Yemen, one year on: Victory or defeat?

The coalition has achieved more in a year than the Americans have done in Afghanistan in 15...

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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It has been a year since the Saudi-led coalition launched its war in Yemen against the toppling of the legitimate government there. The coalition has achieved more in a year than the Americans have done in Afghanistan in 15.

It has not eliminated the forces of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh or the Houthis, and Al-Qaeda - which established its presence there years before the war was launched - is still attacking legitimate Yemeni and coalition forces. However, one year on, political and battlefield gains have diminished the number of those protesting and doubting the war.


By the time of the first coalition airstrike, Houthi militias and Saleh’s forces had seized most of Yemen, and the rebels had declared the formation of a cabinet and their rejection of UN Security Council resolutions.

The nightmare became a reality - another country in Iran’s orbit, besieging Gulf countries from the south while they are besieged by Iraq and Syria from the north. The rebels had also seized the arsenal of the Yemeni army, which included Scud missiles that could gravely threaten Saudi cities.

The war immediately destroyed the rebel political system, and prevented Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hezbollah forces and Iraqi militias from entering Yemen, as they have done in Iraq and Syria.

Liberating most Yemeni provinces during this year of war is a huge military achievement in a rugged country that resembles Afghanistan in its terrain and tribal divisions

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The coalition imposed an aerial and naval siege. Yemeni ports depended on efficient international inspections. Last year, U.S., French and Australian naval forces prevented ships carrying arms from Iran from reaching Yemen, but they did not prevent humanitarian aid shipments.

The war was the only option to prevent the IRGC and Hezbollah from occupying Yemen and turning it into a front in a major regional war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Military progress

Liberating most Yemeni provinces during this year of war is a huge military achievement in a rugged country that resembles Afghanistan in its terrain and tribal divisions. The war is ongoing, but at a slower pace as the legitimate government’s forces approach the capital Sanaa.

This is the last battle, and this is why Saleh and the Houthis agreed to negotiate in Kuwait, and sent a team of representatives to the Saudi capital. Everyone hopes that there will be signs of a political solution to end the war, and that everyone will work toward restoring legitimacy and implementing relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Prior to the coup by the Houthis and Saleh, the Yemeni people had finalized their political project under UN auspices. They had also approved electing a transitional government and begun writing a constitution. However, Saleh and the Houthis dared occupy Sanaa and arrest members of the elected government.

It is hoped that the negotiations turn the clock back, adopt the approved international solution, and complete a political transition to establish a representative parliament that can be elected later and also under U.N. auspices. Then the Yemeni crisis will come to an end.

The rebels thought that they could seize power in Yemen, and that Saudi Arabia and its allies would not deter them militarily. The rebels miscalculated, sounded alarm bells in the Gulf, and brought the region’s governments to meet and agree to confront Iran and its allies in Yemen.

Many were surprised by Saudi and Emirati military capabilities to engage in a war like this while also operating on the ground to rebuild and recruit Yemeni forces.

The war represents multiple confrontations with several goals. The first is to prevent a militant regime similar to Hezbollah’s in Lebanon. The second is to protect Saudi Arabia from the south, and thus prevent a hostile front that will trigger a war that may last years or even decades. The third is to voice rejection of superpowers’ submission to Iran’s regional expansionism.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 05, 2016.
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. He tweets @aalrashed,

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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