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The Intercept (Audio of discussion at the link) - April 9, 2022

THE YEMEN CEASE-FIRE, which took effect last week, is the first serious truce between the country’s warring parties in six years. The factions in Yemen agreed to a two-month truce proposed by the United Nations. And on Thursday, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Yemen’s exiled president, said he would transfer power to an eight-member presidential council, suggesting progress in ending the war. All of this comes on the heels of a new Yemen War Powers Resolution — announced by Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. — to end U.S. involvement in the war. Hassan El-Tayyab, the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s legislative director for Middle East policy, joins Ryan Grim to discuss the cease-fire, efforts to end the war in Yemen, factors at play, and the likelihood of finally seeing an end to the war and humanitarian crisis in the country.

[Deconstructed theme music.]

Ryan Grim: Last week, the Saudi-led coalition waging war in Yemen agreed to a two-month ceasefire with the Houthis. It’s the most significant breakthrough in seven years of war.

Newscaster: A two-month truce has been agreed by warring parties in the country. It’s the first nationwide truce agreed since 2016 in a war which has killed nearly 400,000 people.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres: This truce must be a first step to ending Yemen’s devastating war.

RG: Hassan El-Tayyab has been lobbying Congress to end it for years. Hassan joins us now.

Hassan El-Tayyab, welcome to Deconstructed.

Hassan El-Tayyab: Thanks for having me on.

RG: So Hassan is the legislative director for Middle East affairs for the Friends Committee On National Legislation. Did I get that right?

HET: That’s right.

RG: All right, nothing to it — which is a kind of Quaker anti-war organization that has been working on the Yemen war since the Yemen war has existed.

And so, you and I ran into each other at an event in Washington on April 1. You came up to me and said: What incredible news about the ceasefire in Yemen! I had been offline for the last hour or two, and I thought you were pulling the cruelest April Fool’s joke that had ever been leveled.

HET: [Chuckles.]

RG: But it turns out that no, there actually had been, out of the blue — not out of the blue, but there was not a lot of hope that this was headed in the right direction — yet, the various parties got together and have agreed to this two month ceasefire that has people now genuinely hopeful that this ceasefire could result in a long-term end to this conflict.

So what brought this about?

HET: Well, thank you so much for having me on.

And, yeah, there’s a lot of exciting news happening in Yemen. And I don’t want to overstate it. It’s obviously a fragile truce. The U.N. brokered this to be a two-month ceasefire for the months of Ramadan here, and I’m really hopeful that it will happen.

The basic framework is that there would be a cessation of hostilities and military operations, and an end to cross-border attacks. There would also be a lifting of some restrictions on ports of entry, and allowing fuel ships finally to get into the ports of entry, and also to open up Sana’a Airport for two flights per week.

So far, we’ve seen only about one ship approved to get through, and that’s been offloaded. There’s another one in the holding area. And we’re hopeful that that will enter the forts of Al-Hudaydah. And we haven’t seen any flights out of Sana’a yet. So we’re still monitoring this very closely. There have been some escalations, there has been some breakdown in Marib, but for the most part it has held and people are cautiously optimistic.

I’ll also announce that there was another shake-up here that people might have seen in the news recently. President Hadi announced this week that he was transferring the power of the presidency to an eight-man presidential council, effectively ending his term in office. And this is probably one of the most significant things that we’ve seen of late and the leadership shakeup is an attempt to try to, I think, find unity within the anti-Houthi coalition, including the al-Islah party, Southern Transitional Council, the folks that are opposing the Houthi advance. And they’ve also collapsed into infighting and a lot of people are thinking that this could break down. It’s really unclear if these folks can actually get along. But I think they are attempting to have this anti-Houthi alliance.

So, it’s really unclear what’s going to happen going forward. I do think that it’s worth mentioning that Sen. Sanders and Reps. Jayapal, DeFazio, and Khanna have announced their intention of introducing a new Yemen War Powers Resolution —

RG: Mhmm.

HET: — if we don’t see an end to the war or blockade. And it’s just interesting timing that this truce announcement happened on the heels of that announcement of Congress wanting to reassert its Article 1 war powers and terminate ongoing U.S. participation in the war. So that’s obviously pushing things in the right direction.

But obviously there’s a lot of factors. The Houthis have advanced their capabilities to attack targets inside the UAE and Saudi. You’ve also got the wheat shortage. So there’s a lot of factors.

RG: I’m gonna get to all of those in a second. But do you think that the announcement of the War Powers Resolution that progressives — or not just progressives, but some of the other anti-war elements on the right as well in Congress — are gonna push to really put that type of pressure on the situation? Do you think that that played a role in the negotiations toward the truce?

HET: It’s really hard to know. I certainly don’t think it could have hurt at all. And I think that kind of pressure is going to incentivize the Saudi-led coalition, and Saudi Arabia in particular, to stay at the negotiating table. Because if the U.S. makes clear that we won’t support in any way a resumption of U.S. participation in the Saudi air war, that might be one way to hold them to this truce, and incentivize further negotiations, and hopefully bring an end to this war once and for all, beyond the two-month truce. ...
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