How Saudi Lost The Yemen Battle?



By Pramod Raj Sedhain.


How Saudi Lost The Yemen Battle?


Since March 26, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition launched aerial attack against Houthi movement in Yemen. Others in the coalition include United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan.

The airstrikes have had little effect on the battle-hardened Houthis group. The overall strategy seemed inconclusive like the intervention in 2008–2009. The Operation Decisive Storm led to humanitarian catastrophic rather than putting pressure on a political deal or a power-sharing agreement. Almost all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, except Oman, participated but the coalition seems to be confused about their final goal thus fuelling deep division among themselves.

Saudi Arabia continued loss in the Yemen battle fuelled soured relationship with almost all allies. It also missed Saudi’s decade long strategic alliance to containing the Iranian influence in the region. Now that mistrust among the coalition has begun with the partners not trusting Saudi’s strategy and leadership.

This is because of Saudi’s lack of significant war strategy and leadership quality. The current time and situation have been more dangerous due to the inexperience of the defense minister’s young age and lack of experience, uneasy relation within GCC collation, unclear goal, lack of anti-Houthi force on the ground, huge & difficult geography, lack of public support for Saudi back fugitive president.

The world’s largest arms buyer Saudi has spent billions of dollars for military power projection. It has an ultra modern technology but no professional troops to handle ground war strategy. Coalition top brass faces difficult situation to coordinate with the inexperience military leadership.

Saudi-led coalition’s lack of ground operation force and possible strong support from non-Arab allies Turkey and Pakistan failed since the latter denied the request to join the coalition.

Saudi had high hopes from its key strategic non-Arab ally Pakistan, but the parliament voted unanimously rejecting the proposal to deploy troop and supply military hardware. Pakistan’s, the biggest and only nuclear power militaries in the Muslim world, refusal to the request was a heavy blow to Saudi.

Pakistan’s rejection has a significant historic meaning at a time when thousands of Pakistani soldiers are stationed in Saudi Arabia. The most pro-Saudi oriented leadership’s request has come as a surprise to many. Pakistani pilot flew Saudi flagcare warplanes against Yemeni incursion in 1969, supported troops for Saudi in Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) as well as mobilized troops to protect Saudi in 1990 after Iraq’s invasion over Kuwait.

Turkey’s rejection has been a similar blow to Saudi strategy. Ankara has its own geo-political calculation and is furious with Saudi after its ally staged a coup plot in Egypt. The second-largest NATO standing force Turkey does not want weak Saudi to lead the operation.

Jordan and Egypt remained the last ground force option but they did not prove to be effective. These two Arab countries have functioning ground combat capacity. Egypt, the only powerful function ground force has remained Saudi’s last option but the decision is not easy. How military top brass really want to be unnecessary dragged into the Saudi-interested conflict in Yemen is still unclear but high hopes to GCC of benefiting billion of dollars investment. Egypt faces series of high profile militant attacks in Sinai and faces growing home grown extremism.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is increasingly under pressure because of past painful memories in Yemen. Egyptian troops had humiliating defect in 1960s and lost more than 22 thousand. In this case, casualty might take President Sisi’s political carrier to a tragic end. Egypt has no democratic institution to approve and the country’s military establishment is the key decision maker and breaker. The result of ground invasion in Yemen is unclear.

In case of loss in Yemen conflict, Egypt’s military top will lose President Sisi’s trust and such a dangerous loss might weaken his popular power base and that would be the biggest threat in his career. Such uneasy circumstances might also see the fear of possible rise of Brotherhood in Yemen, who brutally suppressed at home despite western criticism. But Qatar and Turkey want Brotherhood to win the Yemen power struggle. In other hand, Sisi has made a good personal link with Russian president Vladimir Putin and don’t want to fully anger.

Another Saudi’s last hope for ground operation in Yemen is Jordan – the only remaining military in the Arab world. But relations with Saudi Arabia are strained because of its engagement to open new diplomatic chapter with Iran. Relations between Saudi and UAE are getting sour with Emirates not wanting to hold the responsibility in the costly Yemen war. Saudi’s relation with Qatar is just formal. Bahrain faces increasing crisis inside home .

The mission’s failure will certainly have an influence with the U.S’s directly non engagement and reservation. The U.S. can lead the campaign if necessary but it started limited support with unclear strategy for its largest arm buyer and key regional ally Saudi. The U.S. sees Yemen conflict would benefit the world’s dangerous al-Qaida network, which might take a chance.

The U.S. has special counter terrorism soldiers and special CIA operatives in Yemen to counter and track the most notorious al-Qaeda affiliate calls as well drone strikes. After the evacuation, they will see the biggest setback to fight against terrorism. The U.S still maintains its intelligence network and keeps track on the AQAP rapid move and wants political solution with Houthi for stability.

Saudi-led coalition aerial bombardment has been successful only to destroy air/ground located bases but has failed to achieve the target on command centers, supply lines, mobile units, etc. Foreign attacks could gain popular support for Houthis as the nation defenders, sovereignty protector and such situation might bolster opportunities to the Houthis to establish as a single force inside the country.

How this now have been the most strong ever. They already faced six rounds of conflict with Saudi and it’s proxy. They survived with government forces after 2004, even repelled a Saudi military incursion in 2009. Houthi movement had gained popularity after Arab Spring revolutions and resigning of Yemen’s long-serving ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012. Houthis’ movement has been decisive after it gained major military units support . former President Saleh also support the movement, who denies of having any ambition to return to power.

The country’s fugitive president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is the root of the current crisis . He failed to properly handle the country with weak political control, failed to gain trust of military institution, and containing terrorism and corruption in the country. Therefore, weak Riyadh’s staunch ally has lost the moral ground to handle the complex ground. Without mutual constructive understanding between Riyadh and Tehran, the situation in Yemen crisis will definitely worsen.



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