The Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in a latest television interview has claimed that the kingdom can uproot Yemen’s Ansarullah resistance movement in a matter of days and the forces loyal to the former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The prince, who at the same time serves as defense minister, made the claim while a coalition of Arab forces led by Saudi Arabia has been involved in an unceasing war against the neighboring Yemen for over two years.
The Saudi war schedule foresaw a single month as enough to defeat Ansarullah and Saleh’s forces, in a bid to bring back to power Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, the pro-Riyadh resigned president of Yemen. But things on the battle scenes across Yemen did not go as Riyadh and its allies expected.
Underestimating the capabilities of Ansarullah as well as its public support, the invading forces assumed they can fast checkmate the pro-Saleh army units and thus pave the way for a Saudi-manipulated power structure in Sana’a.
The 31-year-old defense minister and son of King Salman ordered air campaign against Yemen as first stage of aggression on March 26, 2015.
In the early days of the assault, the fighter jets’ airstrikes focused on targeting the positions of the Yemeni army, particularly its air force installations. The Arab military coalition saw it necessary to destroy the Yemeni air force’s capabilities to preclude it from hitting back in response to the air assaults. Another drive for targeting the Yemeni air power was to retaliate in response to its backing of the Ansarullah.
As the Saudi-led war went on against the county, the Ansarullah movement reached an agreement with Saleh for joining the forces against the Invaders. The deal between the former rivals came quite effective in checking the Saudi power to influence the course of war in its favor. The new coalition inside Yemen had a flair for guerrilla war, not to mention that it enjoyed a strong public base emboldening it to stand firm in the face of Arab coalition.
After two years since the war began, the kingdom bore the brunt of a heavy budget deficit of about $80 billion. Riyadh then acceded to political settlement as it saw itself far from a military success on the battlefield. The political process remains crippled however, largely due to the unadoptable Saudi preconditions and a failure by the kingdom to observe the ceasefire.
The analysts argue that bin Salman’s claim on the ability to remove Yemeni resistance forces in a short time might be connected to new behind-the-scenes equations.
In the closing months of Obama presidency that the US foreign policy touched its lowest point of strength in the West Asia on the one hand and Trump in his election campaign was disparaging Riyadh and its regional policies on the other hand, the Saudi rulers saw the outlook of a success in Yemen as being dim. This pushed them in the last months of 2016 to talk about accepting Oman’s mediation to facilitate negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Ansarullah.
Seeing themselves as having to deal with President Trump who at least ostensibly did not seek military adventures overseas just unlike the other presidents and instead struggled to cut his country’s political and military expenses, the Saudi leaders decided that they need to get out of Yemen war while striking a political deal. The looming budget deficit that is an outcome of the kingdom’s sudden increase in military costs across the region including its Syria interventions as well as low oil prices in the global markets world markets made it almost impossible for the Saudis to win the war without help from the Americans.
Trump’s assumption of power as US president and establishment of the new administration’s initial foreign policy basis restored to the Saudi-led Arab camp the hopes for winning the war against Yemen. Under the Republican fellows and the principal US policy’s duress, the American leader backed down from his campaign-time postures against the allies in Europe and West Asia. He further picked anti-Iranian and warlike figures for the defense and state departments to assertively show that the Washington’s earlier stances are intact, and now even more aggressive.
A meeting of the Saudi defense minister with Trump in mid-March even further heartened the Arab regime to continue its war against Yemen. Furthermore, the US missile strikes on the Syrian Shayrat airbase, a military site leading in the country’s anti-terror battle, sent a clear message of support for the kingdom telling it that the US is ready to take action beyond the international law to realize its objectives, even if the target is a sovereign state and member of the United Nations.
Now Saudi Arabia is optimistic that if the battlefield weight gravitates towards the Ansarullah, the US will take action in favor of Riyadh. Perhaps this is why the Saudi defense minister is now talking about possibility of obliteration of Ansarullah and its allies in a short time while his forces have declined to even push back the opposite side from its positions in past two years despite the fact that the coalition forces are armed with modern military equipment and have the American intelligence support.
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