Over the last five years, Yemen has faced numerous obstacles that have emerged as the contours of the country’s crisis evolved to include the competing interests and agendas of regional and international rivals who see the country as an arena for settling political differences. Today, as the war has entered its sixth-year, the 2018’s UN-led Stockholm Agreement offered glimpses of progress in reaching a negotiated political resolution between the Yemeni government and the Houthis, yet stumbled in the agreement’s implementation. The leadership of Yemen’s political factions continue to accuse opposing parties of continuing the war while refusing to reflect on their own contributions to the country’s fractured political landscape.
However, missed opportunities precede 2015 when the Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened on behalf of the government. Features of Yemen’s internal political crisis today are rooted in a history of disputes. Failures, such as ignoring the aspirations of Yemen’s youth following the 2011 revolution are among the key moments when political elites chose to pursue self-interested agendas harboring past grievances rather than look forward to a future. Yet, recent developments again may provide an opening for a political resolution. First, the backchannel between the Houthis and the Saudis, and most recently the announced ceasefire following the COVID-19 outbreak both can make ground for the end of this conflict. But the question is whether UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths has the tools and support to address the issue and move forward with Resolution 2216. On the other hand, familiar complications of the resolution persist while the new dynamics of today’s war will likely require a revised version.
We are honored to host His Excellency Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi, Former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Yemen in a special conversation to address these points and explore how Yemen’s crisis has shifted since 2015 to become a conflict that Yemenis alone may not be expected to resolve, the role of the United Nations, the presence of international actors, and whether Yemen can afford another missed opportunity.
Gulf International Forum invites a discussion on how this war has changed Yemen and the Gulf region after five years of conflict. What are the current positions of the different GCC states? What role can the US play to end this conflict? What will be the future of Yemen as division within the country is deeper than ever? Can Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran reach an agreement in Yemen to end this war? What other possible scenarios can lead to the end of this war?
The Honorable Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Yemen
Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi is the former Yemeni Minister of Foreign Affairs. He is the longest-serving Foreign Minister of Yemen, occupying the post from 2001 to 2014. From 1982-1987, he was the Dean of the Medical School of Sana’a University. In 1993, he was appointed Yemeni Minister of Education. He has a background in medicine, and received degrees from the Universities Edinburgh, Liver- pool and London.
Ambassador (ret.) Barbara K. Bodine (Moderator)
Ambassador Bodine is a Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy and concurrent Director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. Prior to joining Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, she taught and directed policy task forces and policy workshops on US diplomacy in the Persian Gulf region, including Iraq and Yemen for seven years at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and served as Director of the School’s Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative, a fellowship program for students pursuing careers in federal service.
Ms. Bodine’s over 30 years in the US Foreign Service were spent primarily on Arabian Peninsula and greater Persian Gulf issues, specifically US bilateral and regional policy, strategic security issues, counterterrorism, and governance and reform. Her tour as Ambassador to the Republic of Yemen, 1997-2001, saw enhanced support for democratization and increased security and counterterrorism cooperation. Ms. Bodine also served in Baghdad as Deputy Principal Officer during the Iran-Iraq War, Kuwait as Deputy Chief of Mission during the Iraqi invasion and occupation of 1990-1991, and again, seconded to the Department of Defense, in Iraq in 2003 as the senior State Department official and the first coalition coordinator for reconstruction in Baghdad and the central governorates. Her first assignment in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs was as Country Officer for the two Yemens and security assistance coordinator for the peninsula. She later returned to that office as Deputy Director.
In addition to several other assignments in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, she was Deputy for Operations, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism and subsequently acting overall Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Director of East African Affairs, Dean of the School of Professional Studies at the Foreign Service Institute, and Senior Advisor for International Security Negotiations and Agreements in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. Ambassador Bodine is the recipient of a number of awards, including the Secretary’s Award for Valor for her work in Occupied Kuwait. She is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Academy of American Diplomacy, co-chair of the International Forum on Diplomatic Training, an associate fellow of The Geneva Centre for Security Policy, and a member of The Council on Foreign Relations.
Since leaving the government, Ambassador Bodine has been founding Director of the Governance Initiative in the Middle East and Senior Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government and the Robert Wilhelm Fellow at MIT’s Center for International Studies. She is a past president of the Mine Awareness Group, America, a global NGO that provides technical expertise for the removal of remnants of conflict worldwide.
A native of St. Louis, Mo., Ms. Bodine is a Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara in Political Science and East Asian Studies and earned her Master’s at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. A recipient of distinguished alumni awards from both UC Santa Barbara and the Fletcher School, she is a Regent Emerita of the University of California. She resides in Alexandria, VA.