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Cablegate: Sa'ada Ceasefire Talks Slow but Not Stalled

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHYN #2155/01 3361224
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 021224Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3309
INFO RUEHDO/AMEMBASSY DOHA 0428
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 1709
RUEHJI/AMCONSUL JEDDAH 0446
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

S E C R E T SANAA 002155

NOFORN
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/ARP AMACDONALD AND INR/NESA JYAPHE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/02/2019
TAGS: PGOV PTER PREL SA YM
SUBJECT: SA'ADA CEASEFIRE TALKS SLOW BUT NOT STALLED

REF: SANAA 2117

Classified By: CDA Angie Bryan for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (S/NF) SUMMARY. Sa'ada ceasefire discussions continue to
move forward slowly, even during the week-long Eid holiday,
and Houthi mediator Hassan Zaid is cautiously optimistic
about the possibility that a ceasefire will be reached.
While Zaid thinks President Saleh is not serious about a
ceasefire and is conducting these discussions to buy time, he
believes that efforts by rival power brokers to persuade the
Saudi government to withdraw support for Saleh's war could
create conditions for a ceasefire. While Post does not
assess that a ceasefire is imminent, given Saleh's
determination to solve the conflict militarily, it is
nevertheless promising that ceasefire discussions and
decisions about the mediation commission's membership are
ongoing. END SUMMARY.

MEDIATION COMMISSION BEING FORMED
---------------------------------

2. (S/NF) Hassan Zaid, chairman of the opposition Joint
Meeting Parties (JMP) and the Houthis' intermediary with
President Saleh, told PolOff on December 2 that ceasefire
discussions continue moving forward slowly, and progress has
been made in terms of the composition of the proposed
mediation commission that will be responsible for overseeing
the implementation of the government's five points and the
Houthis' demands (reftel). As reported in reftel, the
commission will consist of military representatives MG Ali
Muhsin, Northwest Regional Commander, Ali al-Jayfi, head of
the Giants Brigade, and Faisal Rajab, a southern military
commander, and Houthi representatives Abdulkarim Amir Adim
al-Houthi, Saleh Ahmed Habra, and Saleh al-Samaad. President
Saleh called Zaid in late November, during the Eid holiday,
to propose that the commission also consist of three
independent members: Hassan Zaid himself, Yassin Saeed
Noman, Secretary General of the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP),
and Abdul-Wahab al-Anisi, the Secretary of the Islah Party.
The three accepted the invitation. The mediation commission
has not yet met, and the Houthis insist that it not meet
until a ceasefire is first declared, according to Zaid.

3. (S/NF) Zaid told PolOff that he plans to propose that
presidential adviser Abdul Karim al-Iryani be on the
commission as well. Zaid said that he would accept outside
observers to participate in the mediation commission as well,
as it provides greater guarantees of security and effective
implementation. He said any foreign country or multilateral
organization would be welcomed -) including the United
States. "The more you have neutral groups involved, the more
you have serious guarantees," he said. Zaid said he has
heard reports that the Qatari Foreign Minister has asked
Abdul Karim al-Iryani to revive their involvement in a
mediation effort. (Comment: Qatar was involved in the
mediation after the fifth war, and the ROYG is reportedly not
inclined to accept them in a mediation role this time around.
End Comment.)

AWAITING SAUDI RESPONSE
-----------------------

4. (S/NF) Tribal leader Rabaea Amin al-Okaimi, MP and tribal
leader Hussein al-Ahmar, and southern politician Abdul-Rahman
al-Jeffri -- all of whom have traveled to Saudi Arabia to
convey messages to the SAG from the Houthis -- are reportedly
awaiting responses, according to Zaid. Jaifi and Okaimi told
Zaid that they believe perhaps the floods in Jeddah have
delayed a decision by the Saudis, as they are distracted with
the natural disaster. According to Zaid, the Houthis are
ready to withdraw from their positions in Jebel Dukhan and
Duwait if the Saudis cease their attacks, and they want
Yemeni tribal sheikhs living in the area to guarantee the
ceasefire. Zaid reports that the SAG has asked the Houthis
to release nine Saudi soldiers they are holding prisoner, and
may agree to a ceasefire in return. However, Zaid speculates
that in order to save face, the Saudis will not publicly
announce a ceasefire, but instead announce that they have
achieved their objectives.

INTERNAL PROXY WAR?
-------------------
5. (S/NF) Zaid believes that the war in Sa'ada is actually
an internal proxy war between President Saleh and power
brokers )- particularly Ali Muhsin )- who will challenge
the presidential bid of Saleh's son, Ahmed Ali. (Comment:
This view is widely shared by powerful businessmen, tribal
leaders, and local political analysts. End Comment.) He
claims that Ali Muhsin and the Ahmar family have succeeded in
convincing King Abdullah that Saleh launched the war in
Sa'ada not to defeat the Houthis, but to weaken potential
rivals when his son Ahmed Ali seeks to replace his father as
president. According to Zaid, Muhsin and the Ahmars told
King Abdullah that Saleh is actually providing weapons to the
Houthis so that his son's rival, Ali Muhsin, will have to
spend vast amounts of his own human, financial, and military
resources to defeat them. (Note: Zaid said that it is not
necessarily true that Saleh is providing weapons to the
Houthis )- in fact Ali Muhsin is also accused of doing so
-) but Muhsin and the Ahmars have allegedly convinced King
Abdullah that it is true. End Note.) Zaid believes that
Saudi attention will shift to President Saleh's prosecution
of the war; if they are convinced that he is arming the
Houthis, the Saudis may decide to withdraw their support for
him.

IMPEDIMENTS TO A CEASEFIRE
--------------------------

6. (S/NF) "It will be very difficult to stop the war now,"
Zaid said, lamenting that the parties did not take advantage
of the face-saving opportunity offered by the Eid holiday to
cease hostilities. (Comment: Rushing to reach a ceasefire
during Eid might have produced one with less chance of
holding, however. End Comment.) Zaid believes that there
are currently two major obstacles to a ceasefire: a divided
Saudi leadership and the rivalry between Ahmed Ali and Ali
Muhsin. President Saleh will never feel confident about his
son's chances of succeeding him as long as Ali Muhsin is
strong, since Muhsin would support a rival presidential
candidate. Saleh "has to weaken him, drain him of
resources," as he is attempting to do through this costly
war. As long as Saleh is able to supplement his military
campaign with SAG assets )- and benefitting financially from
SAG payments as well, as many observers speculate -- while
weakening rivals, it is in his interest to continue the war.

COMMENT
-------

7. (S/NF) While Post does not assess that a ceasefire is
imminent, given Saleh's determination to solve the conflict
militarily, it is nevertheless promising that ceasefire
discussions and decisions about the mediation commission's
membership continued during the Eid holiday. We continue to
encourage all parties to pursue these ceasefire discussions
more seriously, while maintaining our public commitment to
the need for a political solution to the conflict.
BRYAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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