Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of the launch of Operation Decisive Storm against the Houthis in Yemen.
The operation was launched at dawn on 26 March, 2015, with the participation of at least ten countries, led by Saudi Arabia against the Houthi movement and the forces loyal to the ousted president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and has not to date achieved its goals. Following the withdrawal of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the only remaining country of the alleged Arab coalition is Saudi Arabia, which is still fighting in Yemen in hope of defending its borders.
For the sixth consecutive year, Yemen has witnessed a war between government forces and Houthi militants, who control several governorates, including the capital of Sanaa.
With the coming commemoration of Operation Decisive Storm, it emerges that the announcement of the Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, regarding destroying 98 per cent of the air defences that the Houthis seized from the Yemeni army a few days after the launch of the offensive in March 2015, was nothing but empty propaganda. The kingdom’s statements were proven to be misleading after years of consecutive defeats.
Yahya Saria, Houthi military spokesperson, announced that over the past years the movement’s forces have fired more than 410 ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia and the UAE. He pointed out that the Houthis’ missile force bombed vital military targets, installations and other facilities in the Saudi and Emirati depths, adding that over 630 ballistic missiles were fired at hostile military targets.
Saria noted that the missile defence systems employed were: “Qaher systems, volcano, Badr, Quds 1, Mojanah, Nakkal, Qasim and Zulfiqar,” explaining that the Houthi movement “has successfully conducted new experiments on missile systems that will be revealed soon.”
International organisations accuse the Arab coalition, along with the rest of the parties to the armed conflict in Yemen, of being involved in numerous violations. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the number of civilians killed and injured since the Arab coalition began its military operations in Yemen exceeds 17,000.
In turn, the United Nations describes the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as “the worst in the world”, affirming that more than 22 million Yemenis, more than two thirds of the population, require some form of humanitarian assistance and urgent protection, including 8.4 million people who do not know how to obtain their next meal, and nearly two million children suffering from severe malnutrition.
The collapse of the Arab coalition in Yemen will lead to weakening Saudi Arabia’s position and trapping it in a profound dilemma, as the withdrawing Emirati forces left behind local militias that could turn against Saudi Arabia in the event of affecting its influence or interests in the areas that it controls.
Since the beginning of the war, the UAE has continued recruiting militias to fight on its side, such as the security belt forces deployed in Aden and the governorates of Lahij, Abyan and Dhale, the Shabwani Elite forces in the Shabwah governorate, and the Hadrami Elite forces in Hadramout. This comes in addition to mobilising, on the west coast of the country, a group of former Republican Guard forces loyal to the late President Saleh, who was killed by the Houthis after cutting ties with them in late 2017. Later, Saleh’s nephew, Tariq Saleh, was chosen to lead the movement.
The aforementioned forces will not be easy to control, which will contribute to worsening the humanitarian conditions of a poor country which is undergoing multiple crises, many of which were caused by the Arab coalition. This situation could lead to intensifying local and international indignation towards Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of deepening the grievances of the Yemeni people.