Dr. Anthony on the Crisis in Yemen

Following is an edited version of National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President & CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony’s remarks to the Saudi Press Agency on April 22, 2015, about the latest developments regarding Yemen.

Q: How do you assess the decision to end Operation Decisive Storm?

A: What drove the decision was the achievement of the campaign’s objective.

Q: And what was that?

A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 taking part in Operation Decisive Storm. Photo: Saudi Press Agency.

A: It was multifold. For example, it was not just to ensure that the chaos in Yemen would not spread to Saudi Arabia. To that end, it was to guarantee that the kingdom’s national sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity would remain assured and intact. It was also to ensure that Yemen’s rebels and all other armed groups in Yemen would not have the means to threaten the kingdom militarily.

Q: How was this accomplished?

A: It was achieved by the kingdom’s air force taking out Yemen’s missiles by disabling its ballistic missile defense structures and systems as well as by dismantling most if not all of Yemen’s main ammunitions depots, ordinance warehouses, and weapons-firing capabilities. It was also achieved by gaining and maintaining effective control of Yemen’s air space; by administering an effective blockade of the major ports: namely, Aden and Hodeida if not also Mukalla; and by protecting its borders from Houthi rebel incursions.

Only by first accomplishing these goals could the kingdom’s armed forces begin to launch its second campaign: namely, Operation Restoring Hope.

Q: What are the defining features of Operation Restoring Hope?

A: They are threefold: political, economic, and humanitarian.

Q: How likely is it that these goals can be achieved?

A: In the immediate term, the long answer is the same as the short one – unlikely.


Q: Why is that?

A: It has to do with the nature of Yemen’s economy, resources, and overall situation from the perspective of the people’s material well-being.

Q: What do you mean by that?

A: I mean that Yemen is one of the Arab world’s poorest countries in terms of its gross national product as well as the income of its people per capita. I mean that it would be impossible to find another Arab country that is as massively and pervasively poor. Anyone who has lived and worked in the country and come to know its people, as I have been privileged to do, will acknowledge that the Yemeni people are among the world’s hardest working and at the same time the most in need of immediate and sustained economic and humanitarian support.

A Yemeni leader of tomorrow in Thula. Photo: Dr. John Duke Anthony.

Indeed, few if any would deny that Yemen is in dire need of economic, material, and human resource assistance across the board in practically every sector associated with the country’s quest not just for sustained modernization and development, but also humanitarian aid in terms of food, safety, and shelter – right now and for the foreseeable future.

In this regard, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – have not been found wanting. To the contrary, both individually and collectively, they have been and remain second to none in having extended whatever assistance they could – and can – in support of the legitimate needs, concerns, and interests of the Yemeni people. In this, Saudi Arabia has been in the lead, having provided over the past several decades more economic and developmental assistance to Yemen than all the rest of the countries and the world’s international financial and economic development organizations combined.

Q: But what has been the result?

A: The answer is far more and far less than one might imagine. Before and since the rebel uprisings occasioned by the Arab Spring in 2011 and the earlier and ongoing rebellion by the Shia Houthi tribes in the region north of the Yemeni capital of Sana’a – indeed, in an area that lies adjacent to the Saudi Arabian border – the degree and nature of support by the central government has been less than the people of this area believe would have been and should have been their rightful share. But in this self-centric view, they were not fundamentally different from innumerable other groups in Yemen that also felt deprived of what they have argued ought to be their due.

Yemen’s Human Development Index (HDI) indicators for 2013 relative to selected countries and groups. Source: United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2014, “Yemen Country Notes,” http://hdr.undp.org/sites/all/themes/hdr_theme/country-notes/YEM.pdf.

Q: Is this all there is to the situation?

A: No. What many overlook is that the humanitarian goals in Yemen cannot be accomplished without the achievement, first, of security and stability. Humanitarian administration, operations, distribution, and logistics will not be successful unless these two goals can be achieved. The adage of “Capital is a coward” – it is reluctant to go where security and stability is absent – applies in this instance.

