Yemen’s ex president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, announced on Sunday that the new governing council is ready to grant Russia access to military bases.
Last week Saleh announced a new governing council. Saleh’s party (GPC) along with Houthi forces currently control most of Yemen’s northern half. This announcement was made despite UN disapproval. An airstrike offensive from the Saudi-led coalition– loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi– quickly followed as an effort to retake control of land that has been under Houthi control since 2014.
Ex President Saleh, who still holds significant political power in Yemen, has now announced that his coalition is open to granting the Russian military access to army and naval bases in order to help fight “terrorism”. Indeed, ISIS and al-Qaeda have gained some footing in the country by taking advantage of the chaotic civil war which has created a power vacuum.
But Saleh also needs help fighting terrorism from the Saudi-led coalition as they aggressively attempt to prop up the Hadi government. Experts suggest that the Hadi government isn’t legitimate. Claiming Hadi is simply a Saudi puppet used to control Yemen and fight a proxy war with Iran via Houthi forces. Saudi Arabia claims they are defending their own national security against Iran; claiming Iran is directly influencing Yemen’s internal affairs. Saleh maintains that while Iran is a “brotherly country,” they are not currently involved in any kind of coalition or agreement.
The Saudi-coalition has also come under fire from rights groups for targeting hospitals and civilian populations. Doctors Without Borders removed doctors from their six Yemen hospitals due to the Saudi-coalition’s indiscriminate bombing campaign. The humanitarian crisis is so dire that even the United States is attempting to distance itself from its ally’s actions in the country. Washington recently pulled its planning team out of Saudi Arabia and moved it to Bahrain. The United States, however, provided significant military equipment and assistance to the Saudi-coalition back in April.
Russia has not yet responded as to whether or not they will take Saleh up on the offer. But as of Sunday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced that Russia’s alliance in Yemen is consistent with the UN; claiming Hadi is infact the legitimate government in Yemen. Back in 2015 however, Russia abstained from a security council resolution that imposed an arms embargo on the Houthis. Russia has also backed the current UN-brokered peace talks as a route to peace in Yemen.
This offer from Saleh could be a shrewd move to put pressure on the United States to back-off from supporting the Saudi-led coalition. Whether Russia accepts the offer or not, the United States knows Saleh and the Houthis are ready to cooperate with Russia if need be. And since Washington has already started distancing themselves from the Saudi-coalition, it might be working– at least for now.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of Yemeni citizens rallied in Sanaa to show support for the Houthi-led coalition. Yemen has been in chaos since the 2011 revolution. The civil war has been going on for 16 months. Over 6,500 people have died, civilians starve as they have little access to food or basic services, Yemen is reportedly the Arab World’s poorest country.
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