The future of the Arab world will determine the events in Yemen
Against the background of events in Iraq, where anti-jihadist forces are attacking the positions of the Islamic State (IS), and Syria, where the attacks of the Turkish Air Force against the Kurds actually saved the capital of IG, the city of Raqqa, from falling, and R.T. Erdogan’s attempts to form in Syrian territory, a buffer zone for the organization of an attack on Aleppo and Damascus, the attention of experts focused on military outbreaks outside the Arabian Peninsula. Meanwhile, the war that Saudi Arabia is waging in Yemen, with the support of the UAE army and units recognized by the monarchies as legitimate by the Yemeni President Hadi, deserves no less attention.
If in Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and other countries of the Near and Middle East Saudi Arabia participates in internal conflicts “by proxy” through militant Islamist groups controlled and supported by it, then Saudi troops are directly involved in the Yemen civil war. Clearly, Riyadh took the events taking place in this country, much more acutely than in all other parts of the Arab world.
“On the part of the Housits, such a tactical move as the intensification of hostilities directly on Saudi territory is likely”
And this is because the strengthening of the Housits in Yemen, as a result of which the influence of Iran in this country should have automatically increased, created an anti-Saudi bridgehead in the immediate vicinity of the borders of the kingdom. The normalization of relations between Iran and the United States, as demonstrated by the agreement reached on Tehran’s nuclear program, meant from the point of view of the US regional allies that Washington “exchanged” them in a big geopolitical game.
Saudi Arabia, it threatened disaster. As a result, the kingdom was embroiled in a costly adventure with the bombing of Yemen’s territory. The advertised anti-Houssite coalition turned out to be a myth, as the countries that agreed to join it did not intend to take any real actions with the exception of purely symbolic gestures in support of KSA. True, the air wing, formed by the monarchies of the Gulf, Yemen bombed, destroying its infrastructure, which was within the limits of air attacks, and several thousand civilians, but it had to pay for everything the same Saudi Arabia, and the results were more than dubious.
Having taken Aden, the housewives and the units of ex-President Saleh, who tried to return the influence to their clan with their help, made a serious bid to participate in the government in Yemen, acting on the territory of the southerners, traditionally hostile to northern tribes and prone to separatism. Whether the expeditionary Saudi Emirate Corps, the troops loyal to President Hadi, and the Yemeni mercenaries, whom the Saudi media called "volunteers" after they captured Aden, have been achieved, success in fighting their Zeidite opponents is a big question. This is also because the number of active players in Yemen is much more than the Housewits traditionally mentioned by the press, Saleh, Hadi and Saudi Arabia and their comrades.
What seemed and what turned out to be
Among the experts of the Institute of the Middle East, Yemen's problems are analyzed in real time by P. P. Ryabov. Based on his materials, we will try to present the reader with the state of affairs in this country. At the same time, we will inevitably find ourselves very far from the traditional messages of the world press concerning the civil war in Yemen, which in the majority are based on the initially biased media reports of the Gulf monarchies. In these articles, the Housits are usually referred to as insurgents, although the tribes of the north that represented the support of the Zeidite imamate who had been overthrown by the Yemeni military could equally well call the military regime in Sana’a to which they never submitted. All tribal alliances, Islamist associations and the political parties of Yemen created on their basis have their own interests. They can not be united under the general command, they are not interested in the existence of a centralized united state and are ready to fight with anyone against anyone. Of course, the Salafis will not unite with the Zaidis, whom they consider heretics, but they are not allies of the tribes of the south or the Muslim Brotherhood units of the once influential Islah party. Fortunately, any alliances of local Yemeni leaders are always temporary: allies in this country are betrayed and destroyed no less than enemies.
Having taken Aden, the loyalist forces try to build on success and move north. Attempts to carry out the offensive without additional regrouping of forces is explained by the desire of Riyadh and his ally in the UAE to not lose the pace of the offensive and not allow the Houthites to strengthen the defense north of Taiz, where mountainous areas begin, it is extremely difficult to knock out the enemy. Especially considering that in the mountains the advantage of those advancing in the form of heavy equipment and aviation. This forces Riyadh to seek alternative paths for the main offensive.
At the same time, KSA is trying to strengthen the attackers by sending reinforcements. Gulf media indicate that forces loyal to Hadi have received “significant reinforcement” in the form of tanks and heavy equipment. In fact, these are 12 tanks, twice as many armored cars and two hundred “trained” at bases in the UAE and KSA of Yemenis, whose fighting efficiency is very doubtful. These "volunteers" (they are paid $ 200 a month, promising employment in the KSA after the victory) were recruited from labor migrants and outfitted already in the camps. Nobody really was engaged in combat training and coordination of the formed units.
