Yemen – 14 April 2019: In completion of the vision on the polit-ical and security situation of Yemen, we have Yemen's foreign and interior ministers.
"The turbulent scene in Yemen is approaching its end," said Dr. Abdul Malik al-Makhlafi, deputy prime minister and Yemeni foreign minis-ter. He submitted evidencesof this; most importantly is the stable situation of the international community towards The Yemeni issue, although it has bben 3 years since the beginning of the war. He also expressed optimism towards appointing a new UN envoy, under a set of factors that give him the opportunity to achieve his percep-tions which hesubmitted to the Yemeni officials and members of the coalition forces during a recent tour after his appointment. And he confirmed that his perceptions are consistent with need to apply the solution based on the three references.
Al-Makhlafy, in his dialogue, discussed files that must be closed be-fore starting talks with the Houthis, especially the file of detainees, besieged cities such as Taiz, and the reliefs which are attacked in various forms like shooting and random missiles.
Here is the dailouge:
How do you see the Yemeni scene three years since the war be-gan?
I can say that after Three years since the beginning of the war waged by our enemy the Houthi with its coup in Sana'a and its invasion of the provinces and cities, we are at the end of the scene. What dis-tinguishes the situation in Yemen compared to the crises in the re-gion is that the international situation is still cohesive and preserving its unity and support for Yemeni legitimacy. It agreed to determine the nature of this war, which is between two parties; legitimacy supported by the alliance on the one hand, and an internationally renegade rebellious militia on the other. The way to solve this war is is the commitment of the three institutions, namely the Gulf Initia-tive, the outputs of the national dialogue, and the UN resolution 2216. Recently a presidential statement was issued and a UV security resolution was issued Under Chapter VII, and the Russian decision to renew the sanctions. This confirms the cohesion of the international position despite the divisions in the world on many issues, which suggests that the solution can be reached according to the terms of references, and that the extension of the duration of the war was not imposed by the Houthis as facto reality on the international community.
This is supported by the military scene which indicates that there is progress of the national army, and that the Houthis are facing multi-ple defeats in Nahm, Baidah, Hodeidah and the West Coast, and in Saada which is the stronghold of the Houthi rebellion. All that assure us that the Yemeni scene is coing to an end.
So, do you think that the decision to renew the sanctions came in favor of Yemen?
The sanctions were not imposed on Yemen, but on those who [ut obstcals to a political settlement; The son of Abdullah Saleh, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abdul Hakim al-Houthi and Abu Ali al-Hakim. The sanctions decions were issued because they obstructed the imple-mentation of the settlement, which was unanimously voted upon by Russia. It confirmed all previous resolutions related to Yemen in-cluding resolution No. 2216, as well as Yemen's unity, independence and integrity of its territorial, the support of the legitimate govern-ment, the presidential statement. Actually, the presidential state-ments are unanimous, and overall positive, although it was about humanitarian issues in Yemen, but it clearly condemned the Houthis for obstructing the arrival of relief for the Yemeni people and the neediest groups, which amounted up to 11.3 million people, this confirms the steadiness and power of the international position.
Are there also problems related to reliefs?
Yes, there are attacks on caravans and food trucks directed to Yemen by the Houthi militia. The Yemeni government has already demand-ed the expulsion of the former OCHA coordinator because he was complicit with the coupists, covering their looting practices and ob-structing the work of international organizations. Grandi was opinted instead of him and is currently doing her job.
What about the economic situation in Yemen?
There is an improvement in the economic conditions supported by the Coalition forces for the Support of Legitimacy and the United Na-tions. There is a plan of action to improve the humanitarian situa-tion. Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait provided $ 1.2 billion during the recent Geneva conference. They allocated 2 billion dollars to im-prove the Yemeni humanitarian and economic situation, and there are side plans for humanitarian assistance to rehabilitate the infra-structure, and the delivering aid to all Yemeni cities through safe cor-ridors.
Saudi Arabia has also provided a deposit of two billion dollars to support the central bank and the cash reserve, and there is an eco-nomic recovery plan to solve the issues of services.
The appointment of the British UN envoy comes at a sensitive time and influential for the Yemeni file, how do you see its impact on the overall events?
The new envoy, supported by the legitimate authority and the coali-tion forces, held meetings with President Abderbo Mansour Hadi, in the presence of MP Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, Prime Minister Ben Dagher, and my presence. The meetings dealt with the peace plans in Yemen and are supported unanimously by the international com-munity and the legitimate government. There is no doubt that the envoy has a great opportunity under the cohesion of the interna-tional community on the one hand, and the progress of the national army on the other, the decline of the Huthi militia on the third, and the split between Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthis, which made some of Saleh's forces join the banner of legitimacy. All these add to our strength. He also went to Sana'a and will have a tour at some Arab countries. He will then submit to the Security Council his views on the overall situation, solutions and how to implement them. We have his perceptions that come in line with the three references and the importance of putting pressure on the coups for real talks that begin with building confidence.
And the first steps to build confidence is to close a number of files, in particular the release of detainees, and to end of the siege of cities, such as Taiz, the file of the port of Hodeidah, Sanaa airport, and sala-ries, so that to know to what extent the Houthis are ready to end these crises, and go to the joint talks, which the convy confirmed that envoy that it builds on what has been done previously, we do not go back to zero, and we do not accept to start again. In the past, we have reached certain criteria; these talks are based on the fact that they are between a coup and a legitimate government based on the three pre-mentioned references. It aims to solve the security and military problem, which starts with withdrawal and surrender of weapons, because any talk about negotiations on the political aspect without resolving the security aspect has no meaning, and becomes a mere enhancement of the coup. The beginning of the political solu-tion is based on the above, the latest was Kuwait Agreement, refused by Houthi, and signed by the legitimate government, And called for the withdrawal from Sanaa, Taiz and Hodeidah, and then start talks to form a government of national unity and the return of the legiti-mate government to Sanaa.
Are you optimistic about changes in the coming period?
We are aware of the difficulty of the Houthis' return to negotiations and political solution or concessions for the sake of the Yemeni peo-ple, and that due to their ideological and doctrinal structure resulted to their association with Iran, believes that they should continue the war, indifferent to what the Yemenis ordeal. They are the extension of the idea of the imamate upon which the 26 September revolution was launched, which led Yemen to be classified as the "unknown Yemen", a country of poverty, ignorance and disease. And now they are restoring this trinity, but I do not think they have many opportu-nities to continue this war because of the public pressure, and mili-tary, and political pressure abroad, and their failure to market themselves to the international community as a Peace traitor, and therefore the international community has become confident that they do not fit as partners for peace, all this makes us optimistic that the coming period will witness wide mobility.
But there are a group of political detainees in the legitimate government; will there be a breakthrough in their file?
Al-Houthi Mahmoud al-Subaihi, Minister of Defense, brother of President Abdurbo Mansour Hadi, Major General Nasser Mansour, Political Security Undersecretary in Aden, Dhali and Lahj, and Faisal Rajab, commander of the 31 Armored Brigade, whom are referred to by the UN resolution to be released unconditionally, But Houthi still blocking their release, or reaching a settlement to close this file. Furthermore, all the international efforts made in the past period just to know their fate failed, even the family of Abdullah Saleh does not know anything about the fate of his body.
What is the position of the United Nations from the issue of the-se detainees?
We have already addressed the Security Council, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Human Rights Council, and there is support for the legitimate government to form a national commission of inquiry, which has been in operation for some time. The international community knows that the Houthis are a gang. They continue to condemn it. We understand the nature of the work of the United Nations. They can not implement everything they want, or take real action on the ground, but we are satisfied that the coups are classified that they are perform arrests and forced disap-pearance, which promot the international community to condemn them, and support the legitimate government and the coalition.
