Yemenis Lost in Iran’s Clout

When watching the so-called Iranian “ambassador” to the Houthis visiting a hospital in Sana’a and hearing some Yemenis defend him, you feel as if “Iranian humanity” deserves the credit for helping Yemen in the present and the past and that Iran represents a safe resort for Yemenis in the future. Iranian “Ambassador” Hassan Irloo, a member of the Revolutionary Guards,  manages the militia’s combat operations to curb any attempt to restore the legitimate government and keep Yemen under Iran’s influence. His visit aims to create a fabricated sense of Iranian sympathy towards Yemen in a clumsy attempt to show that Iran is the major supporter of Yemen.  Saudi Arabia has always been the second homeland for all Yemenis. Saudi humanitarian aid and the warm welcoming of Yemenis inside Saudi Arabia has mitigated their suffering. Saudi Arabia has been a good supporter.

More than 4 million Yemenis work in Saudi Arabia, not far from their country, they don’t feel homesick neither do they struggle with any difference whether in language or in traditions. Family and kinship networks are intensively intertwined between the two peoples. When the Yemeni crisis erupted, the Saudi government allowed the iqama (residency rules)  violators to stay, granting them temporary iqama permits to mitigate the people’s suffering in the war. They share a common destiny and a common agony, at least according to Saudi Arabia’s perspective.

Saudi Arabia has always stretched out its helping hand to the Yemeni leadership even when the latter stood with Saddam Hussein’s regime against the Arab consensus and Gulf interests following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Further, the special committee headed by the late Crown Prince and  Minister of Defense and Aviation Sultan bin Abdulaziz continued helping Yemen and contributed to many significant understandings, which eventually led to the settlement of border disputes, successfully reaching a border demarcation agreement involving unique coordination. 

Since the beginning of the current Yemeni crisis, Saudi Arabia has led the Gulf efforts to help Yemen survive this crisis by concluding “the Gulf Reconciliation” which contributed to ending the Yemeni bloodshed back then. But the Iran-backed Houthis violated the reconciliation. In response, Saudi Arabia rushed to help Yemen, protecting the legitimacy of the Yemeni government. Riyadh hosted all the Yemeni officials and international diplomatic missions to Yemen and supported the legitimate government politically and financially in order to enable it to carry out its tasks effectively. Later, it led a military coalition, supported internationally, to counter the dangers against Yemen and protect Yemeni soil from creeping Iranian incursions.  

Saudi Arabia has donated nearly $17 billion in aid to Yemen. “Economically, the Kingdom  has provided direct support of $7.8 billion to Yemen [since 2012], where it supported the Central Bank of Yemen by depositing $3.2 billion (to keep it afloat), and oil derivatives worth $4.15 billion to operate power plants over several years, in addition to $435 million for the Social Welfare Fund,” Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed al-Jaber said.  Through the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen, Saudi Arabia has been endeavoring to implement 175 projects and initiatives including 45 in the education sector, 18 in the health sector, 20 in the energy sector, 30 for water services, 13 in the agriculture and fisheries sector, 23 in the transport sector, and 26 in the government buildings sector. These projects attempt to revive the economy and improve healthcare, education and services. The Saudi government has never been biased towards any party in Yemen when it comes to donating.

On the other side, Iran has never sent any humanitarian aid to the Yemenis. It has only provided them with weapons. At the donor conference to raise money for Yemen, Iran did not donate one dollar to the Yemeni people while Saudi Arabia topped the list of donors.  A question arises here: what if Saudi Arabia decides, in response to the inaction and denial of some Yemenis, to let them simply live under Iran’s influence, waiting for Iran’s promise of happiness? Will the Yemenis give up on their neighbor, Saudi Arabia, which has been  a critical economic pillar for many of them?

Saud Arabia will turn a deaf ear to voices of ignorance; to those who are not aware of the current interactions, neither will it allow the gap with Yemen to  be broadened further or impose forcefully any approaches on the Yemeni parties regarding their future relations with other countries. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia hopes that the Yemeni crisis is evaluated accurately and in detail to forecast the desired future for the Yemeni people and the form of the final settlement of the Yemeni crisis. The one-state solution won’t be accepted by the Houthis as they want to rule Yemen entirely. On the other hand, the sluggish actions of the Yemeni legitimate government will not help in restoring Yemeni statehood from the Houthis — who are driven by self-serving ambitions and Iran’s support.  

All Yemenis are to be blamed here. The Yemeni media is not playing an effective role in determining the future of Yemen. The media rhetoric needs to be revised and reframed to  correct the prevailing narrow-minded perceptions, highlighting the interests of the Yemeni people by identifying who are their true friends and real enemies.    When reviewing the Yemeni media rhetoric, it becomes apparent that the voices of elimination and exclusion of the other are dominating while the voices calling for the interests of the Yemeni homeland and future are fading away.   If the Yemeni government does not directly resolve these media divisions, chaos and statelessness will continue in Yemen.

Figures don’t lie. The government officials need to wake up and work hard to determine from where Yemen receives beneficial aid and vital trade sources,  and  to identify true friends from real enemies.

Every story has an end and all people have the right to determine their own destiny. I recall here a verse of Aboul-Qacem Echebbi: “If, one day, a people desires to live, then fate will answer their call.” Does Yemen want  friendship with a country which can help it build a peaceful and prosperous future and believes in the right of establishing sovereign statehood, or friendship with a country bearing old grudges and exploiting other peoples to serve its goals? This question needs to be answered in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.  The answer is crystal clear to the wise. But here,  I’d like to give a piece of advice to the Yemenis because one should help his close neighbors before helping others.

Saudi Arabia is fated to deal with backstabbers, there are many. Over history, Saudi Arabia has stood fast in solidarity with the oppressed despite being blamed and hurt by others who work to achieve narrow interests by chanting misleading slogans. Finally, it is said that those who hold enmity against the Land of the Two Mosques (Saudi Arabia) shall not be trusted, even if he chants for Jerusalem.   


 Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of Rasanah

Retired Major General Ahmed bin Ali Almaimouni
Retired Major General Ahmed bin Ali Almaimouni
Director of the Military and Security Studies Unit at Rasanah