We go to Marib
Military experts point out that the transfer of the latest reinforcements to loyalists occurred through the ground "window" on the Saudi-Yemeni border in the Al-Wadiyah region, marking this as a new element in KSA tactics. In fact, this channel was used in the first stage of the confrontation. Through him, the Islamists, who concentrated in Marib, were transferring heavy equipment and small arms. At present, Marib has become the main thrust of the “Arabian coalition”. This is due to the presence in it of conditionally loyal CSA forces, the backbone of which are the tribal militias of the Islamist Islam party, and more importantly, the availability of conditions for using heavy equipment that are more advantageous than sending through Sa'ad (the traditional place of residence and basing of the Khousit) . Through Marib is the best way to Sana. The network of highways S150 and N5 allows movement of tanks and armored personnel carriers and organizing an approach for reinforcement from KSA.
Here, aviation will also feel most comfortable. Logistics problems may arise after the Arabian coalition reaches Marib. The transport arteries from Marib to Sanaa, which are 153 kilometers in length, are not adapted for the passage of tanks due to their relief. The Saudi command plans to deliver the main blow to the capital of Yemen from the east, which does not cancel the offensive as diversion maneuvers in other sectors of the front. This is primarily Taiz, where the local militia is blocked in the city, but it distracts the Housits.
As for Lahj, this city is located in 30 kilometers from the Al-Anad military base. At one time, it was used by the Americans to attack jihadist positions using a UAV. The base was destroyed during the last battles and can not take heavy transport aircraft. On the other hand, a plain lies between her and Lahj, which allows the attackers to use heavy equipment.
All against all
It should be noted that the South Yemeni militia, with the support of the "Arab coalition," are trying to hold offensive initiative, moving in a number of directions north and north-west of Aden. Among other things, they managed to occupy the city of Zanjibar, which is considered the “gateway” to the Abyan province. The meaning of this maneuver is to encourage local militias to join them in the campaign to the north. These units are headed by a veteran of Afghanistan and a personal friend of Osama bin Laden, Tariq al-Fadli, with whom the General Intelligence Agency of KSA interacts on an ongoing basis. Until now, al-Fadli has maintained neutrality, without interfering with the situation. At the same time, he, as a direct heir to the dynasty of the rulers of Abjan, is unlikely to want to share power with anyone. As for the Howitsit, there were no detachments in the province. So when we hear about the "liberation of Abjian," we should be aware that no one has occupied it.
As a result of the actions of Saudi Arabia, this province is likely to become a Salafi enclave in the near future, like Hadramawt, where Al Qaeda’s supporters of the Arabian Peninsula had moved to legal status. The blows of the American UAVs in this case will not fix the situation. Earlier, strikes against the targets of the Islamists were accompanied by ground operations of the Kuat al-Hassah units, which the Americans prepared during the times of President Saleh specifically for these purposes. Now they are fighting against forces loyal to the current President Hadi.
This power vacuum is being actively filled by radical Islamists, and not always ideologically close to the Muslim Brotherhood, to which the Islah party, which is weakened now, is Islah, but predominantly Salafi-jihadist. Today, adherents of this trend based on local tribal clans and tribes control Hadramaut, a wide corridor from the city of Al-Shihr on the coast of the Indian Ocean to the Saudi border, Abyan province and Marib.
After the departure of the Zaidites from the south, the Al Qaeda forces of the Arabian Peninsula took control of three cities in the vicinity of Aden. The defeat of the Zaydites automatically leads to the strengthening of the Islamist segment in the country, which is very disturbing for the Americans, who have repeatedly raised this topic both in conversations with the Saudis and during secret consultations in Jordan at the end of July with the Housit delegation. The situation is disappointing for American interests in the Arabian Peninsula, since it means a total failure of the US efforts to combat the Salafi influence in the region.
It is curious that as the Saudi pressure on the Housits grows, the zone of control of the tribal militias of the Hashed Union, which act in coordination with the former leaders of Islah, the Ahmar brothers, expands. They managed to press down the Housits in the provinces of Ib and Damar, where they took control of a number of areas. Experts in this regard note that the Khousits left these positions without a fight, leveling the front line and creating optimal conditions for the defense of the areas near the cities of Taiz and Ib. Since the relief of the terrain allows, the Khousits were able to create a solid fortification line of defense there, to which they retreated.
The loyalists advancing on their positions gave 48 housewrights hours so that they would withdraw troops from Iba voluntarily, but the housewinds entrenched themselves in very advantageous positions and were ready to hold them. Especially when you consider that the militia of Hadi and his allies are not adapted to street battles, and in the case of leaving Iba with Khousits, conditions arise for further attacks on the capital of the country, since the distance from Ib to Sanaa is approximately 46 kilometers along the highway.
Hit the pocket
In parallel with these hostilities in Abjane, the Islamists are fighting local values with the Housits in the “pocket” of Lowder. The Zeidites are holding him down, trying to strike south to unlock their forces, which are concentrated in the local area on the coast of the Indian Ocean and where the only highway from Louder leads, controlled mostly by South Korean militias. At the same time, the Khousits need to keep the defense from the north, because if reinforcements approach the Islamists from the forces of A.M. Hadi, there is a possibility of being surrounded in the boiler, into which the indicated “pocket” will turn.
