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Why A Battle For Hodeidah Is Necessary

Al-Arab, London, November 7

The battle for the rebel-held city of Hodeidah in western Yemen is particularly important for several reasons. Chief among them is the fact that Hodeidah is a port city overlooking the Red Sea, which provides the Houthi rebels with all the resources they need to sustain themselves over the long run. This explains why the rebels have put their weight into this battle, in which they’ve been engaged since last May. In the last few couple of days, significant progress towards liberating the city has been achieved. However, this wasn’t enough to facilitate a political transition of power, and the UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffith, called for a new round of negotiations between the Yemeni forces in less than a month. It is no secret that Griffith is receiving American and British support in his efforts to hold a new round of talks. It is not yet clear which parties will participate in his dialogue. Will it be limited to one group representing “the government” and another representing the Houthis, while the multitude of other factions that are part of Yemeni society will simply be disregarded? What should be noted on the sidelines of the fighting and the terrible humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Hodeidah is that the forces currently controlling the city, the Houthis, are ultimately nothing more than an Iranian tool used to destabilize the Arab Gulf. If this grace period of one month given to the Houthis by the UN does not suffice to resolve the conflict over Hodeidah, then the solution would have to shift to the use of force. Griffith, who does not seem to know much about Yemen and the Houthis, has already spoken out against this option. However, Griffith, together with his proponents, might soon run out of alternatives. The next 30 days are going to be crucial. They are a true crossroads for Yemen. The possibility of a “Houthi emirate” in Sana’a and its surroundings leading to Hodeidah will become very eminent unless real action is taken on the ground. On the other hand, the removal of the Houthis from Sana’a will not be enough, since they are embedded in Yemeni society and live in other parts of the country as well. We can only hope that Griffith’s endeavor will be successful, but we must be prepared in case it fails. Hodeidah will have to be liberated one way or another. Let’s hope that this is achieved through diplomacy and not through more bloodshed. –Kheir Allah Kheir Allah

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