Defending the Saudi kingdom from the Houthi threat
The Decisive Storm campaign no longer has many aims to fulfill
Two days before the Saudi-led coalition’s spokesman in Riyadh announced the end of the first stage of Operation Decisive Storm, fire was still burning and explosions could still be heard in the mountains around the Yemeni capital Sanaa.
The coalition’s jets raced against time to destroy warehouses of heavy weaponry and ballistic missiles – with which the Houthis were expected to use to shell southern Saudi cities like Jizan, Abha and Najran. There were also fears that they possess Scud D missiles, the range of which stretches further than Jeddah if they are launched from Sanaa.
The coalition’s airstrikes ended after the major threats had been eliminated, mainly that of the ballistic missiles, as declared by the coalition’s official statement. Airstrikes may resume if the military has to pursue armed groups or support the operations of the resistance.
During the crisis, Iran sought to repeat its experience in southern Lebanon, by establishing an armed group in Yemen that continuously threatens the south of the kingdom.
The Houthis are a clone of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, just as the Yemeni militias intend to dominate the country and threaten its northern neighbor. When the Houthis took over the Yemeni capital, they seized its missile system. At this point, the militias became a threat to Saudi Arabia and were no longer just the Yemenis’ problem.
By destroying control and communication centers, warehouses, heavy weaponry and military facilities, the Decisive Storm campaign no longer has many aims to fulfillAbdulrahman al-Rashed
By destroying control and communication centers, warehouses, heavy weaponry and military facilities, the Decisive Storm campaign no longer has many aims to fulfill. The U.N. Security Council’s recent resolution banning the arming of militias contributed to imposing an international naval siege on Yemeni ports along the 1,900 kilometer coast in order to prevent the Iranians from providing the Houthis with weapons.
The other important development is U.S. President Barack Obama’s statement warning the Iranians against any attempt to provide support to the militias in Yemen. In addition, the U.S. navy has begun to search ships going to the country, which are suspected to be holding weapons from the Islamic republic.
Therefore with these givens, two main tasks are now possible: the first being to aid the Yemeni resistance in support of the government to liberate areas controlled by both the Houthis and forces loyal to deposed leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the second being to provide the chance for a peaceful solution.
I believe that if Saleh is eliminated from the new political formula, reconciliation will become possible in the shadow of the Gulf initiative which the Houthis accepted but which they and Saleh later rebelled against.
The aim of using military power is still not about eliminating rivals but pushing them towards a compromise.
By ending the air strikes early, abstaining from a ground invasion, supporting the forces of the legitimate government and giving a political solution a chance, Saudi Arabia has shown wisdom at resolving the Yemeni crisis.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 23, 2015.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
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