On March 26th, 2015 an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia began air strikes over Yemen to put down the Iran-backed coup d’etat by the Houthis which took place on February 6, 2015. Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya News reported that the kingdom has deployed 100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and other navy units in “Operation Decisive Storm,” according to The New York Times.
The leader of the coup, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi was named leader of the presidential council. Three days later Mahmoud Al-Junaid was named as director of the presidential office, although he declined to confirm that he was working for Houthi according to the Yemen Times.
On February 19, 2015 Asharq al-Awsat reported that Mohammed al-Houthi was apparently fired over the lack of an agreement among Yemen’s political factions to support the Houthis’ transitional authority, but a senior Houthi leader denied that he had been dismissed.
The next day, Reuters and other news outlets reported that UN-led negotiations had produced a tentative agreement regarding the Yemeni parliament, but it did not address the political dispute over the presidency. Is this what Kellogg School of Management would call a colossal “public relations” failure?
The Iran Support of the Houthis in Yemen and What the Saudi/GCC Position Is
It is widely known that Iran is funding military support to the Houthis who have overthrown the legitimate government in Yemen, “now threatening the very existence of the country” according to Nehad Ismail, Middle East expert and broadcaster. Also, the Houthis are supporters of the former President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Events over the past week have declined so rapidly that the President of Yemen was forced to leave his Southern Palace and evacuate the country, according to CNN on March 26th. President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who has been the President of Yemen since May 22, 2012, is now in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia under the protection of the Kingdom. He is calling for calm in his country.
The New York Times reported on March 26th that Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said, “Iran condemns the airstrikes against Yemen this morning that left some innocent Yemenis wounded and dead, and considers this action a dangerous step.” She said that military action would only complicate the crisis in Yemen resulting in “worsening the situation and increasing extremism.”
Is this a “subtle” threat by Iran to import terrorists from other areas, such as Hezbollah from Lebanon or Iraqi Militia?
According to CNN on March 26th, the Houthi Supreme Leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi joined Thursday night al-Masirah live TV in Yemen saying, “If any army tries to invade our country, we will prove that Yemen will be a grave for those who invade us.” He added, “We call on the invaders to stop the attacks and if the airstrikes do not end, then we will escalate in the needed manner.”
Although Iran denies supporting the coup in Yemen, they are overtly supporting the Houthis. According to Al-Arabiya News Channel reporting on March 20th, “An Iranian ship unloaded more than 180 tons of weapons and military equipment at a Houthi-controlled port in western Yemen.” Al-Arabiya quoted Security Sources as saying, “The ship docked at al-Saleef port northwest of the al-Hodeida province on Thursday. The Houthi militias reportedly closed the port and denied entrance to employees there. Al-Saleef port is considered the second most vital in Yemen.” With 180 tons of weapons in their hands, the Houthis are not just a minor threat to Yemen or the Arab States anymore.
The Saudis are not alone in their mission to defeat the Houthis and “restore the rightful Yemen Government.” Saudi Arabia raised a respectable coalition of partners to join them. The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain joined Saudi Arabia in a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency (as picked up by AP), saying they would answer a request from President Hadi “to protect Yemen and his dear people from the aggression of the Houthi militias.”
In a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, the coalition said they were answering a request from Hadi “to protect Yemen and his dear people from the aggression of the Houthi militias which were and are still a tool in the hands of foreign powers that don’t stop meddling with the security and stability of brotherly Yemen.” Oman, the sixth member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, didn’t sign onto the statement. Additional coalition members announced are Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, Sudan; and Egypt who announced both political and military support have already deployed four navy ships through the Suez Canal that will patrol the Gulf of Aden to protect Yemen.
Pakistan made it clear their role would be in support of Saudi Arabia, an important position to clarify as the country has obvious ties to Iran as well. It is unclear what that support would look like. On the other hand, Sudan may be the token Shiite country in the group. While they have said they would be willing to bring ground troops if necessary, it may just be enough for the coalition to be able to say that Sudan is onboard.
