There has been an escalation in the war in Yemen, especially at the fronts of Marib, Shabwa, and the Sanaa International Airport. In the same vein, new targets are emerging in Al Hudaydah as the Houthis are turning them to areas of military activity and weapons manufacturing.
During the battles of the last 10 days, the Houthis, or the gunmen appointed by them, fled from a number of directorates as the human and material losses inflicted on them in the last round were quite heavy. As a result, they lost crucial areas that were under their control since the war started. In the same vein, the Iran-backed militias are incapable of reaching the city of Marib which they have been besieging since the start of 2021, in hope of seizing the oil-rich areas there.
In light of the mounting pressure on the Houthi militias in Yemen on land and from the air, they have been attempting to redirect their activities to the sea, as when some gunmen onboard Houthi boats stormed the UAE ship of Rawabi before Al Hudaydah seaport in international waters. The latter represents a new and serious threat to maritime traffic in the Red Sea, thus alarming the UN, and urging a number of countries to issue statements that condemn this modern-age piracy.
Meanwhile, the Houthi version of the story and their claim of seizing a weapons shipment failed to persuade the public opinion or make their raid on the ship seem acceptable.
In the meantime, the warplanes of the Arab Coalition made a splendid performance in the skies of Yemen through targeting Houthi ammunition depots, missiles and drone planes launch-pads, and hidden stores of the Houthi war machinery. On the other hand, there has been a surge in the Houthi attacks on Saudi territories, as hundreds of drones and ballistic missiles were launched – and they all have been intercepted and destroyed in the air before reaching or causing any damage to their intended targets inside the Kingdom.
What was it that suddenly changed the tide of war in Yemen, particularly in the areas of Shabwa, Marib and its hinterland?
Some Houthis are blaming Iran for their losses, trying to find a link with the Vienna nuclear talks where Iran is being urged to abandon its regional interventions. Others think that the escalation of war comes as a natural result after the expiry of the truce the Arab Coalition countries have abided by, and which was brought to an end by the Houthis’ refusal to negotiate a peaceful settlement.
The more realistic explanation of this shift is that the pro-Arab Coalition Yemenis are witnessing the excellent results of military cooperation and joint efforts, especially since their ground forces could not have expelled the Houthis without the Coalition’s warplanes assistance that eradicated the war machinery and military strongholds of the Iran-backed militias. Moreover, air shelling would never have regained the directorates abandoned by the Houthis without boots on the ground.
Some years ago, and as a result of the disintegration of the Yemeni domestic scene and its various sides, the Houthis managed to seize a third of the area of Yemen and control half of its population. However, the recent battles are a proof that joint efforts are key to win the war against them.
Iran has turned Yemen into a massive workshop for the accumulation and manufacturing of weapons, as it has been smuggling its military equipment via small boats from its seaports to their Yemeni counterparts of As Sulayf and Al Hudaydah. At any rate, the scope of war might expand in response to any surge in Iranian-Houthi maritime smuggling and piracy activities. The Arab Coalition has already declared that “any kidnappings or piracy activities carried out from a Yemeni seaport will render that port a legitimate military objective,” noting that “the Houthi militia’s hijacking of the ship ‘Rawabi’ is a flagrant breach of the principles of international law.”
The recent developments can be regarded as a step forward for the Yemeni legitimacy, and another battle won in the long war for the liberation of the vast and glorious country of Yemen. These developments are also a response to some late assumptions that the Coalition has abandoned the Yemeni issue, or that it is suffering from lack of ammunition and logistic supplies, or that disagreements among Yemeni sides are worsening.
In the forthcoming stage, the legitimate Yemeni troops, along with Al-Amaliqah forces, are destined to move to their next objectives; namely, the Governorate of Al Bayda, as well as Marib.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.