Political mythology

Interview with Aidarous al Zubaidi (President of the Southern Transitional Council STC)

Thursday, October 31, 2019

This is not mythology, but real facts, which took place yesterday following the initial signing of the Riyadh Agreement, the day before the final signing ceremony, between the Yemeni legitimate government and the Southern Transitional Council, under the patronage of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and the presence of his Crown Prince and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, to inaugurate this historical agreement.

I wanted to find out what was in the heart of the southerners, the loyal people, and because their heart was on the heart of one man, Commander Aidarous al-Zubaidi. I took the opportunity and talked to him by phone and said to him that I will publish this in my article for Okaz Newspaper. He welcomed me and gave me the first honor for interview after the signing of the Riyadh Agreement.

I asked him directly, what are the most serious difficulties and challenges that faced the Southern Transitional Council, and faced Aidarous al-Zubaidi personally, during the Jeddah dialogue to reach the Riyadh agreement?

He replied: “In reality, there is nothing that can be described as 'dangerous', but the challenges we have faced have been to find common ground that preserves the contents of the Southern Transitional Council documents. This is what happened, especially since the objectives of the Arab Coalition and its Arab project in our country are not at all incompatible with our political project and the aspirations of our people, especially since there are parties who do not like the success of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s endeavors.

My heart was beating with joy, but some fear spread through my limbs, then I asked Commander Aidarous: How did you deal with some of the southern people who refused the dialogue and are determined to disengage unilaterally?

He replied: “Basically, the Southern Transitional Council project will go through many phases that take into account internal and external political circumstances and factors, which require wisdom, patience and move our people forward in a safe and secure way. Our people understand this and support it.”

I was not sure how big the obstacles were, then returned to make sure to know the truth of what people are saying in the streets, that the Islah Party has worked to thwart the dialogue, was this true? And What is your plan with President Hadi to curb sedition and corruption in the next phase?

He answered: “There are many parties headed by the Muslim Brotherhood, represented by the Islah Party, which always tries to prevent any political efforts or progress on the issue of the South, which also comes in the context of their association with agendas hostile to the Arab Coalition. We are open to any efforts aimed at stabilizing security and stability, alleviating the suffering of our people, and the success of the Arab Coalition project in curbing the Iranian-backed Houthi militias, in a way that does not contradict with the basis of the cause of the people of the South.”

Because of my great admiration, for Saudi Arabia's role in managing the negotiations between the legitimacy and the South, I asked Commander Aidarous: How do you evaluate the ability of Saudi Arabia in managing the negotiations, direct and indirect, and how do you describe them?

He replied: “There is no doubt that the Kingdom has a lot of experience in the management of negotiations, and always known for its wise leadership and political sophistication, and it is a pioneer in Arab-Arab initiatives and sponsoring peace efforts in the Arab and Islamic region. This has enabled it to resolve many issues and crises as it is a leading country and represents a reference for the Arab and Islamic worlds. We have great and unlimited confidence in the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, represented by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, and His Royal Highness Prince Khalid Bin Salman, Deputy Minister of Defense.

I completed my question and said: “Did Saudi Arabia have difficulty with legitimate government, especially in light of the differences between its parties on the Riyadh agreement? Did you authorize Riyadh to negotiate, or did you also have conditions? What were they?

He replied: “Our confidence in the Arab Coalition and the leadership of Saudi Arabia is great, and we were keen on the success of the Kingdom's efforts, and at the same time, we have preserved our national objectives contained in our documents and political project. And it is the case which has found a great deal of understanding among the siblings.”

Speaking of the Arab Coalition, we are talking about the UAE as well, so I asked about the role the UAE played during this phase.

The UAE is a key member of the Arab Coalition, and the issue of withdrawal and redeployment comes within the framework of arrangements between the Arab Coalition and is not connected to the dialogue sponsored by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We in the Southern Transitional Council backed by the people of the South have all the love and appreciation for the UAE and we will not forget its efforts and sacrifices in our country.

I told Commander Aidarous: But there are instigators of sedition claiming that the UAE has taken back what it gave the south, and with the naivety of this proposition, however, people want to know the truth.

He said: “The UAE has provided the blood of its children on our land, and whoever gives his blood will not hesitate to give anything else. The instigators are part of the agenda of the side hostile to the Arab coalition. The UAE's footprint will always be present in the South, the footprint of sacrifice, construction, and development.”

I found the opportunity to ask about the voices that came out of legitimacy, such as Maysari and Gabwani, and others who declared defection. Do you have a vision with the President Hadi on how to deal with all the defectors, or have your own vision?

 He replied: “We are committed to the results of the dialogue sponsored by Saudi Arabia, which included the formation of a new government that excludes all the crisis elements that caused incitement, bloodshed and ignited chaos.”

The dialogue seemed to reach the central points. It was necessary to ask: When the Riyadh Agreement was signed, what were you thinking?

He replied: “The Riyadh Agreement does not contradict the documents and objectives of the Southern Transitional Council. 

Rather, it is a fundamental strategic step in a fateful issue, towards accomplishing these goals, and we, before, during, and after the dialogue will never relinquish our legitimate national goals, and our commitment to our people and sacrifices.

I said, but how confident are you that members of the legitimacy, not of course the president, will continue to abide by the terms of the Riyadh Agreement, and to what extent?

He replied: "There is a joint committee composed of the Southern Transitional Council and the Yemeni legitimate government, under the supervision of the Arab Coalition, to follow-up on implementation of the agreement and the interpretation of its provisions, and we are counting on the honorable and national elements within the legitimacy."

I thought about the post-signing phase. I asked whether the focus would be on the new government of legitimacy, fighting corruption and restructuring the army, or would it be about uprooting the Iranian-backed Houthis?

He said: "There is no doubt that the successful implementation of the Riyadh Agreement will have an important impact in achieving our ability to achieve more victories, and unite efforts against the Houthi militia backed by Iran, and this will not be achieved without fighting corruption and uprooting and addressing the causes of failure that stuck with the leadership of the legitimacy in the past."

Of course, all Yemenis and all the Arabs are thinking about the future of Yemen, and I asked: What is the future of Yemen under the Riyadh Agreement, at least, in the next five years?

He replied: "Many are hopeful about the Riyadh Agreement, which is a road map to restore things to normal in facing the militias of Iran. It also paves the way for comprehensive solutions based on resolving the issue of the south, solutions acceptable to the people of the South and that will achieve their legitimate aspirations and objectives carried by the Southern Transitional Council”.

I thanked noble Aidarous, in my name and on behalf of the editor-in-chief of Okaz, the team and every honest Arab who believes that the dear and precious Yemen needs security and peace, and to be happy as we all love.

Novelist and political researcher

Noura Al Moteari


*Translation into English: 

Summer Ahmed


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