Saudi Arabia launches attacks against Houthi insurgents in Yemen

YemenSaudi Arabia launches attacks against Houthi insurgents in Yemen

Published 26 March 2015

Dozens of Saudi Air Force jets, accompanied by fighter jets of several Gulf States, yesterday (Wednesday) launched a series of attacks against Shia’ Houthi insurgents in Yemen in an effort to beat back to progress of the Houthi forces across Yemen. The Saudis’ ultimate goal is to defeat the pro-Iranian Houthis, but the immediate Saudi worry is the growing presence of the Houthis – who hail from north Yemen – in and around the port city of Aden in south Yemen. The Saudi air strikes, carried out after consultations with the United States, are the first step in a broad military campaign which will include ground forces and will see the participation of other Arab states. Iran, through its regional agents – the Shi’a government in Baghdad; the Alawite Assad regime in Damascus; and the Shi’a Hezbollah militia in Lebanon – already calls the shots in three Arab countries. It appears that the Arab Sunni states have decided the draw the line in Yemen in order to deny Iran yet another regional gain and check the growth of Iran’s regional sway.

Dozens of Saudi Air Force jets, accompanied by fighter jets of several Gulf States, yesterday (Wednesday) launched a series of attacks against Shia’ Houthi insurgents in Yemen in an effort to beat back to progress of the Houthi forces across Yemen. The Saudis’ ultimate goal is to defeat the pro-Iranian Houthis, but the immediate Saudi worry is the growing presence of the Houthis – who hail from north Yemen – in and around the port city of Aden in south Yemen.

The Saudi air strikes, carried out after consultations with the United States, are the first step in a broad military campaign which will include ground forces and will see the participation of other Arab states.

On Tuesday, Houthi rebels seized al-Anad airbase, located between Taiz — Yemen’s third largest city, which was seized by the Houthis last week — and President Abd-Rabbuh Mansour Hadi’s stronghold of Aden. The Houthis thus appear determined to expand beyond their stronghold in the northt in an effort to take over the entire country.

The aggressive move by the Houthis convinced the Sunni Arab states that Iran and its regional agents must be confronted more directly. Iran now calls the shots in three Arab countries where its loyalists are in power:

  • Iraq, where the Shi’a majority is in power in Baghdad
  • Syria, where the minority Alawites, led by the Assad family, control Damascus and Syria’s north west
  • Lebanon, where the powerful Shi’a Hezbollah militia is in full control over half of Lebanon, and is the dominant force in the coalition government which controls the other half.

The takeover of Yemen by the Houthis would not only bring a fourth Arab country into Iran’s camp, but would more directly threaten Saudi Arabia.

In an unusual press conference yesterday, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, told reporters that a 10-country coalition had joined the military campaign in a bid “to protect and defend the legitimate government” of Yemen’s president, Abd-Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Hadi’s whereabouts are not known, and the Saudi ambassador declined to give any information about him.

Jubeir said the Houthis, backed by Iran, “have always chosen the path of violence.”

The New York Times reports that the White House announced late Wednesday that President Obama had authorized U.S. forces to provide logistical and intelligence support to the operation. The American military was establishing a “Joint Planning Cell” with Saudi Arabia to coordinate military and intelligence assistance, the White House statement said.