‘Yemeni jailbreak will contribute to bloodshed, suffering’
Around 1,200 prisoners are on the run in Yemen after a jailbreak in the city of Taiz. Al-Qaeda sympathizers are said to have attacked the site which is controlled by Houthi rebels. It's not the first time al-Qaeda's been able to capitalize on the country's chaos amid ongoing Saudi-led air strikes against the Houthis.
RT:Over a thousand prison inmates escaped - it might be the biggest jailbreak in Yemen's history. What outcome should we expect from that?
Max Abrahms: Since March, 26 when the Saudis launched a military campaign against the Houthis in Yemen there have been three major jailbreaks and [Tuesday’s] was the biggest. It’s reported that 1,200 people have been freed and that some of them are al-Qaeda guys. So clearly this is going to have an even worse effect on the country that’s already in tatters.This is the definition in Yemen of what political scientists would call a ‘failed state’. There is literally no government. The government is in exile and armed groups are the rule. Meanwhile suffering is widespread. Apparently 20 million people in Yemen, 80 per cent of the population, need immediate humanitarian assistance, according to UNICEF. Clearly the release of these armed people - whether it’s Houthis who were released in another jailbreak or al-Qaeda guys, these two are at war with each other - it’s just going to contribute to more bloodshed and frankly more suffering among the civilian population.
RT:What are the strategies the participants of the conflict in Yemen are following? Are there any?
MA: I don’t think that there is any clear strategy by any of the participants in Yemen right now. This is a conflict that is not getting better, it seems to be getting worse and it’s awfully hard to see what the end game is here. The Houthis have expanded throughout much of the country and in response the Saudis have led a bombing campaign presumably against the Houthis, but in reality it seems to be mostly harming the population. While the Houthis seem to be expanding - so too do their enemies. When we used to think about Sunni radicalism out of Yemen most of us thought about al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP which was often described as the most worrisome al-Qaeda affiliate and yet over the past couple of months it seems like Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) is doing most of the Sunni violence even more than AQAP. And now you have this jail release - so frankly all of the sides are expanding. The Houthis are increasing their territory, IS is coming really coming up out of nowhere and generating a huge amount of violence. That’s quite surprising because IS wasn’t believed to have very big presence in Yemen and now AQAP is also expanding, the Saudis are bombing, civilian population is paying. So I don’t see any strategy by any of these actors, all I see is more bloodshed.
RT:Will we eventually witness some positive results? Are you optimistic here?
MA: I’m not at all optimistic about Yemen, certainly not in the short term. The Saudis are trying to find a military solution to this situation, when there is no military solution. In situations like these you need to have some kind of political reconciliation. There is no government now even in Yemen. So a political path is absolutely essential for any progress and yet the political path also seems closed off, that’s also not practical in the short-term. There have been numerous meetings and summits to try to advance a political reconciliation, the last of which was quite recent in Geneva and that was a complete bust. In fact the two main warring sides didn’t even send high level representatives, and from the very beginning it was clear that no progress would be made. I’m afraid to say that in the short-term maybe even in the medium-term I see no military solution or a political one.
RT:But there must be some kind of solution eventually right?
MA: Some conflicts don’t have easy solutions. I think this is one of them. There is a complete anarchy in Yemen. There is no government, it’s just one armed gang after another and these armed gangs, these terrorist groups seem to be getting stronger. The Sunni side is supported by Sunni governments; the Houthis are being propped up by the Iranians. So you have a sectarian war which is basically taking out their insecurities within this one country and unfortunately the civilians are paying a very heavy price.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.