US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to the foreign ministers of the coalition on March 26th saying he “commended the work of the coalition’s military action against the Houthis,” according to a State Department. State Department Spokesperson Jeff Rathke claims “there is no military solution to the crisis in Yemen,” but confirms that the US is providing “logistical and intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition, but is not directly involved in the airstrikes.” Breaking News reports that the US is providing targeting information, AWACS surveillance and Air Refueling available to the Saudi-led Coalition.
March 26th Breaking News US Contribution to Yemen Coalition
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies believe the Houthis are tools for Iran to seize control of Yemen and say they intend to stop the takeover. The Houthis deny they are backed by Iran. The fall of Yemen into the hands of the Houthis is a major blow to the US war on terrorism. In fact, CNN reported that the Houthis gained control of critical US intelligence documents that had been forfeited when the US abandoned Yemen. This is seen as quite a blow the US counter terrorism to have the Houthis get their hands on US sensitive information. It is never good for a country like the US to lose track of its sensitive intelligence, however, the US has been working under the assumption that the Houthis are al-Qaeda affiliates. Is this really the case?
The Politics of “The Yemen Situation”
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies believe the Houthis are tools for Iran to seize control of Yemen and say they intend to stop the takeover. The Houthis deny they are backed by Iran, but confirm they are backed by the former Yemen President Salah. But, the Houthis are not some dreamed up al-Qaeda group as the US and other media would have everyone believe. Mona El-Nagger of the New York Times discusses this issue in the video “Life with Houthi Rebels in Yemen.” So, is this an attempted coup d’etat by President Salah using the Houthis as his front?
Life With Houthi Rebels in Yemen | Times Dispatched | by Mona El-Naggar
Al Arabiya reported on March 28th that the deposed President of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh offered to trade the Houthis coup in exchange for immunity. Many consider Saleh as the architect behind all the unrest in Yemen. Al Arabiya said that two days before Operation “Decisive Storm,” the son of Ali Abdullah Saleh approached Saudi authorities offering to turn against the Houthi militia in return for immunity for him and his father. The son had offered in return to launch a coup against the Houthis, using 5000 security forces loyal to Saleh and 100,000 members of the Republican Guards. Saudi Arabia absolutely turned down the plan saying they were committed to the coalition plan.
Didn’t the Houthi’s say they supported the former President Saleh? President Salah and his contingent are looking for self-preservation, not Houthi success.
Many have been calling what is going on in Yemen a “proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.” NBC Meet the Press on March 29th met with Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States Adel Al-Jubeir. The ambassador says actions in Yemen are not part of a proxy war. He said, “We have encountered many problems, aggression by Iran against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. … We have extended our hand in friendship to the Iranians, and it’s been rejected for the past 35 years. We would like to have friendly relations with the Iranians because it’s good for the region.” Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir went on to say “This is a war to protect the people of Yemen and its legitimate government from a group that is allied and supported by Iran and Hezbollah.”
Meet The Press interview with Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir
According to the Town Hall, “The leader of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah group [Hassan Nasrallah] has slammed Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen, calling it ‘surprising and painful.'” Nasrallah rejected the Saudi’s claim to fight the Houthis, while accusing Saudi of ignoring the Palestinians in their decades-long struggle with Israel.
Hezbollah, like Yemen’s Houthi rebels, is supported by Iran, which Saudi Arabia views as its main regional rival. On March 17th, Hassan Nasrallah accused Saudi Arabia of sending suicide attackers to Iraq and of creating the Islamic State group. Addressing Saudi Arabia, he said Iran had expanded its influence in the region because “you are lazy, losers, and you don’t take responsibility.” Is this middle school name calling?
On March 25, 2015, Iran released typical rhetoric about “how great it is to be them.” Iran’s Director General for Political Affairs at the Iranian Foreign Ministry Hamid Baeidinejad said, “Powers have backed down from their previous positions in nuclear talks with Iran. The other side [US] has withdrawn from its positions, compared with the past, otherwise we wouldn’t have stood at this point and stage in the talks at all.” FM Baeidinejad is also a negotiator on the nuclear deal.
