By WAQAR RIZVI
In some quarters, the prevalent belief about the Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen is that they are more about sectarianism, apparent ‘Iranian hegemonic expansionist’ ambitions, and the widening of the ‘Shia crescent’ to a ‘full moon.’
The first widely known fact that must be restated is that the Ansarullah movement, also known as the Houthis, subscribe to the Zaydi Shia sect of Islam. It is convenient for some to simplify the movement as directly coming under the wing of the sect of Islam, which the vast majority of Iranians and their Islamic governance system apply.
This is not based on fact. Upon closer examination, Zaydi Shias appear to be closer to the majority Sunni Muslims both ideologically and theologically. In recognizing this, once more the premise of a greater long-standing Sunni-Shia war falters regardless of efforts to portray it as such.
It cannot be denied though, that the endless chorus of sectarian propaganda has had and will have an effect, to the benefit of those who want the Muslim community divided for their political and economic objectives. Scholars on all sides have cautioned against falling into this trap.
That Muslim governments shall differ on policies is understandable because each individual country has its own strategic objectives. This will not change. However, the approach to overcoming policy differences must be level-headed for the benefit of individual Muslim nations as well as the greater Muslim world.
The mature way to air one’s grievances about another’s policies is through open dialogue based on mutual respect, without any extra-regional interference. Communication of this nature should not be undertaken through a combination of media pundits who spew vitriol and publicity stunts.
‘Same old and lazy narrative’
On the specific accusation of Iran’s apparent expansionist ambitions, one needs to take this with a grain of salt. The uprising in Bahrain against the monarchy is unconvincingly yet repeatedly blamed on Iran, without any proof. The same old and lazy narrative is being replayed over Yemen.
The Islamic Revolution of Iran does admittedly still inspire many to seek independence from their respective dictators, Kings, Sheikhs, or otherwise. That does not mean, though, that the Iranian government itself has a hand behind this.
The Iranian overtures towards the popular movement in Yemen springs from the Iranian desire to see nations rid themselves of foreign subjugation at the expense of national interests. Remember, Islamic Iran welcomed the Egyptian uprising which resulted in the initial democratic rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood - a movement driven by an ideology that is significantly different from that of Shia Iran.
This goes to show then that Islamic Iran is not intent on forcing a ‘Shia crescent’ or ‘full moon’ upon the region, regardless of the dire predictions being propagated. Iran is just an easy boogeyman to fall back on for those who do not want the fall of the old regional guards, whose days were numbered because of their own actions, and their peoples’ wills, and not because of any baseless claims of Iranian plots.
The issue of Yemen and the Yemeni people’s desires for their future should be approached from an angle where it is a Yemeni-led independent process towards reconciliation and transition. No nation should force upon Yemen its desire through bombings, a siege, or coercion.
For this to take place, the mindset through which we approach Yemen must change to one of ‘the people of Yemen are capable of deciding upon their future.’ If countries who say they want what is best for the Yemeni people are genuine in their such intentions, then allowing Yemenis to deal independently with their issues is paramount.
Airstrikes resulting in civilian deaths and further division serves neither the Yemeni nation nor the nations of those perpetrating this war. It would behoove them to realize this before the blowback drowns them.