What comes after Saudi and Emirati gains in Aden?

The Houthis and Saleh’s supporters have now realized that their takeover of Aden in March was a huge mistake

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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Yemeni government troops, aided by Saudi and Emirati forces, have for the first time achieved what Arab armies failed to do since the end of colonization – they changed the situation on the ground by force. They defied the status quo which the rebels imposed with the aid of the Iranians. They liberated Aden, the city which ignited the war and which the rebels thought that through its fall, the Yemeni regime as we know it would end. Aden was the last standing Yemeni city and it became the alternative capital and the refuge of the legitimate president as he fled to it from Sanaa after the Houthi rebels and forces of deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh seized it.

Aden was liberated by force and it’s still standing after this liberation, hence strengthening the impression that the project of a Houthi state is no longer possible.

The Houthis and Saleh’s supporters have now realized that their takeover of Aden in March was a huge mistake that cost them what they gained by force and political deceit, pushed the U.N. Security Council to vote in consensus against them, led to rejecting their political entity and project and granted the green light to declare war to liberate the entire of Yemen.

The Houthis and Saleh’s supporters have now realized that their takeover of Aden in March was a huge mistake

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Although international consensus and U.N. Security Council resolutions were against the Houthis and their Iranian supporters, the dominating opinion then was that legitimacy and international decisions are no longer of value as long as there’s no major country willing to defend this consensus and legitimacy. This is why the Saudi military initiative and the alliance it established constituted a different experience on the regional level. The aim of this initiative and alliance was to confront difficult possibilities such as the expansion of war towards Saudi Arabia's territory and to stand up to Iranian military intervention as well as other regional and international conflicts that accompany such wars. However if you sit back and do nothing, legitimacy usually falls once the state does.

Liberating Yemen in its entirety

Aden is the first city in a series of upcoming fierce battles that the government forces must fight. The military’s capabilities to fight these wars in rugged terrains and complicated tribal zones will not be enough as political and diplomatic skills are also required. The aim of liberating Aden is not separating it but it is to reunite Yemen in the shadow of a real state away from the governance of gangs like the Houthis. It’s important that the Yemeni government and its many allies make a lot of effort to convince northern forces to join the legitimate fight and stand against the Houthis and the remnants of Saleh’s forces and to expedite the rest of the plan to liberate the whole of Yemen, restore it as one united state governed by law where people decide who rules them through international sponsorship.

The five months in which the majority of Yemen fell under the governance of the rebels, from Houthis to Saleh’s troops, gave everyone the chance to evaluate the situation. The Houthis are a militia based on religious myths claiming a godly right to leadership. Meanwhile, Saleh’s forces, the Houthis’ allies, had one project which is to seek revenge against those who stood against them during the Arab Spring protests which led to the elimination of Saleh from office. However, there was an unprecedented determination not to leave Yemen, a state run by gangs, to end like Somalia or become a country that follows the Iranian regime and be used against its Saudi neighbor in a regional war that will last for long years. This determination was proven by recent events and it lasted until legitimate government troops liberated Aden by force, aided by Saudi and Emirati forces, and resumed their push towards the north.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 29, 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.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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