Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
Last Thursday, I was invited to attend a public affairs briefing in Washington. The topic under discussion was “Yemen in Chaos: Analysis, prognosis and prospect.” The National Council on US- Arab Relations organized the event. Nowadays, you cannot discuss Yemen without making a mention of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Iran and the United States. The briefing moderator and facilitator was Dr. John Duke Anthony. During the briefing, we heard remarks from two US political and military analysts and two media analysts from Yemen. And finally, there was a Saudi political figure to present the Saudi stance to the world. He spoke softly but presented hard facts and analysis. The soft-spoken Saudi was the Saudi Ambassador to Washington, Adel Al-Jubeir. The briefing room was full of many people from different countries representing various fields of interest but mainly from the American press. All of the speakers and moderators gave very insightful analyses of the chaos in Yemen. But like all across the world, everybody in the room wanted to hear the Saudi version on the ongoing Yemeni conflict. Saudi Arabia has always been the most important strategic partner of Yemen. Millions of Yemenis are living and working in the Kingdom and an equal number regularly travel to Saudi Arabia. And during the past few decades, Saudi Arabia has emerged as the number one provider of financial and logistical aid to Yemen. Yemen’s stability and prosperity matters a lot to Saudi Arabia. Both countries share hundreds of kilometers of common borders and the relation between the people of the two countries are based on mutual respect. This is why the world is so keen on getting to know Saudi Arabia’s views on the Yemeni situation at a time when the world is watching a coalition force led by Saudi Arabia attacking selected targets that are controlled by the Houthis who are trying to drag the country into a civil war. Saudi Arabia had no other choice but to militarily intervene in Yemen to prevent further turmoil in the impoverished country. During the briefing, which was televised by various US media outlets, it was very important to explain and clarify many of the events that were taking place in Yemen. I had met Al-Jubeir during social events but never got the chance to speak with him. But one thing is for sure that he is a voice to be heard. During the briefing, he answered many questions with precise details in a very soft and confident tone. The questions did not only focus on Yemen but also focused on many countries and issues. Ironically, the most important topic that came up during the session concerned the Iranian nuclear talks. It was only during the event that we learned that Iran had agreed to a preliminary nuclear deal. Al-Jubeir in the briefing made clear to the audience that the strikes on selected targets in Yemen were not something the Saudis wanted to do. But, the situation in Yemen had reached a point of no return and that Yemen was on the verge of collapse. A small group of Houthis was trying to hold Yemen and its people hostage to their whims and wishes. They had overthrown a legitimate government and were taking over government establishment and military bases using heavy weapons including long-range missiles and anti-aircraft weapons. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries had left no stone unturned to find a just and peaceful political solution to the problems in Yemen but to no avail. The Houthis started taking over one city after other and it had become clear that Yemen was on the verge of disintegration. The Saudi ambassador spoke softly but made the audience aware of the facts surrounding the latest developments in Yemen. The ambassador laid emphasis on the fact that Saudi Arabia is a country that wishes a better life for the Yemenis and more stable and secure future governments. Saudi Arabia has made tremendous efforts to build Yemen and help the Yemenis. But at the end of the day, it is the duty of the Yemenis to bring peace and prosperity to their country. Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. A Voice To Be Heard reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.