17 April 2015
UNSC Resolution 2216 of 14 April 2015 represents a diplomatic victory for Saudi Arabia and its regional allies, in particular the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. In this Resolution, the Security Council remains silent on the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen. But it does;
• reaffirm its support for the legitimacy of the President of Yemen, Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi,
• reiterate its support for the efforts of the Gulf Cooperation Council in assisting the political transition in Yemen and commends its engagement in this regard,
• condemn in the strongest terms the ongoing unilateral actions taken by the Houthis,
• demand that all Yemeni parties, in particular the Houthis, fully implement an earlier resolution (2201/2015), refrain from further unilateral actions that could undermine the political transition in Yemen,
• further demand that the Houthis withdraw their forces from all areas they have seized, including the capital Sana’a; cease all actions that are exclusively within the authority of the legitimate Government of Yemen; refrain from any provocation or threats to neighboring States including through acquiring surface-surface missiles, and stockpiling weapons in any bordering territory of a neighboring State,
• urge all Yemeni parties to respond positively to the request of the President of Yemen to attend a conference in Riyadh, under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council, to further support the political transition in Yemen, and to complement and support the UN-brokered negotiations,
• impose an arms embargo on the Houthis.
The Resolution appears to reflect a desire on the part of the Security Council to assure Saudi Arabia, an important regional power, that its grievances are heard, and taken into account. US diplomatic efforts were no doubt instrumental in securing this. The respect Prince Saud al Faisal enjoys worldwide with 40 years behind as world’s longest-serving foreign minister must have played its part too.
Russia chose to abstain because, according to its representative, the Resolution was not fully in line with what was required by the crisis in Yemen; failed to call on all sides to halt fire; did not provide for due reflection on consequences and lacked clarity on a humanitarian pause.
China voted for the Resolution but stated that there was no military solution. Although this does not represent an important divergence of views between Moscow and Peking it was interesting that the two powers cast different votes on an issue related to Arab Spring turmoil.
Before the Resolution was adopted Iranian Foreign Minister stated in Madrid that the Yemeni issue had to be resolved by the Yemenis; Iran and Saudi Arabia needed to talk but they could not talk to determine the future of Yemen. It appears that his call and PM Nawas Sharif’s initiative to urge the Iranians to bring the Houthis to the table were not well-received in the Gulf.
In a nutshell, Resolution 2216 contains everything that Saudi Arabia could realistically expect under the circumstances.
Nevertheless, this hardly changes the situation on the ground. The Houthis are still where they are and in spite of continuing air strikes they are not going to withdraw, at least to the extent demanded by the UNSC. The fundamental challenge continues to be the starting of a meaningful Yemeni national dialogue. This is essential to avoiding a humanitarian disaster and preventing Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula from gaining further ground. Whether such a process can be launched in Riyadh remains to be seen. No matter what is said in official statements Iran’s encouragement of the Houthis for a political solution remains important. UN’s Yemen envoy Jamal Benomar’s intention to resign is yet another reflection of the difficulties involved and reminds one of Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi who had resigned from their posts as UN envoys to Syria.
Yemen, willingly or unwillingly, has created a distraction for all those who had focused their attention on the Iranian nuclear program. Washington hopes that a nuclear deal may lead to changes Iran’s policies turning it into a partner in a conflict-ridden region. Yemen is a good opportunity for Tehran to show that there is such potential in a nuclear deal. And for the Saudis, the diplomatic victory scored through Resolution 2216 may help find a graceful exit from Yemen since a military solution remains out of the question.