Ambassador Mohammed Al-Hadhrami’s Remarks at the Washington Center for Yemeni Studies (WCYS) event DC

Ambassador Mohammed Al-Hadhrami’s Remarks at the Washington Center for Yemeni Studies (WCYS) event DC

September 29, 2022

Distinguished Guests, Ladies, and Gentlemen,

Good morning, to you all. It gives me great pleasure to be with you here today in the 1st annual conference about Yemen organized by the Washington Center for Yemeni Studies in collaboration with the Middle East Institute, the National Council on US-Arab Relations and the Gulf International Forum.

I thank all the organizers for having us all here today and I am glad to see so many familiar faces here in Washington. And I am delighted to meet new ones as well…

After eight years of war due to the Houthis’ coup, Yemen needs all the help it can get. And I hope that our discussions and deliberations here today will shed light on how we can collectively assist in finding a path to end this protracted war once and for all.

Yemen is a beautiful country, and I am sure those of you who had a chance to visit, it would attest to this fact. It has rich history, diverse and beautiful scenery, and hospitable and welcoming people. And not to mention the great food… Indeed, Yemenis deserve much better than what they are facing today.

For more than eight years, Yemen has been engulfed in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and is facing one of the toughest challenges in its contemporary history. Its economy is on the brink of collapse, and more and more Yemenis face not only economic hardships and food shortages everyday but also a brutal campaign threatening our social cohesion as one nation. I know all of us here agree that this war must end…and that a just and a sustainable peace in Yemen should be a priority for the international community as well as for US policy makers. And I am happy that we have a chance for all of us to demonstrate that today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If we look at the current situation in Yemen, we realize that things need to change if we are to achieve peace. And if we look and examine closely the facts on the ground throughout the years of the conflict, we also realize that if we keep doing what we are doing since the beginning of the war… this war will never end! It will drag on and on and many millions of Yemenis will suffer the consequences.

One may ask (and I was even asked this question when I was a deputy chief of mission here in the US back in 2018): “with all the help of the Saudi led coalition and the support of the international community including the most powerful nations, why have we – the Yemeni government – NOT been able to end this war? Why haven’t we been able to force a group (as radical and as hated as the Houthis are), accept any peace?  And the answer is two folds:

1) We in the legitimate government and the coalition have not been able to unite as one in the face of this menace before April 2022. And 2), the Houthis, with Iran’s influence, were and still are not ready for peace – at least not yet.

Since the coup in Sep 2014 onwards, the infightings within the factions of the government on the one hand, and the continuous support of Iran to the Houthis on the other, have both made it possible for the Houthis not only to consolidate their grip over the capital of Yemen but also to expand to other areas.

So, how can we then end the war? And what needs to change to achieve that objective?

I wish I have simple answers for you; but exploring the following main factors will help light the way:

First: The Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) needs to be supported so that it can work as one. For the first time since the coup in 2014, all the factions within the government are under one leadership. And maintaining this unity, in my opinion, is the best chance we got to end the war.

The PLC has a tremendous responsibility, and no one expected its task to be an easy one to begin with.

His Excellency President Rashad Al-Alimi has affirmed that the Council is committed to working as one. Yes, there are challenges, but they all agree in the need to have a unity of purpose and that ending the coup and reinstating state institutions are its main objectives.

However, the PLC needs more support militarily, politically, and economically.

I say militarily because even though we believe there is no viable military solution to end the war, we know for a fact that peace won’t happen without military pressure. Peace will not happen without having a plan B, especially when the Houthis keep thwarting all peace efforts as they are still doing right now.

Political support for the PLC, at this juncture, would mean returning to Aden the temporary capital, and opening new embassies in Aden, especially by the coalition and our friends and allies. The Houthis need to realize that Aden will get stronger and stronger before they would vouch for peace.

And economically, is by fulfilling the pledge of 3+ billion USD promised in April 2022 by our brothers in the coalition. We thank the coalition for all the support thus far, we would not have made it so far without their help, but we need to show the Houthis that what’s to come is different than what had been in the past. This is the way. This is the only way if we are to see an end to this war.

Second: The truce alone won’t end the war. Even though de-escalation is a good thing, unfortunately, a truce respected and observed by only the government won’t produce a viable peace. The government accepted the truce 6 months ago to alleviate the suffering of Yemenis and to try to force the Houthis to talk peace. However, after two extensions, we realized that only the government of Yemen is fulfilling its obligations and not the Houthis… only the government is making more concessions, not the Houthis.

The goal should not only be to extend a truce; it should rather be to use it as means to achieve a just and a sustainable peace. It is for a peace in which a viable democratic platform can be created and upon which all Yemenis can freely choose their rulers and engage in genuine civic discourse to form a new social contract where all Yemenis have equal rights and responsibilities.

We support the extension of the truce but not just any truce. And not with new conditions set by the Houthis. We support a truce that delivers to all Yemenis and that requires the Houthis to totally fulfil their obligations. Unfortunately, they are not.

We have opened Sanaa Airport for commercial flights. This has been the government’s view for years; the Houthis now insist on using their illegitimate passports (which will compromise the integrity of all Yemeni passports). We have presented so many options to make it easier for our people in Sanaa to leave with travel documents until they reach their destinations, and then to get free new passports from there – such as from our embassy in Jordan or at other locations travelled. The Houthis refused.

In Hodeida, we have allowed oil and gas ships to enter unchecked and the Houthis never paid a penny for salaries despite all the revenues they collected. Furthermore, they insist on not allowing the government to check the ships documentations and threaten merchants if they decide to comply…

With the truce now, we have no ability to check whether these ships contain Iranian oil. The Houthis have received free Iranian oil shipments in the past as documented by the UN. And all we are asking is to check the documentations. Is this too much to ask?

In Taiz: This poor governorate has been under siege since the beginning of the war and the Houthis have repeatedly refused to set it free. The UN envoy in a few months have presented more than three proposals to open Taiz roads and the Houthis rejected them all… The Taiz roads issue must be dealt with like the FSO Safer oil tanker issue was addressed!

For years, the Houthis have hijacked the FSO Safer issue and used it as a bargaining chip in the peace process negotiations. Thankfully, this issue was detached from the other issues after we formally asked for that in the Security Council Safer session in July 2020. And now with funding from the Netherlands, USA, KSA, Germany, the UK and others, $75 million USD was pledged for the emergency phase. We now hope that the UN would start its plan as soon as possible to avert a catastrophe.

Third: The Houthis war in Yemen should be viewed as part of the Iranian expansionist project in the region. The Houthis and their backers in Iran need to see strong messages from the international community and from the US government and Congress – especially about their destabilizing behaviour in the region and in Yemen in particular. Make no mistake, without the help and support of the Iranian regime and Hezbollah with weapons and expertise, the Houthis wouldn’t have been able to do what they are doing right now.

Finally, we appreciate the level of support we are getting from the US administration and the support to the PLC expressed by both President Biden and Secretary Blinken. And we value the great work and efforts made by the US envoy and our friend Mr. Tim Lenderking. And I hope that a stronger stance from Congress could be shown to expose Iran’s malign activities in Yemen and that it be linked to any possible deal with Iran in the future.

The Yemeni conflict can be solved. Yes, it is complex and is getting more so as time passes by. But the more that we wait the more costly the solution gets. And without a holistic approach to deal with this conflict from all the main factors as I mentioned before, the Yemeni conflict will prolong, and Yemenis won’t be able to find a solution.

I wish our deliberations here today success. And I hope this conference will enable us to find ways for pursuing a just and sustainable solution to the conflict in Yemen so that Yemenis can once again be free and live to prosper as one nation.


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