The economic factors necessary for the success of Operation Restoring Hope can be divided into two parts. The first and easier part is financing this effort towards which the “Friends of Yemen” countries have pledged billions of dollars with very little additional effort being required to secure the funds necessary. The second part, which is the harder part, is to ensure that the economic aid is distributed efficiently and effectively to the official and known parties in Yemen who would in turn use this assistance to help the population and the country recover from the current dire situation. Great care must be taken to prevent the economic aid from reaching unofficial or hostile parties who would use it to further destabilize Yemen, and threaten its neighbors, or use it for personal benefit.

It is also important to remember that the Yemeni crisis is a direct result of the political positions, policies, and attitudes of the different parties in Yemen. The ensuing political chaos is the largest contributive factor to the current crisis in Yemen. A political solution in Yemen based on political conviction, commitment, and courage by all parties must be reached. Otherwise, Operation Restoring Hope will not achieve its desired goals.


Dr. John Duke Anthony is the Founding President & CEO of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

Delano Roosevelt Joins NCUSAR International Advisory Committee


Roosevelt Joins Collective of National Council Advisors Guiding U.S.-Arab Relations Educational Programs

Washington, DC: The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, founded in 1983, is pleased to announce that H. Delano Roosevelt has joined its International Advisory Committee. In announcing the appointment, Council Founding President and CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony said, “We are delighted that Mr. Roosevelt recognizes the value of the Council’s U.S.-Arab relations leadership development and bridge-building educational efforts. We’re especially pleased that he has agreed to serve on the Council’s International Advisory Committee. Given his decades of serving on the front lines of promoting the U.S. relationship with the Arab world, there’s no question that we will benefit from his guidance and extraordinary insight.” The Council’s International Advisory Committee does not formally govern the organization, but instead makes recommendations and provides strategic support and advice to the Council’s board of directors, and its president and chief executive officer.

National Council Founding President & CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony with Council International Advisory Committee Member H. Delano Roosevelt.

(Right to Left) National Council Founding President & CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony with Council International Advisory Committee Member H. Delano Roosevelt.

Delano Roosevelt is currently the Director of New Business Development for the Reza Investment Group based in Saudi Arabia. He was a co-founder of Friends of Saudi Arabia, a non-profit group dedicated to promoting awareness of Saudi Arabian culture and society, with HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah, a son of the late-King Abdullah. Mr. Roosevelt is also Chairman of the Middle East Council of American Chambers of Commerce, a Member of the Board of Directors of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bahrain, and a Member of the Executive Board of the American Business Group of the Eastern Province.

Mr. Roosevelt is the grandson of former U.S. First Lady Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whom many regard as having forged the American component of the special Saudi Arabian-U.S. relationship. In this regard, Dr. Anthony remarked that, “Mr. Roosevelt’s becoming a Member of the National Council’s International Advisory Committee marks an especially poignant moment in the history of the relationship between our two countries and peoples. In so doing, he joins his Saudi Arabian counterpart and fellow Committee Member HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Sa’ud, grandson of the modern-day founder of Saudi Arabia.”

The historic meeting between the two heads of state – these two distinguished Advisory Committee Members’ grandparents – took place aboard the U.S.S. Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake of the Suez Canal on February 14, 1945. Ever since, the bonds forged between Saudi Arabia and the United States then are regarded as having laid the cornerstone of a relationship that has done far more than benefit the two countries and their respective peoples. Indeed, the relationship is one that has arguably benefitted the entire world and been a source of envy in the eyes of all who would emulate it if but they could.

About the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations: Founded in 1983 and based in Washington, DC, the National Council is an American non-profit, non-governmental, educational organization dedicated to improving American knowledge and understanding of the Arab world. Information about the Council’s program, projects, events, and activities can be found at ncusar.org.

2015 National University Model Arab League Pictures

The 2015 National University Model Arab League, held April 10-12 in Washington, DC, brought together over 350 students from 25 universities. Through participation in Model Arab League students learn about the politics and history of the Arab world, and the arts of diplomacy and public speech. Model Arab League helps prepare students to be knowledgeable, well-trained, and effective citizens as well as civic and public affairs leaders.

Some pictures from the conference are available below.

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The Consolidation of a New Arab Political Order

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Operation Decisive Storm Coalition Forces' spokesman Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri provides a briefing on developments in the campaign.

