Ambassador Seche and Mr. Pelofsky: Recommendations for promoting the peace process in Yemen

In an article in Just Security over the weekend, Stephen Seche and Eric Pelofsky provided recommendations to US policymakers regarding efforts to restart the peace process in Yemen, based on their meetings this month with Yemeni and Saudi officials in Riyadh. Stephen Seche, a former US ambassador to Yemen and the executive vice president of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, and Eric Pelofsky, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former special assistant to the president and senior director for North Africa and Yemen at the National Security Council, warned that “today, there appears to be no viable path to peace in Yemen.” They pointed out several challenges, including internal tension between actors on both major sides of the conflict and Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s refusal to endorse the UN Roadmap for Yemen as a basis for negotiation.

Nevertheless, Seche and Pelofsky recommended three general steps that the United States could take in order to encourage movement toward a peaceable resolution of the war in Yemen. They suggested that the Trump Administration “bring a sense of urgency to diplomatic efforts to end the conflict” as a way to “re-energize the UN mediation process.” This requires the US to “view Yemen as more than simply a theater in which its anti-Iran and counter-terrorism campaigns can be waged.” They also recommended that the US “increase pressure on the Houthis,” but warned that, “military efforts must be directed against targets that minimize humanitarian risks to the civilian population.” Finally, they suggested that policymakers “clarify the parameters of a peace deal,” including further discussion of arrangements that would allow the Houthis greater autonomy in northern Yemen.