Two weeks on from the worst attack on the kingdom’s oil infrastructure in decades, Saudi Arabia has reportedly moved to impose a partial ceasefire in Yemen.
The decision, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, comes a week after the Houthis announced a surprise halt on drone and missile strikes.
“We declare ceasing to target the Saudi Arabian territory with military drones, ballistic missiles and all other forms of weapons, and we wait for a reciprocal move from them”, Mahdi al-Mashat, head of the Houthi supreme political council said last Friday, adding that the group “reserves the right to respond if [Saudi Arabia] fails to reciprocate positively”.
(Center for Strategic and International Studies)
Fast forward seven days from Mashat’s declaration and Riyadh is apparently prepared to take his advice and “reciprocate positively”.
The Journal cites “people familiar with the plans” in reporting what the Saudis are apparently going to call a “partial” cessation of hostilities.
Aramco has spent the two weeks since the attack rushing to restore output and convince the world that the September 14 strikes shouldn’t be a reason to doubt Prince Mohammed’s plans to take the company public. Reports this week painted markedly different pictures of the situation, with production capacity either rebounding rapidly or proceeding slower than expected, depending on which major news outlet you care to consult and the IPO either nixed for 2019 or on track for November, depending on the day.
Crude tumbled on Friday’s reports that Riyadh is set to acquiesce to the ceasefire.
The conflict has become a point of contention between the Trump administration and Congress, which passed a bipartisan resolution this year aimed at ending US support for the conflict, which has spawned one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet.
The White House has resisted. In April, Trump used the second veto of his presidency to block the resolution, calling it “an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities”. The Senate failed to overturn the veto.
Trump’s Yemen policy is the product of the administration’s unwavering support for Prince Mohammed, who briefly became an international pariah following the extrajudicial killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Congress’s efforts to block US military support for the Crown Prince’s efforts in Yemen were in part a last ditch effort to hold the monarchy accountable for the murder.
In his speech at the UN General Assembly this week, Iran’s Hassan Rouhani said Tehran would guarantee Saudi Arabia’s security once hostilities in Yemen ceased. This would appear to be a step in that direction and comes less than 24 hours after the Pentagon provided details about the deployment of additional US military assistance to the kingdom.
“I call on all parties from different sides of the war to engage seriously in genuine negotiations that can lead to a comprehensive national reconciliation that does not exclude anyone”, Houthi leader Mashat said last week. The goal of the group’s efforts to deescalate is to “preserve the blood of Yemenis and achieve a general amnesty”, he added.