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Liberation of Hodeidah and the rapid strategic shift

Radwan al-Sayed

Published: Updated:

Yemeni army forces and resistance factions, aided by the coalition’s ground, aerial and naval forces, are advancing toward the city of Hodeidah as fierce battles continue.

I do not have any military experience but ever since the Houthis were driven out of South Yemen, it has been clear that containing the Houthi coup requires three military goals: expelling the Houthis away from the Saudi borders, getting them out of the central governorates and getting them out of ports, specifically the Hodeidah Port.

The Hodeidah Port is the main naval entrance to North Yemen, and it is also important because most food imports and other goods come through it. The Houthis have benefitted a lot from its financial resources and have used it to smuggle Iranian weapons and to threaten international navigation.

They have also relied on the port to control wide areas, which never embraced them in Yemen. Military oppression and army barricades in support of Ali Saleh were not enough to subjugate these areas so the Houthis resorted to famine, like Bashar al-Assad did in Syria, to control people.

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Interestingly, the Houthis, who view themselves as part of the Iranian camp, used the same methods adopted by Hezbollah and other Iranian militias, i.e. murder, starvation, displacement and imposing Iranian domination on the abandoned land under the pretext of Shiism.

Many observers think that storming the west coast has been delayed a lot but they disagree over the reason. The most prominent reason they note is that the coalition countries, which succeeded in the issuance of UN Security Council Resolution 2216 before they intervened, had to listen to the UN Security Council at every step of the way.

Envoys always proposed truces, discussions and negotiations in Oman, Kuwait and other places.

Meanwhile, the Houthis have been stalling to improve their control over Yemen, and then came the health and humanitarian crises. This called for taking many things into consideration and to listen to people’s worries and tragedies, which the Houthis do not care about.

The circumstances in 2015 were the darkest but the decisive Arab countries turned this darkness into hope

Radwan al-Sayed

Divided army

In addition to that, I think the Yemeni situation also plays a role here. The Houthis’ arrival to Aden, Hadhramaut and Hodeidah during a month or less meant the Yemeni army was divided or practically shattered.

Therefore the coalition’s and the legitimate government’s ability to rebuild the Yemeni army during less than three years is considered an important and a fateful achievement as the army’s presence and efficiency is now essential in the ongoing war to restore the country from the Houthis who control the capital and other major cities.

It’s true that the resistance forces remained active on the ground in Taiz and other areas and in Hodeidah later but the main factor on the ground now is the Yemeni army in addition to Emirati and Sudanese forces. The air force is very important alongside the forces that are liberating lands and managing them.

There is another strategic factor which significance has appeared now. In 2015, the year of seizure and interference, the situation was entirely in favor of the Iranian axis as at the time the Russian intervention happened in Syria and the international coalition had intervened in Iraq.

The Iranians had been in Syria for around three years. Iran and its militias were the actual power on the ground after Assad’s army was exhausted. This made Arab communities desperate especially that armed militias were also in control of Libya or had spread in some of parts of the country.

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During this extreme Arab weakness, all what could possibly be saved was international resolutions. In that year in particular (2015), it seemed that the Arab Levant was back to the colonial phase of the 1930’s and 1940’s, i.e. the countries witnessing unrest had lost their independence and ability to act and had fallen victims of superpowers’ and regional powers’ conflict over areas of influence in the Arab world.

The apparent reason for this power struggle is new and it’s fighting terrorism. The strategic change noted in the article’s headline is represented in the decision of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Arab countries, which joined them to take action in Yemen to save legitimacy there and begin confronting Iran’s interferences.

This decision required courage, wisdom and the capability to act even if under the umbrella of the UN Security Council decisions and the legitimate government’s request. It’s said that the darkest hours at night are those before dawn. The circumstances in 2015 were the darkest but the decisive Arab countries turned this darkness into hope.

The years 2016 and 2017 saw the liberation of the south and restoration of vast areas in Yemen and the rebuilding of the army. The third step now is liberating the west coast and its capital Hodeidah so 80 percent of Yemen is under the control of the Arab and Yemeni legitimacy.

The Arab strategic rise began with the Arab decision of Saudi Arabia and the UAE following around two decades of vacuum. What’s happening in Yemen will happen in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Woe to the Arabs!

This article is also available in Arabic.
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Radwan al Sayed is a Lebanese thinker and writer who attained a bachelor degree from the Faculty of Theology at al-Azhar University and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tübingen in Germany. He has been a scholar of Islamic studies for decades and is the former editor-in-chief of the quarterly al-Ijtihad magazine. Radwan is also the author of many books and has written for Arab dailies such as al-Ittihad, al-Hayat and ash-Sharq al-Awsat.

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