Approximately the same “pocket”, but larger, was formed by the Khousits near Taiz from the east. Here it is more difficult to surround their forces, including geographic conditions. The highlands help the Zidites, who are excellent at fighting in the mountains. As for the Taiz militia, which controls 75 – 85 percent of the city, it is incapable of independent offensive operations.
The western part of the country - the coast of the Red Sea is still under the control of the Housits. This creates a hypothetical possibility of a counter-offensive from the two flanks (west and east) and the encirclement of the loyalist forces, which are located west of Taiz. The advance of the southerners on Sana until Ib, Taiz and Damar are captured, according to experts, is unlikely. The main direction of deployment of the forces advancing from the south will be Marib, which is located in 100 kilometers from the border and where the Saudis hastily send reinforcements in the form of tanks and armored cars across the land border of Al-Wadiya.
It is characteristic that in the capital of Yemen - Sana'a, which the Housits are confidently holding, the anti-Saud sentiments of the local population are strong, which promises serious fighting for this city. Fortunately, the mountainous terrain minimizes the enemy's advantage in heavy equipment. This factor is present in all directions of advancement of the Loyalists, which forces them to first send forward Yemenite infantry, which does not have a sufficient level of combat coordination. Saudi and Emirate tank columns are located in the rear and in fact do not affect the balance of power. In the case of their advancement to the forefront, a constant cover from the air is necessary, for which the southerners have no opportunity.
War is knocking at the Saudis
So far, the declared successes in attacks in one direction or another only mean that the local tribes take control of the areas of their traditional residence, which do not extend beyond their borders. There are no other forces besides the Yemenis recruited “for Hadi” and their own armored vehicles, the “Arabian coalition” does not. As a result, in Yemen, we see a “patchwork quilt” consisting of areas that are controlled by either the Housits or forces that can hardly be called vertically integrated into one army with a single command. Especially since the subordination of them to President Hadi is very doubtful - he is rightly considered in the south of the country as the very man who suppressed in 90's on the orders of Salekh the performances of local separatists.
Taking into account the fact that the Khousits are forced to hold significant forces on the border in Saad in the event of the beginning of the intervention of Saudi troops from the north, the capture of Sana would allow the Arabian coalition not only to win a crucial from the point of view of propaganda effect, but also block the way of smuggling to the Khousits fuel from other parts of the country. In addition, the occupation of the capital of Yemen would mean a sharp narrowing of the space for finding shelters for the command of the Zaidis and their leaders.
In this regard, a number of experts indicate that from the side of the Housits, such a tactical move, unexpected for the Saudi leadership, as the intensification of hostilities directly in Saudi territory, in Najran is very likely. It was there that they shot down a KSA helicopter. There was also attacked a Salafi mosque in the city of Abha, Asir province, located in close proximity to the Yemeni border. The attack was carried out against the soldiers of the special forces who were praying in the mosque: 13 soldiers were killed, another 10 people were injured.
Responsibility of the IG traditionally claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack on the mosque in Abha, but experts doubt it, linking this attack with the actions of a special team from forces loyal to the ex-President Saleh, especially since the IG militants have never attacked the territory Saudi Arabia on the Sunni mosque. In addition, experts can not yet say anything about the supporters of the IG in Yemen and KSA. The Saudi population sympathizes with the organization’s struggle against the Shiites, but it’s very far from sympathizing with the war against the Gentiles in neighboring countries and organizing the war on its own territory.
Meanwhile, the UAE armed forces only during the collision at the El-Anad Air Force base lost three people killed. As you move to the capital of the country, losses will increase. In Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are aware of this. They are estimated by the General Staff of the KSA Armed Forces at 150 – 200 of the military, although experts believe that the attackers in the mountains may lose twice as much. This is on condition that the military from KSA and the UAE will not run (as they demonstrated in much less dangerous situations). The advance of their troops into mountainous Yemen is fraught with the beginning of a partisan-ambush war with mine traps.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are forced to send troops to Yemen to service western-made heavy equipment or artillery, since their local allies are unable to use it, as the fighting for Aden, where armored personnel carriers of western production have been completely destroyed, proved. Thus, at present, the backbone of the forces loyal to President Hadi is 1500 ethnic Yemenis trained in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi and Emirati military 1500. The UAE brigade is deployed at the El-Anad base.
Given the reluctance of the Khousitites to engage in battle on an open plain with heavy equipment and air support of the enemy, their retreat to the Taiz mountains looks logical. And we are talking about a planned operation, and not about forced flight. The number of losses on both sides indicates exactly such a scenario. That is, the Housits moved to positions that were beneficial for them, optimizing the stretched ways of reinforcements and logistics.
Consider that in previous months, Saudi aviation bombed all the bridges at Taiz and Lahj in order to prevent the supply of the Housits and the reinforcement approach to them under Aden. She succeeded then, but now she is hindering the offensive by the forces of the Arab coalition. Nevertheless, the Saudis are clearly planning to develop an offensive, despite predictable heavy casualties. It can be facilitated by an agreement with local tribes in Taiz on cooperation and support for militias blocked there. But the transfer of heavy equipment and reinforcements for them is still real only through Aden ...