Who can stop the Hodeidah offensive?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

After the forces of the Arab coalition and the Yemeni legitimacy arrived on the outskirts of Hodeidah’s main port two weeks ago, the UN Security Council hallways buzzed with activity and many organizations and governments warned of a horrific massacre and demanded halting the military offensive.

Newly-appointed Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani did not say it all as he said there is a state that stands against liberating Hodeidah and he did not name it. However, he made enough hints for the ordinary observer to know which state it is. He said it’s the same country that stood against the protection of civilians in Syria.

Not many thought that superpowers in the UN Security Council will intervene in the Yemeni war when they had rejected intervening to restore the legitimate government which was found based on the decision of the UN Security Council that abandoned it after the coup.

Above all that, the UN Security Council failed at condemning Iran for its support of the Houthi rebels due to the use of veto power. So why do the coalition’s cannons abstain from fighting and take into consideration the UN Security Council if it can seize Hodeidah, the Houthis’ most important city?

It is because the legitimacy wants to please the five permanent members of the Security Council to get their support in the remaining military and political measures to end the coup.

Iran and the Houthis are planning a huge massacre in Hodeidah and proof to that is that their militias and their reinforcements have infiltrated residential areas and fortified themselves with civilians

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Fortified with civilians

Iran and the Houthis are planning a huge massacre in Hodeidah and proof to that is that their militias and their reinforcements have infiltrated residential areas and fortified themselves with civilians.

This is the same as Hezbollah’s approach during its war with Israel in 2006 as after it carried out an attack on the borders, it escaped towards the inside of Lebanon and deployed its missiles in southern towns where they were targeted by Israeli warplanes. Most of the group’s fighters disappeared during the confrontations leaving cities and towns under the mercy of Israeli cannons and missiles.

The Houthi Ansar Allah militias that support Iran use the same tactic. It’s for these exact fears that the coalition forces stopped at the outskirts of Sanaa when they arrived there around a year ago.

ALSO READ: Battle to liberate Yemen’s main port of Hodeidah officially underway

These forces are still stationed there and they have not stormed the capital out of fear of inflicting human losses among civilians after the Iranian militias withdrew and stationed inside the city to fortify themselves among them.

The rush to liberate Hodeidah is due to the fact that it’s the Houthis’ flow of life. Sanaa was profitable to them when they first occupied it up until they bankrupted the Central Bank and looted commercial banks. Sanaa to the rebels represents nothing except political symbolism.

Source of money

Hodeidah, however, is their major source of money thanks to the fees they make on merchandise. The port is their source of weapons and support which they receive from Iran by sea by using small boats that transport this aid from bigger boats.

Yemeni forces now besiege the roads leading to Hodeidah, its port and airport, and they’re detecting what’s happening on the ground from the air to paralyze the Houthis’ capabilities and resources. Some hope that the “state” which opposes storming Hodeidah has alternative solutions that prevent bloodshed thus pleasing both sides. It’s unlikely but not impossible.

ALSO READ: How liberating Hodeidah can help in resolving Yemen’s humanitarian crisis

There is talk that the Houthis will be allowed to reposition temporarily by getting them out of the city and putting the city and the port under international management. This is similar to a proposal which Saudi Arabia made three months ago and the Houthis rejected it back then. The aim was to deliver international aid to residents and prevent the Houthis from stealing it.

Perhaps the Houthis can peacefully withdraw from the city; therefore saving themselves as well as citizens. However if legitimate forces manage to control the port, there will be no need to put it under the UN management. The coalition is more competent and the Yemeni forces are the owners of the land and represent the legitimate rule approved by the Security Council.

This article is also available in Arabic.
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.