The UN Security Council had no choice but to salute, on Wednesday, May 15, a fragile peace effort in Yemen, noting the withdrawal of the Houthi rebels from the port of Hodeida. This withdrawal, the key to the process launched by the UN in December 2018 in Stockholm, was stuck in impossible mechanisms of agreement between rebels and pro-government forces, which the Houthists finally decided on their own.
“These beginnings must be protected from the threat of war,” said UN special envoy Martin Griffiths during the consultations.
He lamented that the rebels, allied with Iran, led at the same time, May 14, drone strikes against oil facilities located far from the border, in Saudi territory. “We can not ignore that these developments are affecting the political process,” he warned. His fear is that the Yemeni conflict, which began in March 2015, will be reactivated by regional rivalries.
It is plausible that Iran has helped the rebels to acquire these long-range drones, US envoy to the UN Jonathan Cohen said on Wednesday, citing a recent United Nations-mandated expert report. Through these strikes, whose damage remains poorly evaluated, the Houthis have shown their capacity to harm Riyadh and Washington.
They are thus part of an escalation of tensions, as the UnitedStates accentuate their policy of “maximum pressure” on Tehran, and warn its regional allies against any slippage.
However, in Hodeida, “it is important for the rebels not to appear as the spoilers of the Yemeni political process,” says Peter Salisbury, an expert at the International Crisis Group. UN observers have found that they have removed most of their forces from this port, the first in the country, as well as the secondary port of Salif and the oil terminal Rass Issa neighbors.
The Yemeni government emphasizes that rebel fighters have been able to put on the uniform of the local coastguards who are currently deploying. The Houthis also keep control of the city, where they had five months to strengthen their positions, a stone’s throw from the landing stages.