First Month of War in Yemen

First Month of War in Yemen

The war in Yemen started a month ago. The conflict is likely to spread farther across the whole Middle East. The confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran is getting deeper. Supporters of lslamic State established a new group called Soldiers of the Caliphate in Yemen. The Shia movement Ansar Allah (the Houthis) is preparing to strike Saudi Arabia in retaliation.

Tehran understands that the United States stood behind Saudi Arabia inciting it to start the war. Iran is not going to give up. At the moment Tehran sees lifting of sea and air blockade of Yemen as its main goal. Iran’s Foreign Ministry on April 24 summoned Saudi Arabia’s charge d’affaires to express Tehran’s protest over Saudi Arabian warplanes’ interception of Iranian planes in the Yemeni airspace, including one carrying a consignment of humanitarian aid for war-hit Yemenis. Iranian officials reminded the Saudi charge d’affaires that the Yemen-bound Iranian flights had already obtained the necessary permissions for flying in Oman-Yemen air route and had fully coordinated the plan with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. A senior Iranian official says Saudi Arabia’s blockade of Yemen and its prevention of the delivery of the Islamic Republic’s humanitarian aid to the war-wracked country will not go unanswered. »We consider all options for helping the Yemeni people and immediate dispatch of humanitarian aid and transfer of the injured», Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on April 26. Amir-Abdollahian’s remarks came after Saudi fighter jets intercepted an Iranian airplane carrying humanitarian aid to Yemen and prevented it from entering the Yemeni airspace on Thursday, April 23. Now Iran can take a decision to escort its transport aircraft. It may lead to a direct confrontation.

Iran still has its ships deployed in the Aden Gulf. The 34thflotilla (the Alborz destroyer and the Bushehr helicopter carrier warship) replaced the 33th flotilla which had been deployed in the region for 77 days. Iran's Navy CommanderRear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said fighting pirates and ensuring safety for Iranian vessels sailing in high seas are among objectives. A Saudi official warned Iranian warships sent to the Strait of Bab El-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden not to enter Yemeni waters. «Iranian ships have the right to be present in international waters, but they won't be allowed to enter Yemeni territorial waters», spokesman of the Saudi-led anti-Houthi coalition forces, Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri told reporters in Riyadh. Iranian President Sheikh Hasan Rouhani slammed the Saudi aggression on Yemen, stressing that Riyadh carried out the attack because of its failure to materialize its wishes in the region.

«Destroying the infrastructure of an impoverished country and killing children, women and men make no sense other than [meaning] that a country has lost its balance, and there can be no other interpretations», he said. Iran has its ships deployed in the region since 2008. It acts in accordance with the resolution of the United Nations Security Council.

The war in Yemen has given a rise to the spread of extremism in the region. The jihadists’ movement is on the rise. A newly announced division of the Islamic State group calling itself the «Green Brigade» has launched attacks against the Houthis. The Islamic State supporters have intensified their activities in other countries of the Middle East. The HAMAS leadership in concerned over the appearance of jihadist groups in Gaza sector. The Islamic State wants to spread its presence there. Cairo has extended the state of emergency in the Sinai Peninsula where Islamists continue to clash with the government forces. 

The Islamic State strives for expansion taking advantage of the fact that the aggression against Yemen has greatly destabilized the Middle East. It is relevant for Saudi Arabia. The terrorist threat has become acute. For the first time it threatens the very existence of the royal family. On April 21, the Saudi Ministry of Interior advised on its website that security forces had been placed on alert following reports of a threat to oil installations and shopping malls throughout the Kingdom. The state of emergency is declared in many areas in the south of the country. Last weekend two policemen were killed as a result of Islamic State attack. Saudi security forces have foiled a terrorist attack by militants affiliated to the Islamic State, an Interior Ministry spokesman announced. The «terrorist operation» would have seen seven car bombs target different sites across the Kingdom, with Riyadh also announcing that one of the suspects arrested later admitted to killing two police officers at a checkpoint in the Saudi capital earlier this month. The Islamists groups in Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Uzbekistan and Nigeria (the Boco Harum) have moved under the control of Islamic State. Saudi Arabia is next. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Al Shaykh said the Islamic State militants are the enemies of Islam. At that Riyadh continues to fight the Houthis in Yemen. 

Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels have threatened to launch an attack on Saudi Arabia if the bombings in Yemen do not stop. The Zaidi group has sent the warning to Riyadh and demanded that UN-brokered political dialogue be resumed in Yemen. The Houthis «will carry out a military attack on Saudi Arabia, if the airstrikes on Yemen don’t come to an end», Mohammed Bahiti, member of the Ansar Allah movement, told TV channel Al Mayadeen. Bahiti stressed that the Houthi rebels «do not require missiles» to carry forward with their promise, referring to Yemeni military depots destroyed in the airstrikes. He also rejected claims that Operation Decisive Storm, led by Saudi Arabia, was able to successfully destroy the Houthi rebels’ military capabilities. Saudi Arabia is vulnerable to destabilization of the Shia-populated areas. Tehran says the internal strife between Saudi princes has escalated. The internal crisis serves the interests of those who would like to overthrow King Salman.

Saudi Arabia cannot defeat the Houthis without having boots on the ground. The Saudi allies are not chomping at the bit for deploying ground forces in Yemen. Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates have no capability to conduct large-scale ground operations. A couple of battalions would not be enough. The first month of war in Yemen showed that these states have no wish to get further embroiled in the Yemeni conflict under the banner of Saudi Kingdom. Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan continue to watch the situation creep. They are in no rush to start a direct confrontation with Iran.