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For Yemen's sake, Houthis must pursue peace: analysts

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

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A Yemeni boy looks at portraits of Houthi fighters who were reportedly killed in action during an exhibition marking 'Martyrs' Day' in Sanaa on January 22nd. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

For the sake of the Yemeni people, who have suffered immensely as a result of the war, the Houthis (Ansarallah) must shake off the mantle of Iranian influence and pursue a peaceful settlement with the government, political analysts said.

With the Houthis facing significant setbacks, they told Al-Mashareq, it would be prudent for the militia's leadership to give serious consideration to the prospect of peace and to reconcile with the Yemeni people and government.

It is time, they said, to forsake the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which has sought to prolong Yemen's war to serve Iran's regional agenda.

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A Yemeni man walks past portraits of Houthis reportedly killed in battle on February 27th, 2016 in Sanaa. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP] 

Military setbacks

The Houthis have suffered significant military setbacks in recent weeks, which makes victory on the battlefield an increasingly unlikely prospect.

In late October, 70 of the militia's fighters were killed in a two-day period during clashes with Yemeni forces in Saada and Hajja provinces.

Before that, on October 19th, Yemeni Joint Forces made a deep advance on al-Dhale front, gaining control of four strategic positions after beating back more than 30 Houthi offensives.

On October 5th, 16 Houthis, including two commanders, were killed in clashes with Yemeni forces in the al-Dhale province town of Qaataba.

And on October 5th also, Yemeni forces shot down a Houthi drone in Hajjah province's Hayran directorate that was reportedly found to be Iranian-made.

The Houthis have suffered heavy losses during the war, with photographs of slain senior officers ubiquitous in the streets and public squares of Sanaa, political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

"It is important that the Houthis reassess their responsibility and set the interest of the Yemeni people as a priority by acquiescing to peace and forsaking Iran, whatever the consequences, in order to stop the war and the killing," he said.

The Houthis have the power to "put an end to the suffering of the Yemeni people, which has turned tragic", he said, adding that they must reconcile with the Yemeni people and "shed the patronage of the IRGC".

The militia cannot continue to fight Arab coalition and Yemeni forces, he added, and will be forced to acquiesce to peace sooner or later.

Beholden to Iran

As an armed movement, the Houthis have so far been inclined to use force of arms rather than politics to achieve their aims, Abaad Centre for Strategic Studies director Abdulsalam Mohammed told Al-Mashareq.

The Iran-backed militia has both interim and strategic objectives, he explained.

"The interim objectives include controlling the political process and ruling Yemen by force of arms," he said, while the strategic objective is to give Iran leverage in the Arabian Peninsula, "especially over the oil-rich Gulf states".

In accomplishing these objectives, the victims of war and poverty "are of no interest to the militias", Mohammed said.

While the Houthis act in co-ordination with Iran, they are able to buy time through negotiations and access money and weapons to continue their fight.

This gives them the appearance of being independent, he said, but "when it comes to making a critical decision, such as stopping the war or entering into negotiations", Iran's influence holds sway.

The Houthis are beholden to Iran, as is their decision-making process, Yemen's Deputy Minister of Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez told Al-Mashareq.

But the continuing military defeats the Houthis are suffering "will force them to acquiesce to peaceful solutions", he said.

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