The Sultan of Oman intervened as a mediator to bring peace to Yemen. It was utopian thanks to its Omani neighbors who arranged several meetings with representatives of the Houthi rebels. However, this appeasement objective is at odds with the current maneuvers of the Iranian regime. Instead of ceasing, arms deliveries from Tehran have continued to intensify, including a declaration of intent by the country led by Ali Khamenei.
Arms deliveries are a very negative signal as far as Oman’s mediation is concerned. According to observers, the frequent arms trade between Iran and the Houthi militias is a sign that there is no real desire to seek peace. The rebels who staged the 2014 coup that sparked the war are said to be unwilling to end it, at least at this stage of the conflict. However, observers point the finger directly at Iran. Rather than offering a peaceful solution, they believe Iran is encouraging the Houthis to continue fighting.
As for the international community, the rebels in the Yemeni capital Sana’a have shown their appreciation for Oman’s mediation efforts. This was stated by the Houthi group’s spokesperson and the head of the mediation committee, Mohammed Abdul Salam “The Sultanate of Oman is making commendable efforts with international parties to achieve security and peace in Yemen.” He made the announcement after an Omani delegation visited the capital for the second time within a month. The first, on December 25, was described as “successful” by the Houthis.
But unknowns surround all the actors of the conflict. Oman’s real intentions are part of that. Two trends are possible: either mediation aims to resolve differences and renew the conflict, or it aligns itself with recent Western approaches. Although both have a common goal, the path is not the same. If Oman decides to go ahead with its operation alone, it will not benefit from any international coverage, especially from the United States, which has intensified its operations in Yemen in recent weeks.
On Monday, US Ambassador to Yemen Tim Lenderking expressed hope that the conflict could be resolved as early as 2023. “Despite bleak prospects for peace, Washington is determined to resolve the crisis in Yemen”, said this year would be an opportunity to “end the conflict once and for all.” He expressed the concern of President Joe Biden, who is “interested in ending the conflict after more than eight years of war, which has crippled the Yemeni economy and torn Yemeni society apart”.
US Navy seizes Iranian weapons ship bound for Yemen
“These exports are part of a continuing pattern of destabilizing activities by Iran.” These are the words of US Vice Admiral Brad Cooper after the US Navy seized 2,116 AK-47 rifles. According to Timothy Hawkins, a spokesman for the Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, they were individually surrounded by green tarpaulins on a ship on a routine route to transport Iranian weapons to Yemen. “When we intercepted the ship, it was on a route historically used to smuggle illegal goods to the Houthis in Yemen,” Hawkins said.
A 2015 United Nations Security Council embargo on arms to Houthi rebels has not stopped Iran from continuing to send arms to the rebels. Although “Supplying, selling or transferring arms directly or indirectly to the Houthis violates international law.”As Timothy Hawkins explains, Tehran has shipped guns, grenades and missiles by sea over the past eight years.
You don’t have to go back very far to find a previous seizure of Iranian weapons destined for Yemen. A month ago, the U.S. Navy seized a million rounds and rocket-propelled grenades carried by a fishing boat between Iran and Yemen. Although Iran denies any cooperation, these episodes are very frequent and always with the same protagonists. What seems clear is that this trend has a long way to go and could destroy Oman’s mediation efforts and Yemenis’ hopes for peace in its wake.
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