Emirates Red Crescent distribute the UAE Aid to Yemen Image Credit: WAM

Epic is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as referring to a long poem about events in the past and as a long drawn-out struggle during which a great number of challenges are encountered.

The fact that the Abu Dhabi-Makkah Run Initiative is not solely for running and also displays noble slogans such as “to hail Saudi and Emirati efforts to ensure peace and stability in the region,” reminds us of epic poetry with a rhetorical appeal.

Dr Khalid Jamal Al Suwaidi, Executive Director of the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), arrived in Makkah on March 1, after a 29-day trip that had been scheduled to be completed in 38 days.

Dr Al Suwaidi’s trip highlighted the cooperation between the two countries to combat extremism and terrorism, in particular, the efforts of the coalition forces in Yemen and it paid tribute to the martyrs of both countries during the coalition’s time in Yemen.

The coalition in Yemen has been badly misrepresented in both the Western media and the Arab media, who have suggested it has been driven by the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam. They have described the coalition as a war that disrespects the Yemeni people, and some have gone as far as to say it is an occupation by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Stabilising Yemeni central bank

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have provided $1.18 billion (Dh4.33 billion) to support the UN’s 2018 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (YHRP), as well as other international support for UN organisations.

This is in addition to the efforts of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre and the Emirates Red Crescent, as well as supporting the Yemeni government by stabilising the Yemeni currency and giving a deposit of $3 billion to their central bank. Saudi Arabia and the UAE head the Development and Reconstruction Programme for Yemen covering health, education, transport and electricity. In addition, both countries are supporting Yemen with oil supplies, to the value of $60 million a month.

So where is this war that the Western media is talking about? In what way have these humanitarian efforts demonstrated Saudi or Emirati hegemonic interests in Yemen?

The Western media have ignored the real source of the conflict and are focusing on its manifestations — looking at symptoms rather than causes.

They focus on humanitarian issues and civilian casualities and have ignored the fact that the coalition came into being because of a coup by the Al Houthis against the Gulf initiative of a peaceful democratic transition of power.

This initiative was backed by the international community via the United Nations in 2012 with the hope of a peaceful transition of power.

Unfortunately, the western media is echoing Al Jazeera’s stance, which is influenced by the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam. A study in The Journal of Arab Media and Society examined Al Jazeera English website coverage of the Yemeni crisis before and after the outbreak of the Qatar crisis.

The results showed that the overall coverage of the negative impacts of the coalition, mainly in terms of the humanitarian crisis and civilian casualities dramatically increased after the Qatari crisis. Although this study does not show conclusive evidence that Al Jazeera English has considerably influenced Western media coverage of the war in Yemen, there are indications that the coverage of humanitarian issues and civilian casualties by western media increased after the Qatar crisis.

A story of good intentions

In an interview on Sky News Arabia for a programme called From Riyadh, Najeeb Al Galab, Undersecretary of the Yemeni Ministry of Information, said that 80 per cent of the relief material was controlled by Al Houthi organisations, which are affiliated with international organisations and thus the relief work had become a kind of logistical support for the Al Houthi movement.

Abdullah Al Otaibi, a Saudi writer and researcher, said in the same episode that the reason for this could be explained in two ways.

The first, a story of good intentions, is that historically the United Nations has had limited success because of its weak administration.

The second, a story of bad intentions, is that global superpowers do not want the coalition to succeed in bringing about a decisive victory because they want to be involved in a good outcome and thus enjoy the spoils.

Given these facts, the coalition must be in control of both soft power and hard power. In a situation as challenging as the one in Yemen, the coalition needs to master what is known as smart power, the “balance of hard and soft power”.

One can see here the analogy between the Abu Dhabi-Makkah Run Initiative and the Gulf initiative. Both proved to be successful in challenging how you complete a mission; you have to use ‘smart’ power.

The arrival of Khalid Al Suwaidi to Makkah embodies this situational irony because it resulted in an outcome so much greater than what was originally intended, although this would not have been possible without good planning, determination and persistence.

Dr. Najat AlSaied is an assistant professor in the College of Communication and Media Sciences at Zayed University.