The possibility of a peace agreement between Yemen’s warring factions has sparked optimism. After years of conflict, which has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands and left millions facing starvation, talks are underway to find a political resolution to one of the worst conflicts since World War II. The conflict has pitted a Saudi and UAE-led coalition, backed by the West, against Houthi forces supported by Iran. Now, the two sides are engaging in dialogue, raising hopes that peace may be on the horizon.
The question remains: what would a settlement mean for the region? To explore this topic, Folly Bah Thibault hosts a panel discussion with three experts: Ibrahim Fraihat, Afrah Nasser, and Trita Parsi.
Ibrahim Fraihat is an associate professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies and author of the book Iran and Saudi Arabia: Taming the Chaotic Conflict. He believes that the current talks are a positive development, but warns that there are still many obstacles to overcome. He notes that the conflict in Yemen is not just a local issue, but rather a regional one that involves many players. Therefore, any peace agreement must involve all parties and address their concerns.
Afrah Nasser is a non-resident fellow at the Arab Center Washington DC and former Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch. She emphasizes the importance of including civil society in the peace process. Nasser argues that the voices of ordinary Yemenis must be heard and that their rights must be protected in any settlement. She also notes that women have been disproportionately affected by the conflict and must be included in the peace talks.
Trita Parsi is the executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and a specialist in Iranian foreign policy. He believes that Iran has a significant role to play in resolving the conflict in Yemen. Parsi argues that Iran has been demonized by the West and that its involvement in Yemen has been exaggerated. He notes that Iran has supported the Houthis, but that this support has been limited and does not make them the primary cause of the conflict. Parsi believes that Iran can be a constructive player in the peace process and that its concerns must be addressed in any settlement.
The panelists agree that a political solution is the only way to end the conflict in Yemen. However, they also acknowledge that there are significant challenges to achieving this goal. One of the main obstacles is the lack of trust between the two sides. The conflict has been going on for so long that there is a deep-seated mistrust between the parties. This makes it difficult to find common ground and reach a compromise.
Another challenge is the involvement of external actors. The conflict in Yemen has become a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with both sides supporting their respective allies. This has complicated the situation and made it more difficult to find a resolution. The panelists agree that all external actors must be involved in the peace process and that their concerns must be addressed.
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is also a major concern. Millions of people are facing starvation, and the country’s infrastructure has been destroyed by years of war. The panelists agree that any peace agreement must address this crisis and provide for the needs of the Yemeni people.
In conclusion, the panelists are cautiously optimistic about the prospects for peace in Yemen. They believe that the current talks are a positive development, but acknowledge that there are significant challenges to overcome. They emphasize the importance of including all parties in the peace process, addressing the concerns of external actors, and protecting the rights of ordinary Yemenis. If these challenges can be overcome, there is hope that a political solution can be found to end one of the worst conflicts since World War II.