From what you told, it became clear that reaching any agreement or negotiations with the Houthi Part is practically impossible. There-fore, on what the legitimate government and UN envoy is betting to resolve the crisis?
We are working in two directions. The first is the continuation of the military confrontation, which was done by the Yemeni people from the beginning, through the resistance, the national army, the popular resistance and rejection of the militia, and we are betting on the countries' support for us and support of the alliance, our army’s mil-itary progress, and losses seized by Houthis.
If you assess the role played by the United Nations, whether during the period of Ould Sheikh or the current period… How do you see the size of their contributions?
We are not betting that the United Nations will solve the crisis unless there is a desire in reality of the conflict parties, or defeat the intran-sigent part. The role of the United Nations is complementary, but coherent and solid, and is committing to the same position from the beginning.
How do you evaluate Iran's role in the region?
Iran's interference in Yemen is an additional disaster for the suffering of the people. We have talked with the European Community very frankly that Yemen is part of the Arabian Peninsula, the Gulf and the Arab world. There is no place for Iran in solving this crisis. It must avoid interfering in Arab and Gulf affairs. Iran is the problem In Yemen, and can not be part of the solution, and they must be de-ported to their borders. Iran is trying to tamper with the region, and this is clear, and there are efforts from the international community to prevent Tehran from tampering with Yemen, but it is trying to convince everyone to contribute to the solution. This Iranian position remains an attempt to ease the pressure exerted by the United Na-tions on it to get out of Yemen, and to be committed not to supply Houthi group with any assistance, or the ballistic missiles it launches on Saudi territory.
The tragic humanitarian situation suffered by the Yemeni people is imposed by the rebellion, and the Huthis never care about the suf-fering of the people, further they steal humanitarian aid.There is a complaint by United Nations staff in this regard. One of the latest vi-olations by the Houthis was capturing 19 oil-laden ships which are currently outside the port of Hodeidah, where the Houthis prevent to allow them to enter the port.
What is the expected political role by the family of Ali Abdullah Saleh?
They do not play any political role, even inside the PDP, his son is not a member of the party, so how will he lead it as some claim, and they belong to the past, and can not be part of the future.
Would you sum up Yemen's relationship with Egypt, Saudi Ara-bia, UAE, Qatar and Sudan?
First, Yemen and Egypt have a historical relationship. Bloods were mixed in the 1960s. After the Imamate, the Egyptian and Yemeni races merged within the construction, education and rehabilitation projects. Generations of Yemenis were educated by Egyptians in Egyptian universities. Egypt is the closest country to Yemen, and its security, stability and progress is the security of all the Arabs, and we wish them welfare. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will resume his role in maintaining Egypt and its security and the establishment of major projects, because this serves the stability of the Arab nation as a whole.
The United Arab Emirates is one of the countries of the Arab Coali-tion which support the legitimacy and has made many sacrifices for Yemen and the restoration of the state, and whatever the differ-ences we must resume the dialogue so that the noble role remains in the service of the Yemeni people, and serves the common Arab rela-tions, and the unity of the alliance will last as it supports Yemeni le-gitimacy, preserves Yemen's security, stability, unity and territorial integrity.
Saudi Arabia is the neighbor and incubator, and we have a joint secu-rity, and we share marriage relations. We remember its position in the leadership of the coalition, and help us to restore the state, and we count on correcting all the differences within the coalition in the framework of common interests.
You met with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo. What the meeting dealt with, and are any new solutions been introduced?
Egypt, as I have always said, is the supporter and baker to us, and it always confirms this. During my meeting with Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, we agreed on full coordination in all international fo-rums and the development of bilateral relations between the two countries in all fields. We also agreed on the importance of imple-menting the three references of the political solution. They Include the withdrawal of militia weapons, preventing Iranian intervention which supports with arms and money, the release of detainees, the support of the UN envoy in his next tour and the support of the le-gitimate government.
Major General Ahmed al-Misri, Minister of the Interior of Yemen said, “We lost the ministry's database after the coup and things are better than before.”
