The Yemeni army inside Houthi territories
Coalition forces and the legitimate forces in Yemen are scoring victories on various fronts
Supported by the Saudi- coalition forces, the Yemeni army surprised everyone by entering and expanding in Saada, the land and province that are considered under the Houthi control.
This is a very important development. Yemen’s Vice President, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, has even travelled to Saada, which confirms that the battle is very important and symbolic. A year and a half ago, the militias considered that General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar has left Yemen on a one-way ticket, announcing the collapse of the Republic.
However, the many developments related to the military situation on the ground in Yemen are simultaneous and important; the coalition forces and the Yemeni legitimate forces are scoring victories on various fronts. According to the recent reports, Mocha was liberated in the west of the country with an air and sea support, enabling it to regain control of Bab al-Mandab.
These reports mentioned a significant progress in the city of Taiz, where battles are taking place from one neighborhood to another. The same applies to Bayda province. The Yemeni army is now in control of most of the east coast, which was a gateway to smuggle weapons coming to the militias from Iran.
The militias faced difficulties in penetrating through the naval blockade, after the intensified activity of the naval forces that is stopping ships and boats smuggling weapons. These simultaneous victories are very important on the political level as they encourage major powers that are still reluctant about supporting the legitimate powers. Yemen will be a test for the policies of the newly elected US president, Donald Trump, in the face of Iran.
On the political level, we are witnessing quick actions; UN envoy returned to propose a long-term truce and negotiations for a peaceful solution. The Houthi militias and former President Ali Saleh forces, wanted to maneuver and hence did not accept yet the international peace initiative.
Recent military gains have led to significant breakthroughs in the war in Yemen that has been ongoing for a year and a half, which indicates that this conflict will be shorter than othersAbdulrahman al-Rashed
All the president’s powers
Houthis insist on transferring all of the president’s powers to his deputy, and not just a part of them. This will weaken and disrupt the initiative, which will make them lose the opportunity to participate in the government.
Their intransigent attitude is probably tutored by Iran, which has a primary role in igniting the war and supporting all the militant activities targeted at the military, diplomatic and propaganda levels. The Iranians insist on their participation in the negotiations, in order to sell their allies in Yemen within the regional barter basket.
Since the legitimate government recovered nearly 80 percent of the lands and the militias’ choices got limited, they still have a narrowed opportunity to take advantage of a peaceful solution to end the war through political reconciliation and partnership. This opportunity will not remain available once the military takeover becomes imminent.
The losses suffered by the militias affected their internal relations, where most of their troops located now in the capital Sanaa, have now different opinions regarding the management of their government, including their slogan that Houthis borrowed from the Iranian militias: “Death to America, Death to Israel”.
Saleh’s militias had another opinion and chose a different slogan that is as distrustful as the Houthis’: “One Yemen and one people”, but all they had done was to divide the country.
Sanaa will be the last battle, and I am not saying the decisive one because the draft project of the militias has failed when they lost the majority of the cities and were unable to manage the alternative government and transfer the last governmental institutions, i.e. the central bank, to Aden. Aden had become the capital upon the transition of President Hadi’s government after returning from exile in Saudi Arabia.
Recent military gains have led to significant breakthroughs in the war in Yemen that has been ongoing for a year and a half, which indicates that this conflict will be shorter than others, when compared with those of the region. The conflicts in Syria and Libya have lasted for 5 years now, and the struggle in Afghanistan has been going on for 15 years now.
Yemeni people have suffered a lot due to the coup, the destruction of the political regime, the breakdown of legitimate authority, and the militias seizing the resources of the state and the entire country.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on January 27, 2017.
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.