Earlier in the week, Nasrallah Hassan of Lebanon’s Hezbollah had a lot to say about the Saudi intervention as “unjust aggression.” The Shiite group urged Saudi Arabia and its allies to cease the strikes immediately. Today they have added, “This adventure, [which] lacks wisdom and legal and legitimate justification and which is led by Saudi Arabia, is taking the region towards increased tension and dangers for the future and the present of the region,” the group said in a statement. Doesn’t it sound like Hezbollah has had some coaching in toning down their verbal language? Was it Russia?
On March 28th, speaking to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Russia’s Vladimir Putin called for an “immediate cessation of military activities” in Yemen and increased efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, the Kremlin said in a statement on Thursday. If Iran has no involvement in the “Yemen situation,” why would Mr. Putin call on Iran to cease military activities?”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also spoke up today, March 28th, and demanded an immediate end to the operation, calling it a violation of Yemen’s sovereignty. And, as if not to be left out the Assad regime’s news agency described the airstrikes as “blatant aggression.”
Why are all of Iran’s allies working so hard to keep eyes off of Syria?
The Assad Regime took a beating in Idlib City this week, fighting against a homogenous group of Islamic and FSA Groups. After heavy fighting for five days to take Idlib City, its sixteen checkpoints fell. However, not without “madness” on the Assad side.
According to LiveLeak, the regime forces withdrew quite quickly and left 16 checkpoints on the outskirts of the city virtually unattended over a two-day period. The regime’s security forces began arresting a number of the armed forces that they suspected of being spies for the enemy leading to the fall of the City of Idlib. On March 25th, the Syrian regime’s forces had field executed thirty-six soldiers of its own army who were accused of collaborating with terrorist groups in the City of Idlib.
Military sources reported that over the two days prior to the execution, and following the regime’s forces withdrawal from more than sixteen checkpoints on the outskirts of the city, the regime’s security forces arrested a number of its members including eight members of the Military Security, nine of the Political Security, four of the State Security, twelve of the National Defense Army militia and three members of the anti-riot unit.
Speaking to ARA News, informed sources stated that the field executions took place on Wednesday after two days of interrogations with the detainees. “Intelligence reports by the heads of the checkpoints revealed the involvement of the arrested soldiers in collaborating with anti-Assad rebels in Idlib,” the source quoted a pro-Assad officer as saying.
There has been a lot of twitter talk that this fall of the City of Idlib into the control of Islamist is not really a win at all. However, the response to this talk has been quick and sharp. The most constructive response was a map showing all of the different groups involved in the City of Idlib offensive.
People in the City of Idlib were clearly glad to be liberated from the Assad regime, but no one possibly as happy as the elderly gentleman in this photo. He didn’t seem to mind that the liberators included some Islamist groups.
The other argument, which is also important to continue replaying is that the Free Syrian Army would not need to partner with Jabhat al-Nusra and their affiliates if the United States and other coalition partners would provide the support this group needs to become a well-armed force against Assad or ISIS.
The US did offer to start training “vetted” FSA fighters in March, however, it was announced today by the Turkish Government that the US “train & arm” program that was to have a definite March start date is once again delayed … due to “geographical reasons.” The Turkish spokesperson was unable to embellish on what the US means by “geographical reasons,” however, Turkey said they are ready to go.
Is it possible the US has forgotten where Turkey is, even though they fly over it every day to bomb ISIS?
The Assad regime continues its systematic pattern of violence and systematic mass attacks attended to kill, wound, and terrorize the countryside. Assad told CBS in an interview this week that it was preposterous his Army was using barrel bombs and Chlorine Gas.” He said if this [chlorine gas weaponized barrel bombs] were a good weapon “the terrorists” would have used them a long time ago. Isn’t this the same story Assad tried to tell BBC earlier this month, but different words?
No matter where you look in the Middle East, you will find the hand print of Iran. It is also evident that where ever Assad and Iran go, Russia won’t be far behind supporting their actions with directions and dictations. By leaving a power vacuum in the Middle East when the US pulled out of Iraq, it was the set up for this perfect storm. The United States must carefully assess all future moves to ensure what will happen moving forward are 1) in the best interest of the United States, and equally 2) in the best interest of the people where we are attempting to “provide assistance,” or “right a wrong.”