Saudi Arabia is a key partner in the terrorist file in Yemen because it is the most affected party; as there are long-distance borders be-tween us that are difficult to control. The infiltration of individuals into Saudi Arabia continues. The history of al-Qaeda in Yemen goes back when it was the largest gathering center for Mujahideen re-turning from Afghanistan with the consent of the state
Al-Misiri said, “We face a number of challenges and security prob-lems that we inherited from the war. The ministry with all its bodies is now 92,000 employees.”
The Non-liberated areas in Yemen are 8 governorates, which repre-sent almost one-third of Yemen's area, but Houthi controls almost two-thirds of the population density in these areas. Through our ob-servations in Yemen, we found a great variation in the security situa-tion from one region to another. We also noticed some problems that workers in the internal and security sector suffer from, most notably the salaries and facilities equipped with the checkpoints, in addition that the soldiers and conscripts do not have uniforms to dis-tinguish them from others, and makes it easier for them to carry out their tasks in the inspection.
We have decided to go to the Yemeni Minister of the Interior, Major General Ahmed al-Misri, with these questions. He welcomed our in-quiries and provided us with a full view of the security situation in the governorates of Yemen, stressing that things are not in the ideal situation, but certainly better than before. And that the security grip still exists but in varying degrees and according to the available re-sources Situations in the country are still under control to a large de-gree in all liberated provinces, but this does not prevent the exist-ence of terrorist hotspots and gangs and saboteurs, as in all coun-tries of the world. The minister indicated that there are tireless steps to reach the best, and here is the text of the dialogue:
Through our observations, we found out that the security situa-tions in Yemen are varied from one region to another. Tell us about the control of the security grip in liberated areas?
Things are not as what is published in the Western media, because they are quoted remotely without experiencing reality, so, they ex-aggerate a lot of events. The situation here is not what we aspire to, and we do not claim that it is in the ideal situation, but it is definitely better than before, because the state was completely destroyed, the interior bodies is now 92,000. The security grip is present, but in varying degrees and according to the available resources. The situa-tion in the country is very much controlled in all the liberated prov-inces, but this does not prevent the existence of terrorist hotspots, gangs and saboteurs, as in all countries of the world. If we talk about Aden we find that life is very normal, people are looking for stability, life and tranquility. Undoubtly, we face challenges and security problems we that inherited from the war, because the coup did not leave the ministry as it was; institutions of the state collapsed as a whole, and the army we see now is a new building built after the war, which consisted of the commanders and officers who refused to work with the coupists, and that was the start of Aden.
What was specifically the damage of the Interior Ministry?
The Ministry of the Interior consists of criminal investigation au-thorites, rescue, police, firefighters, passports and special security forces. It was the strongest pillar of the interior which consisted of various classes and rural structures, so that when the coup d'état happens, it is easy to deviate with. When the interior fell in Sana'a, there was the ministry's office which contained all the documents and files, the main database of the country. Actually, and all infor-mation side collapsed, and we became without a ministry. Then es-tablishment of the new ministry started from here, from Aden, led by former minister Hussein Mohammed Arab, and construction began from zero, and the data was stolen to be used.
These data was withdrawn from loyal officers in Sana'a, and we started establishing the ministry's bureau with a database, in coop-eration with the coalition forces supporting the legitimacy, and branches of the ministry in the other liberated governorates, such as Lahj, Abyan, Hadramout, Marib and Aden. We started with 35,000 soldiers and officers.
We noticed at the checkpoints in the different governorates that there is no distinquished uniform for the soldiers or officers of the Interior... Does not this create a crisis in dealing with the citi-zens?
This is one of the problems faced by the police. Uniform needed a huge budget. The state is still in the recovery phase, but there are laws that prohibts wearing old uniform, because you can find anyone wearing it. We are trying to manufacture it, because the former was manufactured in the capital Sana'a, and the alternative is to go to China, and this requires certain mechanisms to bring this quantity and the budget is large. Each group has a different color, for example the Coast Guard’s uniform is different from rescue and the Special Forces. But the inspection points are divided; those who exist are known at each point and which section they belong to, whether in-ternal, armed, or security.
What are the tasks of the security belt now?
The coalition established the so-called security belt to stabilize secu-rity, while the Inerior was attempting to recover, and can not carry out the functions of security alone, and consists of popular re-sistance, and members of the army, including educators, and the el-ders of mosques to raise awareness, doctors, and Salafis to address the chaos. Now we are trying to integrate the security belt in the Ministry of Interior.
The liberated areas suffer from other crises, such as sleepeing cells and terrorist bombings. What are your plans to face these problems?
The file of terrorism is rough and complex. I would like to point out that 100% percent of terrorist incidents can not be controlled. They are located in the most powerful and armed countries. As for sleeper cells, we have two bodies, which are concerned with the file of com-bating terrorism. We have a special unit with operational mission to combat terrorism, to join the National and Political Security and support them.
As for the file of tracking of terrorism, it depends on intelligence work, not raids or implementation, as this is a next stage. The basic mission is tracking the sleeping cells and monitoring their move-ments and this is the mission of National and Political Security.This information was lost after the war, and they can not perform their duites as they should be because of lack of fund. They were also un-der the control of Ali Abdullah Saleh, making it difficult to re-establish them. Furthermore, the file of terrorism is crisis-cross with the United States, Arab countries and regional parties. For ex-ample, Saudi Arabia is a key partner in Yemen's terrorist file because it is the most affected party. From what is happening in Yemen and from terrorist groups, there are long-distance borders between Yemen and Saudi Arabia are difficult to control, and the infiltration of individuals to Saudi Arabia continues.
Is it possible to cooperate with the forces of Ali Abdullah Saleh in this regard?
Cooperation took place after the death of Ali Abdullah Saleh, many of the officers of his former forces were loyal to legitimacy.
Do you have any information about the scenes of killing Saleh?
The mistake of Ali Abdullah Saleh was that he tried to play with the Houthis. He was killed in his house and not on the road as it was de-clared. Mediation between the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh was not with the goal of reconciliation, but to guide to his place; the me-diators are the ones who identified his place before his death. Then, they left all fronts and focused on his home and on Yemen's channel today, and hit it with tanks.
What is the size of al-Qaeda and the Da'ash organization in Yemen, especially Aden? Al-Qaeda has retreated in comparison with the above, in the form of sleeping cells in the cities which move upon request, and it is evident in far camps, such as the Hadramout and Shabwa outer parties. of course Daaesh is an entire Iranian industry, but al-Qaeda has a his-tory here in Yemen since the return of the Arab Mujahideen from Afghanistan. Yemen was one of the largest gathering centers of the Arab Mujahideen returning from Afghanistan from all countries, with the approval of the official Yemeni state, under the name of «Arab Mujahideen». They returned with jihadist ideology against The Rus-sians, and when the war ended with the Russians, they returned to different countries, and gathered in thousands in Yemen.
Then these groups began to attack countries from Sudan to Afghani-stan, they adopted the thought and approach of "Al Qaeda", and this was in the 1990s. The first terrorist incident in 1997 was the kidnap-ping of Spanish and British tourists in the province of Abyan, in which a person named Al-Oqar was accused and executed. They started to intervfere in the affairs of the state and accusments of disbeliefes. They were divided into several factions, and began to form leaders and princes, including explosives experts and killers. Then the crisis of "Al Qaeda" continued and was largly present in Abyan and Shabwa and then Lahg. They destroyed many people, and we lost many young people who were fighting with « Al-Qaeda". They then de-stroyed Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan, after they occupied it for a pe-riod of time, and until now the effects of al-Qaeda are strongly pre-sent in Abyan and Shabwa. I personally experienced an experiment with terrorism. My wife's father was blewn up by a suicide bomber in Ramadan in 2011, and my brother was killed in 2009 during an attack on my convoy. So, we had an incubator environment for “Qaeda” In Yemen.
