Enough tiptoeing around sensitive issues, with a potentially vicious bite, in fear of giving offence. Enough playing nice with smiling pretend friends who behind our backs are preparing a poisoned chalice. Diplomatic niceties are all well and good but, sometimes, we are left with no choice but to call a spade a spade. This is one of times.
Gulf countries have been averting their gaze from Yemen’s problems for far too long in the hope that they will somehow disappear on their own. But instead of fading away they are not only worsening, they threaten the stability of the entire region and beyond.
It’s evident that the cash-strapped Yemeni government cannot cope on its own. It is not only battling looming southern secessionism it is struggling to thwart extremists in Hadhramout, while doing its utmost to stem an insurgency led by Houthis that has spilled violently into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The fact that this under-the-radar five-year conflict has crossed borders, posing a threat to Saudi oil fields by potentially galvanising malcontents within the Kingdom’s eastern region, means the burden is no longer exclusively Yemen’s.
Until recently, this simmering civil war between the Sana’a government and ideologues nostalgic for Yemen’s repressive pre-1962 imamate was broadly contained within the country’s north-west Saada region.
Last year, with the best intentions, Qatar managed to broker a ceasefire that unfortunately gave the Houthis an opportunity to regroup and re-arm. When the fight reignited onto Saudi soil, Riyadh rightly decided to nip it in the bud. For that, it is being unfairly criticised by some commentators for using air power and artillery to crack down hard on troublesome Houthi border tribes. Ultimately, the Saudis plan to officially demarcate its non delineated Yemen frontier with a border fence flanked by a population-free buffer zone.
Such direct military involvement by Saudi in either internal, bi-national or multi-national disputes is extremely rare and only goes to illustrate that the country has grave concerns on many levels.
Its uppermost concern is the growing suspicion that the Houthi rebels are either fighting a proxy war on behalf of the Iranian government or, at the very least, are being supported by Iranian cash and weapons. Tehran denies this allegation and, instead, points a finger at big powers, who are considered ’hostile to the Arab World’ for creating tensions.
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt isn’t convinced. During a recent visit to Washington he accused the Iranian leadership of meddling in Arab affairs. He was just as forthright in December last year, when, according to CBS News, he warned Arab countries that “the Persians are trying to devour the Arab states”.
President Mubarak should be commended for his fearless counsel and straight talk. He knows what dangers lurk if our Arab nation views Iran through rose-colored spectacles.
As journalists have been barred from reporting from the area, the truth remains elusive, at least for the moment. We can’t be sure that Tehran is driving the insurgency. But, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbours must be vigilant.
This unsettling extremist cancer must not be allowed to spread and take hold. It’s a regional and international disease that must be stopped in its tracks before it permeates our towns and cities. Those elements, whose twisted idea of progress is to thrust us back into the dark ages, must not be allowed to disseminate their hate-filled propaganda on our peaceful streets.
In the interim, GCC member counties should be willing to do everything they can to back Saudi Arabia in its efforts to preserve its sovereignty and ensure the safety of the Muslim world’s holiest sites.
At such time when those orchestrating the Houthi insurgency from outside are identified with certainty, as they will be, a strong message must be sent. All their institutions of whatsoever nature should be closed down throughout the Gulf. Their funds should be frozen. Their economy should be subject to punitive sanctions. Their exports and multi-nationals should be boycotted. No more treading softly-softly. They must be made to understand that we will no longer stand by motionless as enemies, masquerading as allies, try to destroy everything we have achieved and all that we believe.
Unless we are prepared to travel backwards while the rest of the world surges forward, we must raise our voices against destabilising influences and their primitive spawn, while being prepared to act with wisdom and foresight to silence theirs.