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Regional Security and Armed Groups

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States —    Panel: Regional Security and Armed Groups

Organizer: National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations 

Moderator: Dr. John Duke Anthony, Founder, and CEO of NCUSAR Panelists:  Abdulrahman Al-Eryani- International Development Consultant Giorgio Cafiero- Founder and CEO of Gulf State Analytics David B. Des Roches- Associate professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University   In this panel, Dr. Anthony commenced the discussion by highlighting the essence of the economic and intra-regional components in establishing security to achieve stability and, thus, foster investments and relationships.  On the economic component, Abdulrahman Al-Eryani, who formerly served as an Economic Advisor to the Embassy of Yemen in the U.S., defined Yemen as a plural state, where groups and tribes yield influence over the government, which poses dialogue as the only way to move forward. As a result, al-Eryani sees that it is vital for the PLC to invest in promoting stability factors and use this time to provide essential services in areas they control to give a consensus for all Yemenis on what democracy could contend with the population. He added that there is room for the regional countries and allies to provide the Yemeni government with adequate resources to extend that to their people.    David Des Roches, Associate professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, spoke on the developments in warfare that will impact Yemen and its future. Des Roches elaborated on the elements of a proxy war with Iran and stated 
  1. Iran did not create the situation or the Houthis; they are different from militias in Iraq, but they are capitalizing on it. 
  2. Iran does not seek to control everything; however, they seek to disrupt what would be dominant because it is cheaper and more accessible. 
  3. Iran operates through proxy attacks, disrupting shipping and commerce to impose costs on their adversary. They also take hostages; the Yemeni population is held hostage by Iran. 
Des Roches elaborated on the Houthis’ military power by ballistic missiles rather than conventional aircraft and the primary ballistic missiles being used by Houthis now. Furthermore, he stated that the Houthis claim they are building their missiles. However, Yemenis know their industrial and manufacturing capabilities and cannot produce such weapons. Finally, on developments in warfare, he stated that the efforts to dislodge the Houthis have failed because the steps to replace them on the ground have not been wholehearted, contending that motivated soldiery is the best strategy and controlling land from the air, although great for selling bombs, it is not sustainable in the long run.    Giorgio Cafiero, CEO of Gulf State Analytics, elaborated on the role of Oman in Yemen as a regional partner and ally that has maintained its neutrality throughout the conflict, which created a concern about this crisis in Yemen potentially spilling into Oman. Furthermore, he said that the Saudis have come to see the benefit of working with Oman concerning Yemen. In Oman’s mediator role, Cafiero stated that Oman would continue to invest in diplomatic energy to facilitate talks. Since 2015 Oman has hosted different sides of the conflict for negotiations, including the Russians and Iranians, they also facilitated all peace talks in Sweden and Switzerland. Furthermore, Cafiero said that Oman supports the extension of the truce, allowing time to solve more complicated issues. Finally, Cafiero affirmed Oman’s interest in a united Yemen with respected territorial integrity.    Dr. Anthony remarked on the UN resolution 2116, whose implementation has been impractical and unrealistic because it calls for dismantling weapons, which the Houthis have not followed through with and have continued to increase their power. Anthony recounted that Oman is at the forefront of favoring engagement in dialogue to a greater degree than the other significant players in the region, which do not want to engage with the Houthis because they consider their ideology and the geopolitical, geostrategic, and militant threat that Iran represents unacceptable. Dr. Anthony posed the question of whether it is still realistic to dismantle the Houthis and engage all parties in the process, considering the fundamental strategic division in disagreement.   Al-Eryani responded that despite the difficulty of having a comprehensive economic program with the ongoing security issue. He noted Yemen’s unique social capital, including the diaspora, suggesting that Yemen has the most vibrant civil society sector in the region that could undertake a role to fill the gap where the government organizes recovery efforts in areas ready to receive economic assistance. He also mentioned that the NDC’s decentralization approach to stability might not be a plausible solution due to the distrust and changing power dynamics between the factions, which could result in more geographic fragmentation. Al-Eryani iterated that a safe environment for Yemenis with essential services is of utmost importance and requires a local central government that takes responsibility and full ownership of its facilitation. He concluded that despite the situation’s fragility, recovery and stabilization programs are attainable and should be promoted by everyone regardless of political affiliation.     Des Roches followed up with a security standpoint. He stated that a group that acquires more power, wealth, and territory than any democratic process would give them is less likely to participate in engagement, especially considering that Ansar Allah continues to define itself within the axis of resistance, an Iranian-generated concept. He predicted that the longer the conflict goes on and with the ongoing Iranian support, the cleavage between the ruling elite and the general population will inflate, which could include members of Houthis and the population held hostage by the Houthi regime, making it harder to dislodge them. Des Roches conveyed that a confrontational engagement where areas of control are defined, and movement in between is limited is necessary. However, he depicted that the proliferation of weapons complicates the situation. Finally, Des Roches pondered whether there is a power able to step up to the plate and take on those refusing to take the route to peace because until that occurs, Houthis will not surrender.    The Washington Center for Yemeni Studies launched the WCYS 1st Annual Conference 2022 – Yemen Under the Scope in Washington, D.C., on September 29th. Since then, Yemeni-led in-depth conversations have brought together various political, economic, and civil society actors by offering an inclusive platform for diverse voices in Yemeni affairs to share insights and advance solutions for overarching issues and struggles in ending the crisis.   -Regional Security and Armed Groups- Panel organized by National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations at the 1st WCYS Annual Conference 2022 – Yemen Under the Scope.

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