Salman Aldossary/Moscow is seeking a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula


Moscow is seeking a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula
Salman Aldossary/Asharq Al Awsat
Monday, 6 Apr, 2015

So Russia is concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen! Do not ask how and why this has suddenly happened. Russia seems to have a twinge of guilt perhaps and wants to atone for its previous mistakes against the Syrian people, hundreds of thousands of whom it has helped kill, also displacing millions. But Russia will not atone for its mistakes in Syria, as one expects it should; instead it will do this in Yemen in favor of the Houthis, the friends of its Iranian ally. After its biased intervention in Syria and Ukraine, Russia is this time directing its foreign policy towards the Arabian Peninsula via Yemen—sorry, I meant via the Houthi militia.

In politics, one cannot rely on good intentions. If we were to assume that Russia is concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen and that, as a major global power, it wants to contribute to global peace efforts there, then what prevented Moscow from communicating with Yemen’s ambassador to the United Nations? What would make Russia circumvent well-known diplomatic customs by submitting a draft resolution directly to the UN Security Council despite the fact that the Arab draft resolution on Yemen already tackles the humanitarian and political aspects—including the condemnation of the Houthi side for undermining the political process in the country and calling on them to abandon the insurgency and return to the political track. I wonder if Moscow went to the Iranian, and not the Yemeni, ambassador by mistake when it sought to coordinate the draft resolution.

The shrinking political role of the US has given Russia a chance to continue to surprise the world time and again. When they first emerge, Russia’s actions are deemed unacceptable by everyone, but soon they become acceptable and matter-of-fact as days go by. Otherwise, who would have believed that Russia could confront the whole world—except for Iran, that is—and support Bashar Al-Assad’s regime against the will of millions of Syrians? Who would have believed that Moscow could infiltrate the EU by occupying parts of Ukraine? And today Russia is slowly crawling toward securing a foothold in Yemen, first in the form of a strange letter Mr. Putin sent to the Arab League summit, in which he opposed foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Yemen, and second by proposing a draft resolution to the UN Security Council under the pretext of a “humanitarian policy.” Who knows, perhaps tomorrow Putin will supply the Houthis with Russian weapons, and for purely “humanitarian,” not political, reasons.

Russia’s awakening of conscience came to reduce pressure on its Iranian ally, whose confusion was apparent the moment Operation Decisive Storm began. The coalition that produced the anti-Houthi campaign is politically immune before it is militarily powerful, and the sins of Tehran in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon have exposed it in front of the whole world. Russia is no longer capable of boasting. This is not to mention the repercussions from the Syrian crisis on Gulf–Russian relations, which have prompted Moscow to act towards Yemen under a humanitarian cover. We should expect more such intervention attempts by Russia—reminiscent of the time when South Yemen was the pampered child of the former Soviet Union—so it can find an opening somewhere in the underbelly of the Gulf.

Moscow—whose humanitarian sense has been upped all of a sudden—is afraid that another Operation Decisive Storm will follow in the future in Syria, or somewhere else, once the Gulf-allied coalition achieves all of its objectives in Yemen. This is something which Moscow sees damaging to its interests in the region. Therefore, it is not unlikely that we will witness more gradual moves by Moscow in a bid to secure a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula via the Yemeni crisis.