There is no military solution to the Yemen crisis. It is essentially a tussle for power between various political actors. The solution has to be political.
Military air-strikes helmed by Saudi Arabia, and supported by most of the other Gulf monarchies and other governments in the region, notably Egypt, have exacerbated an already volatile situation. If these governments decide in the next few days to launch a ground offensive, the consequences will be horrendous.
One, the casualties which are mounting will increase dramatically. Yemen has witnessed a great deal of death and destruction in recent years and does not deserve to suffer more pain and anguish.
Two, Yemeni society which is already deeply polarized will become even more divided. An all-out war will make it more difficult to work towards reconciliation and to restore peace in the future.
Three, any escalation of aggression on the part of the Saudi elite and its allies will tear the region asunder especially since they are projecting the Yemen crisis as a Sunni-Shia conflict. It will have repercussions for Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and even Saudi Arabia itself. These are all Arab states where Sunnis or Shias are in the majority or are a minority. Shia Iran and Sunni Turkey will also be drawn into the maelstrom.
The danger of perceiving the Yemen conflict in Sunni-Shia terms is further aggravated by a stark anti-Iran rhetoric emanating from Saudi and Egyptian elite circles which has even hinted of a foreign, non-Arab — read Persian — threat that dredges deeply ingrained sentiments rooted in the past that have always dichotomized the Muslim ummah. The implication is that Persians are manipulating an Arab tribe, the Houthis, in Yemen for their ‘imperial’ interests. One should not be surprised if the Iranian government reacts to such mischievous rhetoric.
It is against this backdrop that one should view the proposal by the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to establish a unified Arab military force to defend Arab identity. It is a shame that al- Sisi should forefront this idea which is in the Charter of the Arab League in pursuit of religious sectarianism when he like his allies in the coalition formed to fight the Shia Houthis of Yemen have never thought of forging a united military front against Israel. After all, it was because of Israel that the Charter conceived of a unified Arab military force in 1950! No wonder the Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, is euphoric over developments in Yemen which he has described as proof that Iran is seeking to dominate the entire region.
It is also explains why the United States government is supporting the Saudis, the Egyptians and the others in the anti-Houthis coalition. A US National Security Council spokesperson admitted that the US was “ establishing a joint planning cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate US military and intelligence support” in the on-going military operations in Yemen. This is yet another example of a convergence of interests between the US and Israel on the one hand and the strengthening of these interests through collaboration with other close allies, agents and proxies in West Asia such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and a number of other Arab states, on the other. The special significance of US collusion with these regional actors on this occasion lies in the fact that the US is also at the same time holding critical talks with Iran over its nuclear programme in Lausanne. It is partly because of these talks which both Saudi Arabia and Israel are opposed to, that the former has initiated military action in Yemen on its own accord out of a belief that the US can no longer be trusted to safeguard Saudi interests. In a sense, the Saudi elite has forced the US to get involved in Yemen on its side against Iran.