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Op-Ed: Saudi newspaper article suggests abandoning the Hadi government

Saudi newspaper article argues that Hadi government is a burden

The whole point of the Saudi operation was to reinstate the Hadi government. The Houthi rebels, supported by Iran rule much of the north including the capital Sanaa. The Hadi government’s temporary capital is in the southern Yemen port of Aden but much of the leadership remains in Riyadh Saudi Arabia.

No one previously had raised the issue of supporting a government which probably has limited support within the country. The was has been costly to the Saudis both in material terms and in international condemnation for its air attacks that have killed many Yemeni civilians. The Saudis have been unable to defeat the Houthis, have faced attacks on their own territory and lately have suffered casualties.

An article in the Saudi newspaper Okaz by Hammoud Taleb has brought up the subject of Saudi support for Hadi for the first time. Okaz asks whether everyone would be better off if the Hadi government were replaced. No one even pointed out that Hadi’s electoral mandate had run out years ago.

The Saudi government would be unlikely to allow such an article without tacitly approving it. Taleb must have felt safe in attaching his name to the article.

Taleb argues that the Hadi government is a burden both on Yemen and the Saudi invading coalition that includes the UAE. Taleb says that “it is absurd to rely on its members, who are distributed between capitals, and conspire against the alliance from inside their luxury hotels.” Much of the Hadi leadership remains in Saudi Arabia and some work within rival factions. The article could be a test balloon by the Saudi government. It shows at least, that such a move might be under consideration.

The Saudis may be losing patience with the Hadi government

The Saudi’s are not allowing some members of the Hadi government out of Riyadh where they are in exile. Some have even described Hadi himself as effectively under house arrest at times. No doubt the Saudis are angry that the Hadi government has undermined attempts at negotiation. In particular the Hadi government baulked at having southern separatists become part of the Hadi government after the Saudis made a deal with their coalition partner the UAE and the Southern Transitional Council(STC).

The UAE had supported the STC in seizing the port of Aden and some surrounding areas last October. This put the UAE in conflict with the Saudis. However, a deal was worked out by the Saudis to give the STC seats in the cabinet of the Hadi government. All armed forces would be placed under government control. However. the Hadi government strongly resisted an attempt to have the STC and others join the government. The STC wants a separate independent state in the south as existed once before but the Hadi government wants a unified Yemen.

A possible scenario

The Saudis have already settled with the STC. The Saudis may be able to negotiate with the Houthi’s to leave them in control of the northern part of Yemen with the STC along with some members of the Hadi government to take control of the southern remainder of Yemen. Those members of the Hadi government which did not accede to such a solution would be left virtually powerless. The UAE could very well be involved in such a settlement. It remains to be seen whether the Houthis would agree to such a solution but they are dependent to some extent on the support of Iran and Iran may see such an agreement as lowering tensions in the region. The Saudis may find this plan better than continuing in a so far fruitless attempt to reinstall a dubious ruler.
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