Yemeni minister Salah Al-Siady called for Yemenis to protest the house arrest of the president in Saudi Arabia on March 11, according to the New Arab. According to Al-Siady’s social media, Saudi Arabia has attempted to detain the Yemeni president in the same manner the country arrested Lebanese President Saad Hariri in late 2017. In November 2017, according to Al Jazeera, several ministers claimed that President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and other members of his family and government had been prevented from returning to Yemen.
Moreover, as Reuters reports, Saudi diplomats have been secretly negotiating with the Houthi movement to end the civil war between the rebel group that currently controls the north of Yemen and the coalition of Arab states that support the President’s government. Apparently, the Saudis have been negotiating with the Houthis directly in Oman since January, according to Al Jazeera.
Hadi has not been involved in these secret peace talks. According to reports, Saudi diplomats have excluded their Yemeni counterparts by directly talking with the Houthis when Hadi’s government does not have any similar backchannels. In fact, the Saudis have failed at least three times to negotiate an agreement with the Houthis, according to the Washington Post.
As a result, it appears Saudi Arabia is undercutting its Yemeni allies in order to prioritize its own geopolitical interests. In February, the Middle East Eye reported that UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed decried the Houthis for rejecting a peace deal with the Hadi government. It is now known that the failure coincided with the secret talks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, reducing any incentive by the Houthis to make a deal with the actual government of Yemen.
Moreover, other analysts noted that Saudi Arabia has stood idly by as the United Arab Emirates asserts its own control over Yemen. In January, Saudi Arabia gave a muted response as forces of the U.A.E.-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC), a southern Yemeni separatist movement, captured the provisional capital of Aden from Hadi’s Saudi-backed forces, even as Hadi’s ministers were besieged in the presidential palace, according to France 24. The Middle East Eye reports that Many Yemenis, including Hadi, have accused the U.A.E. of attempting to occupy and “colonize” southern Yemen by creating a U.A.E. puppet state allowing it to control the profitable ports of the region.
In this context, Hadi’s house arrest further marginalizes the Yemeni government and reduces its ability to control its territory and seek an international settlement. As regional partners consider their own way to end the conflict, Hadi’s government risks being abandoned by Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. as they seek to impose their own solution on the war in Yemen. Such a solution may not include the Yemeni people as a party to any peace deal or as rulers of their own country.