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    13-Apr-2016

Promising Yemen ceasefire - By Hasan Abu Nimah, The Jordan Times

 

 


The truce that took effect last Monday in the year-long Yemen war is a promising development.

As expected, the ceasefire has not been completely observed. Violations are being reported on many fronts and may continue to happen.

The Yemen war is not a normal war between two regular armies to expect strict compliance. Wars with irregular fighting groups that do not report to one command are often harder to control.

The significance of the Yemen ceasefire however is not to be judged by the combatants’ compliance. Rather, it is the reality that the two main conflicting sides in Yemen have reached the inevitable conclusion that the only possible solution for the crisis is a political settlement reached through negotiations; hence a political ceasefire.

It is this political, rather than the military, ceasefire that counts.

Negotiations towards that end are set to start soon. Most likely they will. Talks may take time and may have to overcome many difficulties and obstacles. But as long as both sides will display adequate political will to engage in meaningful discussions with the intent of resolving the dispute once and for all, there is a good deal of hope for success.

Two months earlier a similar ceasefire was announced in Syria. It remains in effect despite continued and massive fighting in many parts of the country.

Much like the Yemen ceasefire, the Syria ceasefire is more political than military. It reflects the will of the conflicting parties to end the war and to start talking instead.

It is not unusual, though, that talks and fighting go side by side; there are dozens of examples in history.

Continued fighting in Syria may be justified by the fact that the ceasefire excluded military action against terrorists, mainly those of Daesh and Al Nusra. Obviously under this loose mantle of “fighting terror” a lot of other fighting can be safely swept.

In both Yemen and Syria the truce is meant to prepare the ground for negotiated settlements.

Much scepticism continues to surface, though, regarding the situation in both countries, based on previous failed efforts, but failure of previous efforts should not be taken as a standard rule. And even if this were the case, all rules have exceptions and success this time in Syria, as well as in Yemen, will hopefully be the exception.

 Despite there being good grounds for doubt, there are stronger grounds for hope.

As a matter of fact, wars have been gradually losing their effect in settling political disputes. This phenomenon was emphasised by every war that started in the last four decades, in this region in particular.

It applies to the Israeli wars since 1982 on Lebanon, Israel’s wars against Gaza, the US-led wars on Iraq in 1991 and 2003 and the US-led war on Afghanistan in 2001. One might add the military intervention in Libya a few years ago.

Not only have these wars failed to resolve any of the problems they pretended they intended to solve, they also precipitated major disasters.

The outcomes of all were counterproductive.

They caused long-term damage to regional stability and peace; they left behind massive death and destruction; they scattered otherwise peaceful societies, creating one of the largest refugee problems in the area ever; they consumed huge sums, in the trillions, of money that could have been utilised for development; they ignited sectarian and ethnic wars; and, most seriously, they created more terrorists and more terrorist organisations than the region has ever seen.

The other inference, surprisingly, is that regular armies do not seem capable of winning wars against irregular armed groups, insurgencies and terrorists.

It will be two years soon since Daesh in Iraq and Syria has been under attack from a coalition of dozens of world powers, in addition to the national armies of the two concerned countries, yet Daesh continues to fight fiercely and control territory. And this is only a recent case out of many.

The accrued disasters wreaked by wars cannot go unnoticed by the many involved states in the region.

If faced by the choice between bad, perpetual and very costly wars, and political compromise, the latter will definitely be wiser and safer, even if seen as a humiliating retreat.

The hope that the warring parties have reached this conclusion, realising that their wars could go on indefinitely without achieving any of their goals, is good reason to expect the ceasefires to hold and the subsequent talks to end up in agreements.

The process will not be quick or smooth. It may take months, even years, but eventually it will solve problems and restore the peace the people in the region have long been deprived of.

It is true that many hopes were dashed before. Let us brace for a positive change this time.

 

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