Operation Decisive Storm Coalition Forces’ spokesman Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri provides a briefing on developments in the campaign. Photo: Saudi Press Agency.

While the Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm against the Yemeni Houthis and their allies continues and its long-term results are so far unknown, it is not pre-mature to project that a new Arab political order is being consolidated. Its elements include a firm and sustainable commitment to fight extremism and sectarianism, bring order and stability to the heart of the Arab world – namely, Syria and Iraq – and design, chart, and lead an independent course for the protection of pan-Arab national interests.

Such an order has a leader in the collective energies and capabilities of the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, with Saudi Arabia as a first among equals, and essential assistance from such countries as Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco. Indeed, to assure its collective interests, arrive at a hoped-for peaceful stability, and sustain much needed political, economic, and social development, the Arab world must coalesce around a strong political order that can utilize its capacities and permissible international conditions to achieve what it needs and deserves. Importantly, the consolidated new Arab political order appears to emphasize essential principles that require astute judgment, committed resources, and continuous vigilance.

Fighting Extremism and Sectarianism

The status quo states of the new Arab order are cognizant of the threats represented by the plethora of extremist groups operating at the heart of the Arab world. In Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has staked a claim in Hadramawt Province abutting the Saudi Arabian border after it lost its bases in Shabwa and Abyan to the west. In Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State group has erased the borders between the two countries in a mission to re-establish an imagined and borderless Islamic Caliphate while al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front controls strategic areas of Syria. Both organizations are serious threats to Lebanon and its pluralist political society.

In Libya, the Islamic State group, al-Qaeda affiliated Ansar ash-Shari’a, and a sundry of militias have settled, and promise to both keep the country unstable and use it as a base to spread chaos and mayhem elsewhere. In Tunisia and Egypt, jihadist extremists are waging a war of attrition against state security institutions. The actors of the consolidating Arab political order must know full well that they alone can address this threat in a fashion that combines a sense of shared responsibility for common interests and an attempt at forging an independent course that serves such interests.

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Assessing the Iran Nuclear Deal: Issues and Implications

iran-briefing-300x200On April 8, 2015, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and the U.S.-GCC Corporate Cooperation Committee hosted a public affairs briefing on “Assessing the Iran Nuclear Deal: Issues and Implications” in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC.

Featured specialists included: Dr. John Duke Anthony, Founding President and CEO, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations; H.E. Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Associate Research Scholar, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University and former Spokesman for Iran in nuclear negotiations with the European Union; Dr. Thomas Mattair, Executive Director, Middle East Policy Council; Dr. Kenneth Katzman, Specialist in Middle East Affairs in the Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division, Congressional Research Service; Dr. Imad Harb, Distinguished International Affairs Fellow, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations; and Dr. Paul Sullivan, Senior International Affairs Fellow, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations. Mr. John Pratt, Member, Board of Directors, and Distinguished International Affairs Fellow, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, served as moderator.

The program was broadcast live on C-Span and can be viewed in its entirety on the C-Span website.

Yemen in Chaos: Analysis, Prognosis, and Prospects

April 2, 2015 NCUSAR Public Affairs Briefing on YemenOn April 2, 2015, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations hosted a public affairs briefing on “Yemen in Chaos: Analysis, Prognosis, and Prospects” in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC.

Dr. John Duke Anthony, Founding President & CEO of the National Council, served as moderator and H.E. Adel A. Al-Jubeir, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States, delivered featured remarks. Additional featured specialists included: Mr. Jeremy M. Sharp, Specialist in Middle East Affairs for the Congressional Research Service and Author of the CRS Report, “Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations;” Ms. Sama’a Al-Hamdani, Analyst and Writer for Yemeniaty and former Assistant Political Officer for the Embassy of the Republic of Yemen in Washington, DC; Professor David Des Roches, Senior Military Fellow at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies (National Defense University) and Council Malone Fellow in Arab and Islamic Studies (Syria); and Mr. Abbas Almosawa, Yemeni Journalist and Analyst, and former Media and Information Advisor for the Embassy of the Republic of Yemen in Abu Dhabi and Beirut.

The program was broadcast live on C-Span and can be viewed in its entirety on the C-Span website.