exploiting the Yemen war by projecting it as a Sunni-Shia conflict, whereas the conflict is politically motivated.
Nevertheless, Pakistan has analyzed the Yemen situation realistically and adopted a course of action best suited to and other Muslim states. Islamabad’s support to Riyadh is unequivocal, unflinching and traditional. It needs to be cleared that efforts of certain quarters to create a wedge and discontent in Pakistani society on the issue of sending forces or assisting Saudi Arabia by projecting the conflict on sectarian lines, are bound to fail.
Nonetheless, taking cognizance of anti-Muslim countries which are manipulating the Yemen crisis to destabilize the Muslim World, Pakistan and Islamic countries must endeavour for making serious efforts in engaging the conflicting sides and resolve the situation through diplomacy and dialogue. Media of the Muslim World should play a mature role in diluting any divisive impression.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations