The Yemen Talks in Riyadh: Has The Persian Miniature In Sana'a Come To An End Before It Has Even Been Completed?
24 March 2015
By Mshari Al-Zaydi
Iran has knocked on Sana'a's door, and Riyadh has answered.
The Houthi militia, also known as Ansar Allah, in January grabbed the reins
of power in Yemen after placing President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Prime
Minister Khaled Bahah, and Minister of Defense Gen. Mahmoud Al-Subaihi under
house arrest, a move that led to a dangerous political impasse in Yemen.
But President Hadi succeeded in escaping his prisoners and headed to Aden, a
feat that was repeated by his defense minister, who was successfully able to
dupe his Houthi captors during the initial period of his incarceration,
making them believe he was on their side.
Legitimacy has now moved from Sana'a to Aden, where Hadi has resumed his
presidential powers, directing a painful blow to the Houthis and Khomeini's
Iran in one fell swoop.
Now it is the Houthis, and their hidden backers, former president Ali
Abdullah Saleh and his General People's Congress (GPC) party, who are
besieged, as the legitimacy is now once again firmly back in the hands of
President Hadi, who also enjoys the backing of the international community.
Last week President Hadi thanked the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Saudi
King Salman Bin Abdulaziz for his support, and asked Gulf states to sponsor
talks on the crisis in Yemen in the Saudi capital Riyadh. In what can only be
described as a master stroke, Riyadh approved the call after consulting with
the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Iran is a master of the posturing and chest-puffing game. One such example of
Tehran's muscle-flexing routines are the recent remarks the Iranian news
agency ISNA attributed to President Hassan Rouhani's Special Adviser for
Religious and Ethnic Minorities' Affairs Ali Younesi, who said that ''Iran
today has become an empire as it was throughout history, and its capital now
is Baghdad in Iraq.''
It seems Iran suffers from an almost incurable disease whose symptoms are
animosity combined with a kind of ecstatic political and nationalist fervor.
In the 2009 book, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower,
author and former CIA operative Robert Baer writes that former president
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani previously said in an interview that the mullahs in
Tehran were fully aware of the massive duty they had to return the days of
Iran's habit of reminiscing about its imperial past was at the crux of state
propaganda under the Shah. It was understandable then, given the earthly
nature of the rule of the Shah, but how does this pride, regarded in Islamist
literature as redolent of the Jahiliya, or the ''age of ignorance'' that
preceded Islam, sit with Tehran's claims of its seeking the unity of all
Muslims while at the same time appointing a Supreme Guide as the father
figure of this new Islamic polity?
Is this fundamentalist chatter a mere cover for an ancient imperial dream?
This is not my own conclusion, but rather that of Iranians who themselves
oppose the rule of mullahs. In his The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within
Islam Will Shape the Future, Iranian–American academic Vali Nasr encourages
the US to bet on Shi'ites against Sunnis. The book received numerous plaudits
from US elites, and although he refers to himself as a liberal, Nasr argues
that the Islamic Revolution and its associated concept of the velayat-e faqih
(rule by a supreme Islamic jurist) forms both the galvanizing force and the
bedrock of this revival.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is currently in a coma and seems to be
completely out of touch with the highly polarized sensitivities in the
region—either out of ignorance or neglect. It is determined that openness to
Khomeinist Iran is the only solution despite resistance from the Republicans.
Recently, US Republican Senator and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described
Iran as a troublemaker in the Middle East, giving special mention to its role
in the Syrian conflict.
So, has the Persian miniature in Sana'a come to an end before it has even
The talks in Riyadh will tell.
A Saudi journalist
and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism as well as Saudi
affairs. Mshari is Asharq Al-Awsat's opinion page Editor, where he also
contributes a weekly column. Has worked for the local Saudi press occupying
several posts at Al -Madina newspaper amongst others. He has been a guest on
numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic.