Yemen: Light at the end of the tunnel!


With all the games the Houthi are playing to dismantle the Sweden Agreement, hopes are dashed with every rebel violation and with motor attacks on civilians and government-controlled areas. Still, I am hopeful.

Yes, it is never easy to win a war in Yemen. For a decade, Nasser’s Egypt supported a military coup against the 1,000-year-old Zaidi Kingdom. In 1961, when the Egyptians went in, they thought it was a “mission possible.” It took them eight years to realize their mistake. Up to 70,000 well-trained soldiers, with modern equipment, were unable to defeat mountainous tribes with no more than old rifles and knives.

The invader, this time, is Iran. The Arab Coalition is backing the legitimate Yemeni government against a foreign-led rebellion. That was what Saudi Arabia did when it backed the Yemeni king in the 1960s.

The Arab Coalition trains, arms and backs the Yemeni military and security forces. They lend them air cover, sea power and elite troopers, and help with planning, logistics and intelligence.

The Saudis and Emiratis are the biggest donors to Yemen in the world. Saudi Arabia alone has provided more than $13 billion worth of humanitarian assistance in the last four years.

Recently, Yemeni forces have been progressing at a faster pace than before and the rebels are losing ground and ceding strategic areas rapidly. Why?

For one, the US is not in their camp, this time. The Obama administration had a secret, but apparent, pact with Iran to drag the war on as long as possible. The aim was to bring Saudi Arabia and its allies to a political solution that favored the rebels and to come to terms with Iran’s new role as the region’s sheriff.

Thankfully, the Trump administration is back on America’s traditional tracks. They now support their traditional Arab allies to end the Iranian intervention in Yemen and everywhere else. The needed military equipment, that was denied us before, became available. This includes smart weapons, laser guided missiles, intelligence gathering airplanes and highly advanced air defense. In addition, we now have better access to US intelligence and satellite images.

Also, since their assassination of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the rebels have been steadily losing their solidarity. Without Saleh, the militias do not have the political, administrative and organizational skills needed to run the government, maintain tribal relations and speak to the outside world. A great number of Saleh’s followers have joined the Yemeni government. They brought with them a wealth of expertise, information and tribal loyalty. Also, with their insistence on enforcing their religious ideology, they have faced strong rejection from the non-Shiite majority.

Intense pressure on all fronts has exposed internal factions. The Hashemite families (descendants of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) are the top tier of the Houthi movement. According to the Jaffari branch of the Shiite sect, ultimate rulers and imams must be Hashemite. However, most educated and urban followers are not. Therefore, they are assigned lower administrative and political positions, while the military leaders and top decision makers come from the tribal Hashemites.

Competition over spoils of war, critical decisions and the highest government posts puts such alliance to the test. Some militia leaders fled with their fighters to the liberated regions and joined the government forces. They brought with them valuable data and inside information, including detailed maps of land mines, operation rooms, leaders’ hideouts and weapons storage.

Since UN agencies have failed to detect arms shipments, the Alliance has implemented tighter searching methods and has spotted, seized and destroyed many illegal shipments passing under the nose and eyes of the UN! A tighter cordon was erected to enforce Security Council resolutions 2216 and 2213 forbidding arms smuggling. Iran has used humanitarian shipments to provide the Houthis with sophisticated missiles, drones and communication equipment.

Those Yemenis who believed that the Houthis rebelled against a rotten government now know better. Instead of a cleaner, decent and caring regime, they now suffer under cruel, ignorant and ideological militias, implementing a foreign anti-Arab agenda. Such public reckoning changes everything.

Yemen is known as the graveyard of invaders, as the heroic resistance of the “Hjour” tribes is proving. The other northern Yemeni tribes should join in - now!

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah.

He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @kbatarfi