What about the Brotherhood's role in Yemen in the post-war pe-riod so far?
The Brotherhood is present in the northern governorates, and their presence in the south is very limited. They represented 15% of the seats in the parliament, they are with the legitimacy, but their pres-ence now faded away and became less after they separated from former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who gave them great benefits; he had an impact on society and sheikhs and was directing them in elections. Therefore, he affected the popularity of the re-form party in the elections. And when the war of the coupists began, the Nasserites and part of the Baathists and the majority of the con-gregants and reform announced that they are with the legitimacy. We welcome any faction as long as it cooperate with us; Reformers are helping us front lines, they are in a number of ministries, and the Reform Party is an ambitious party, and we feel no danger on their part, nor on the Salafi side.
Why was the Brotherhood's importance weakened, and what was their role at the time of the Houthi attack?
They had mistakes, such as leading the events of the Arab Spring here, and stimulating the street, and this led to their clash with Ali Abdullah Saleh. So, they received the Houthis and opened tents for them in the battlefields to trigger Ali Abdullah Saleh.The Houthis were prevented from approaching the outskirts of Sana'a, Some of those involved in the Nahdeen mosque incident had ties with the reformist president at the time, Hamid al-Ahmar, and could not deny the charge, but all the evidence shows that they are direct stake-holders. There were disagreements between Ali Abdullah Saleh and Abed Rabbo Mansour; Saleh supported the Houthis to trigger Abed Rabbo, and the Reform party was Stimulating Abed Rabbo against Ali Abdullah Saleh. When the Houthis entered Sana'a, Reform party did not fight them, although the community relied heavily on them against the Houthis. So, we are not afraid of the brotherhood be-cause they do not have a strong weight.
As a member of the General People's Conference Party, what about the situation of this party, have’nt it arranged its papers yet?
The General People's Conference Party is the strongest party. It has the largest weight and is accepted by many public circles. It consists of 6 thousand Yemenis, including 1200 permanent committees and 38 general committees. We are prepared to have Ahmed Ali Abdul-lah Saleh as he is a good figure.
Prime Minister Ahmed Ben Daghe and I are members of the General Committee. We are now seeking to reunion the various parties, and try to prepare for the invitation of the permenant Committee to meet. After the war, the party will start a transitional stage led by President Abderbo Mansour Hadi. And it is re-formed in the provinc-es again from the center to the Directorate to the province, and then the total of the provinces. This is postponed until after the end of the war, because there are 13 members of the general committee in the party who are prisoners or are under home arrest by the Houthis. Among them is Yahya al-Ra'i, the secretary of parliament, and Sadik Amin Aboras who has been recently appointed as chairman of the party under pressures by Houthis, and we don’t acknowledge him, and Ahmad al-Nuweira, a member of parliament. They are all de-tained by Houthi's, as well as the headquarters of the conference, the Secretariat and its branches are under the control of the Houthis, and also members of the permenant Committee.
What is the future of the security situation in Yemen?
The current situation is unsatisfactory, especially in Aden, due to poor performance. We did not improve the administration in Aden, and there were defects in the leadership, and many forces try to control it, such as the southerners and Aydros. We find other areas where the situation is better such as Marib, which have evolved a lot.
Why did the distribution map of the UN relief organizations differ this year, then it became divided into north and south? What is your explanation for this, and does this indicate the division of Yemen?
The United Nations is dealing with reality. Reality tells that there are two capitals, Sana'a in the north and Aden in the south. It has to have two offices, because part of Yemen is Houthion and the other is legitimate. For example, the Red Cross has to deal with both sides. The real solution is war until the intervention of the forces of Sanaa.
This article is part of a series of articles on Yemen by Eman Hanna.Hanna has taken a 30-day trip to monitor the suffering of the people during the war