Captivating has been nothing but King Salman’s thirst for war, he supported the Palestinian Mujahideen, Afghan Mujahideen and now this, the war in Yemen. King Salman claims he is restoring democracy through the 10 nation Saudi led coalition intervention in Yemen. On the contrast, there appears to be only one nation of the 10 nations that transparently and consistently practices democracy. Now President Ashraf Ghani has come out with a statement supporting the coalition, maybe he has a few tips on how to bring an election to a deadlock, stall a whole country for 6 months and take another 4 months to announce cabinet ministers. I am sure the government of Yemen can live on without his advice. But yet again another nation that is known for their struggle to uphold the main principles of democracy, is supporting a mission to restore democracy.
The Houthi rebel group from the north have made ground on overthrowing the government. They consist of 40% of the population and follow Zaydi Islam, which is a branch under Shia Islam but it constitute beliefs that are much more similar to the Sunni branch of Islam. The Iranians have supported the group in Yemen since 2004, and the timeliness of the Saudi intervention in Yemen, just days before a nuclear agreement between Iran and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and diplomats from Britain, Russia, China and the European Union, is a clear attempt to influence/disturb the talks.
A glimpse of the geopolitical repercussions yells out a tremendous shift of powers in the Middle East and echoes to the world that a new era has begun, in the scenario of the Houthis being in power in Yemen. The inkling of a pro-Iranian government on the peninsula frightens the very core of the Saudi Monarch. In addition if this corresponds with a nuclear deal, then we can plausibly and confidently declare Iran as a major power in the world. A truly scary thought for the Saudi’s, to be fair to them this is strategically but also desperate move. Lest we forget the Iranian backed Syrian government ousting Saudi rebels. Now, the nuclear talks are progressing, the Houthi’s attempting the overthrow was the last straw they could take.
President Ashraf Ghani’s decision to publicly support the Saudi’s can have immense implications. Two specifically, and they are both on the same sword. Publicly supporting the Saudi’s can lead to a more peaceful and stable Afghanistan. The Saudi’s can help President Ashraf Ghani on hammering the Pakistani government on the lawlessness of the North-Western Frontier of Pakistan. The area that has become the sanctuary for terrorists, who roam back and forth between the Afghanistan and Pakistan. Most insurgencies in Afghanistan stem from that area, however, Pakistan’s quick fix approach on the North-West frontier through militarism is not enough. There has to be fundamental change in that society, which only the government can implement. Saudi support can start that exertion.
On the other hand President Ashraf Ghani’s public support for the Saudi led coalition can lead to Iranian neighbor to suddenly not co-operate to bring peace in Afghanistan. In the scenario the power shift goes in favour of the Iranians, the implications can be detrimental. Iranians were never supportive of the Americans in Afghanistan, however the last few years the relations have entered a new phase, a phase of co-operation and cohesiveness on rebuilding Afghanistan. In a few days that co-operation and cohesiveness may diminish.
Although the Iranian government trade with Afghanistan is worth about $ 2 Billion per year. Their adamancy on pursuing the nuclear plants while enduring the economic sanctions by the international community, surely professes enough that they are willing to suffer financially for any cause if the Supreme leader sees it fit.
Of course the implications against Afghanistan by Iran will not be palpable on the surface, this is Iran we are talking about, the nation who is known for their devious expedient routes of instilling chaos through insurgency, spies and propaganda.
The argument that Afghanistan does not have the backbone to resist is baseless. Former President Karzai’s stubborn and risky stance on not signing the Bilateral Security Agreement with the Americans, renders that backbone. President Ashraf Ghani should have taken the neutral stance, because the reward from the risk is not much greater from the status quo neutral stance, in the situation the Saudi’s prevail and the nuclear talks collapse. However if the Iran government prevails and most likely there will be an agreement on the nuclear plants, then Afghanistan’s risk can bring upon more instability in Afghanistan. There is more to lose than to win.
President Ashraf Ghani either way is putting his country on the line, unnecessary and untimely. Time will tell if his public support will help to bring peace and stability or did he fall for one of King Salman’s dementia episodes?
Follow Massud Ebady on twitter @mebady1