The UN Security Council that drafted a political strategy for Yemen and gave international legitimacy to the military operations of the Arab coalition was issued as a result of the exceptional diplomatic efforts of the ambassadors of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Jordanian presidency of the UN Security Council represented by Jordan’s envoy Dina Kawar. Saudi’s ambassador to the UN Abdallah al-Mouallimi, who led the negotiations with patience and perseverance, said resolution 2216 was a historical achievement for establishing that if the Arab countries become determined and adopt a unified position, the countries of the world will comply with and respect it. The resolution obtained support from 14 states with only Russia abstaining – which is an achievement since Russia had proposed its own draft resolution and kept its voting intentions secret until the last moment, keeping the door open to the possibility of vetoing the Arab draft resolution. The Russian envoy refrained from criticizing the military operations and did not mention them in his address to the Security Council. The Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi chose to criticize them out of Washington, which he was visiting, while at the same time exonerating Iran from involvement in Yemen. Abadi warned what he called the Saudi intervention in Yemen could stoke sectarian conflicts in the region. While it may not have been his intention to pour cold water on the Arab achievement in New York, it appeared as though this is what he was doing. The US administration had to deny that the US president, vice president, and secretary of state agreed with Abadi’s assessment that there was no logic in the Saudi-led operations and that Saudi had gone too far in its air strikes in Yemen, and that they were concerned about a broad sectarian war in the region as a result. Whatever the case, there is no need to turn differences in the assessment into a dispute and start a cycle of blame and diplomatic/political confrontations. It is better to activate direct and back channels to engage in a calm dialogue and contain any damage to the Gulf-Iraqi relations, which is extremely important for both sides. Iraq is in dire need of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries – and not just Iran – to fight ISIS in Iraq, and must be very keen about the Gulf participation in the US-led coalition against ISIS. Similarly, the Gulf countries need Iraq because its recovery is in their interests and because it is important today to invest in Iraq and not abandon it again. Accordingly, Saudi diplomacy is facing a test in Iraq and Yemen as a consequence of the qualitative shift in its policy and regional and international diplomacy. Saudi Arabia can seriously build on the diplomatic achievement at the United Nations.
It was not at all simple to get resolution 2216 passed. The international resolution strengthened the international cover for military operations against the Houthis and the forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son Ahmed, who now together with his father have been sanctioned under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Russia wanted to put a stop to Arab coalition air strikes as part of a series of what Russia termed “humanitarian truces”. Russia also wanted an arms embargo on all sides including the legitimate government, and opposed adding the names of Abdullah al-Houthi and Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh to the list of international sanctions. Russia also wanted an immediate ceasefire without conditioning it on the Houthis ending their coup against the legitimate administration.
The resolution was issued under the binding Chapter VII, which means failing to abide by it would trigger additional measures by the Security Council. The resolution called on the Houthis to “withdraw their forces from the areas they seized including the capital Sanaa, and hand over all the weapons they took from the security and military institutions including missile systems.” The resolution also called on all Yemeni parties, particularly the Houthis, to abide by the Gulf initiative and the outcomes of the national dialogue and the Peace and Partnership agreement. The resolution called on the parties to agree to conditions to end the violence in line with the UN Charter and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
The resolution asked the UN secretary general to step up his efforts to facilitate the delivery of aid, evacuate civilians, and establish humanitarian truces in coordination with the government of Yemen. The resolution asked the secretary general to submit a progress report on the resolution and resolution 2201 within ten days. The resolution stated that in the event of non-compliance, the UN Security Council will push for additional measurements against individuals and entities involved in acts undermining peace and security, including sanctions.
The Security Council, in resolution 2216, called on all countries to implement immediate measures to prevent sending weapons directly or indirectly to Ali Abdullah Saleh, Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim, and Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, in addition to other individuals named in the sanctions list and anyone acting on their behalf. The Security Council called on all countries to prevent sending weapons to those individuals through their territories, ports, and airports. The council called on the countries neighboring Yemen to search all shipments bound for Yemen through their territories, seaports, and airports for military supplies and confiscate them.
With regard to the political process, the UN Security Council resolution stressed the need for all Yemeni parties to commit to resolving their differences through dialogue and to reject violence. The resolution called on the Yemeni parties to comply with the Yemeni president’s appeal to attend a conference in Riyadh sponsored by the Gulf Cooperation Council and support political transition in Yemen, stressing the Security Council’s support for the negotiations brokered by the UN. The resolution called on the secretary general to step up his efforts to resume the political process in Yemen with the participation of all parties.
Once again, it was not easy to get a resolution like this passed by the Security Council. The Saudi ambassador refused to be drawn into confrontation with Russia that would lead it to wield its veto power. He was confident Russia would join the consensus even at the toughest movement, and refused to act unilaterally as he always praised collective diplomacy by the ambassadors of the Arab countries who were engaged daily in difficult and complex