The Battle for Yemen Gains Steam
The Sunni Coalition Against Iran
Bill Collier- The rise of a Shia Salafist army in Yemen, funded and supplied by Iran, has raised the ire, and the profile, of an emerging Arab coalition against Iran in the Middle East, with the United States absent from any leadership role Indeed, as Yemen, once touted as a success story for American policy, has been vacated by the US. This vacuum appears to have been filled by an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The coalition is attempting to pick up the broken pieces of what has become a failed state.
For more background on the REAL fault line emerging in the Middle East, see author’s News Intelligence Update on News Scope.
The takeover of Yemen by radical Shia Salafists from the Houthi tribe is not complete. Forces still remaining loyal to President Hadi, a Sunni, have been clawing back some lost ground, namely the international airport at Aiden. The fighting is said to be bitter and bloody with no quarter taken or given by either side.
Saudi Arabia has committed 100 warplanes and “150,000 troops” to the fight. They are joined by forces from the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Pakistan, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan. Whether or not it materializes, this Sunni coalition has made noises that it intends to wage relentless war on the Shia forces in Yemen, and the United States is “absent from the field.”
In short, a major battle is emerging between Iran and her neighbors, with places like Yemen, Iraq, Libya, and Syria being the battleground, although in Iraq and Syria it is more complicated because Iran is fighting the same Sunni Salafists opposed by this emerging Sunni coalition. These powers clearly do not want Iran to advance, and they are not happy about the current negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. Indeed, current US policy is driving many Arab powers into a closer, if unofficial, level of cooperation with Israel, while driving a wedge between the rest of the Arab world and the leaders who control the Palestinian claimed lands of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
It should be noted that the bonds between the Arab world and the Palestinian people have not suffered. What has suffered is the relationships between Hamas and Fatah on one hand and the rest of the Arab world on the other hand.
It is not clear yet how much is being put into this fight. The Saudi military does not possess a high reputation in battle and is largely controlled by tribal groups- but if, as it appears, these tribes are sincerely opposed to Iranian control over Yemen, one might see a far more aggressive, and capable, Saudi military operation than would be otherwise predicted.. It is certainly true that personnel from Jordan, Egypt, and the UAE would be genuinely opposed to this Iranian proxy Army gaining power on the Arabian Peninsula, but so far it would appear that their forces are limited to air force assets and it is not believed that ANY ground forces have entered Yemen.
Any attack on the ground would likely have to come by air and sea, coming overland from Saudi Arabia would be extremely difficult given the desert terrain which must be crossed in great expanses, except via the Saudi town of Jizanon, which lies just north of the Yemeni town of Al Luhayya on the Yemeni west coast. No reports of ground movement in this area have been reported, beyond beefing up of the border areas as a defensive measure.
Make no mistake, this is a full-on war, and if it proceed in a manner consistent with the stated goals of this Sunni coalition, it is likely to become a major conflagration which spill over into Syria, Iraq, and Libya. For instance, a Sunni-led coalition could conceivably seek to enter Iraq and install a Sunni government while chasing the Iranians out of Iraq. It appears on the ground that the US has ceded Iraq to Iranian hegemony.
None of these developments have taken cognizance of American policy or concerns- indeed the US has maintained a distance from events that is stunning to American allies in the region. The precipitous withdrawal from Yemen by US forces was completely unexpected. The operations plan called for reinforcements of those forces, not their withdrawal, the Freedomist has learned.
Attacks against the Shia forces have come from many locations, including air attacks by coalition partners in support of ground attacks by President Hadi’s loyalists, who have also been air dropped weapons and munitions. But those forces have managed to hold their ground, even as precision air attacks targeting individual commanders on the road have caused attrition among their leadership. Iranian arms and supplies are very likely not coming through. Saudi Arabia has essentially declared a Cordon Sanitaire over Yemen and surrounding areas.
It is not known if the US is providing intelligence or any other resource to this coalition of Sunni powers.