Currently, Yemen is witnessing a major collapse as a result of failed negotiations, militant groups, separatists, and intervention by nations with their own strategic interests. It desperately needs stability and unity between the different political groups for the sake of its peoples’ well being and the future of the nation.
It is important to note that the crisis currently features various groups participating in some form or fashion. While the conflict is complicated with these factions and political ideologies, the main two forces at hand are the Yemeni government headed by President Hadi (backed by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni state allies) and the Zaidi Houthi rebels (supported primarily by Iran). Yemen has essentially turned into another proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
While it could take some time before a compromise is made between the competing factions, or even before a ceasefire is set in place, the international community needs to learn from its past mistakes just a few years prior. It cannot simply set up a framework and expect a naturally occurring peace in such a fragile region. Yemen requires a supporting community and a strong mediator.
Oman would be the ideal country in this instance.
Oman has been somewhat of a neutral party in relation to the Saudi-Iranian rivalry, but a quietly active member in Gulf politics. Oman, being a member of the GCC, holds close relations with other Sunni Gulf states, especially with Saudi Arabia in terms of economic ties. The Sultanate has held a warm neighborly relationship with Iran for decades, in contrast to other Gulf nations.
Oman has had the luxury of holding ties with both Saudi Arabia and Iran in times of crisis, notably during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. While keeping from siding with one nation over the other, Oman has been able to bring together these two for talks on this war and other regional issues while strongly supporting cease fires and peace resolutions.
It also holds a unique status as being ruled by neither a Sunni or Shia dominated government, but an Ibadhi one, making the government more adept to work between the two forces. It’s branch of Islam has provided Oman with some fluidity in regards to maintaining relations between the Sunni and Shia states.
The country has also served as a reliable mediator between America and Iran. Although, Oman has remained low-key and subtle with mediation. Oman has acted as a mutual ally in contrast to directly controlling the discussions or broadcasting its involvement. The Omani government had hosted the two aforementioned nations in previous years in the Omani capital city Muscat, and has taken a minor yet important role with the current negotiations in Geneva. The government has learned how to maneuver from conflict to conflict while maintaining ties and productively engaging between different nations.
The task now for Oman is to work between Saudi Arabia and Iran as well as the groups within Yemen to bring all groups together to work out a solution. Any discussion on the future of Yemen will require the willingness of the Houthis to come to the table and make compromises with factions it sees as illegitimate.
A comprehensive and inclusive peace plan for Yemen and its people would benefit from having Oman playing a strong yet quiet role. Following its tradition of acting as a mediator between nations, it would be expected for Oman to take on a significant albeit invisible role in the peace process. This comes out of a desire for regional stability, interests, and maintaining tied between its allies while strategically diverting from negative attention.
Photo Credit: Travels Into Oman WordPress