ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia has never tolerated Yemen for decades as it (Yemen) is the only country with a democratic system in Saudi Arabia’s neighborhood. Yemen will become ‘Vietnam’ for Saudi Arabia if it tried to send ground troops to that country.

This was stated by Professor Raza Naeem, who is also writing a book on the political and cultural history of Yemen post-Arab Spring. He was delivering a lecture on “Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan geographical crisis” organised by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) on Thursday.

Mr Raza said the United Nations resolution on Yemen was unfair as it stated that Houthis should disarm themselves. On the other hand, there is no mention of the bombardment by Saudi Arabia. Dialogue is not possible anymore because of the UN resolution, he added.

“Yemen, with a population of 26 million, is the most water-scarce country in the Arab world. Two third of its population don’t have clean drinking water. Because of the bombardment of Saudi Arabia, 8.6 million people need immediate medical help and the country is at the verge of a disaster because all kind of aid from the sea route has been blocked.”

Historian Raza Naeem says resolution asks Houthis to disarm but is silent on bombardment by Saudi Arabia

He said the general impression in people’s mind about the Yemen crisis was related with ‘bomb, beard and burqa’. Moreover, Osama bin Laden also belonged to Yemen though he had the domicile of Saudi Arabia.

Iran is not supplying weapons to Houthis but has been giving encouraging the democratic system in Yemen which is a source of panic for Saudi Arabia. Moreover, Yemen has no sectarian issue though some elements have been trying to create such an issue there, he said.

Prof Naeem said after the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, his successor wanted to make his son Salman a conqueror. He said Muslims needed to bring their own house in order and stop depending on the United States which is interfering in the Yemen issue.

However, the head of London-based Institute for Islamic Strategic Affairs, Usama Butt, differed with Prof Naeem and said though he did not have proof of Iran’s involvement in Yemen, apparently it was taking interest and had contacts with the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS).

“Though Washington has invested in the regain for decades, we are using the US as a scapegoat for our internal issues. We should stop it and bring our own houses in order,” he said. Mr Usama said no Muslim army wanted to go to Yemen because it would increase sectarian differences, adding the military option was not a solution.

“Pakistan should stay away from the issue but a complete isolation is not in the interest of Islamabad so it should try to encourage both the sides to start a dialogue,” he said. Asad Durrani, a former head of the ISI, said it was not understandable why Saudi Arabia was so panicked on the issue of Yemen.

“I believe that a military operation cannot succeed in Yemen. Whenever a country or group wants to dominate the opponent and then start a dialogue it backfires. The United Stated adopted a similar strategy in Afghanistan but failed,” he said.

Retired Lt-Gen Talat Masood said Yemen was a tribal area in nature and had a strategic importance. “However, Saudi Arabia is nervous because it does not have a democratic system,” he said.

US embassy representative Matt Leonard said the Houthis had achieved a lot and now they should come to the table of dialogue. But he wondered if the Houthis had a strong leadership to negotiate for the resolution of the issue.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2015