U.S. Authorizes Saudi Arabian Military Aggression
On March 26, Saudi Arabia initiated airstrikes against Yemen killing some 39 civilians, according to news agencies. The action came after extensive consultations with the U.S., Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Adel al-Jubeir told CNN. Al-Jubeir said that Saudi Arabia had been discussing the issue with the U.S. for several months. However, the final decision came when the situation in Yemen sharply deteriorated, the ambassador said. News agencies report the airstrikes came at the direct request of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.
The U.S.-backed government of President Hadi has been facing opposition from Houthi rebels from northern Yemen since last year. In late January, the Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sana’a and several northern provinces and forced the president and his government to resign (although Hadi later rescinded his resignation). Hadi fled to Aden. On February 6, the rebels issued a constitutional declaration, dissolving parliament and announcing plans to form a replacement assembly.
Yemen’s security forces have split loyalties, with some units backing Hadi, and others the Houthis and Hadi’s predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has remained politically influential, news agencies report. Hadi is also supported in the predominantly Sunni south of the country by militia known as Popular Resistance Committees and local tribesmen, according to news reports.
Both President Hadi and the Houthis are opposed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has staged numerous deadly attacks from its strongholds in the south and south-east, state news reports.
As rebel forces closed in on the president’s southern stronghold of Aden in recent days, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia responded to a request by Hadi to intervene and launched air strikes on Houthi targets. As the rebels closed in on Aden, Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia. The coalition, led by Saudi Arabia comprises five Gulf Arab states and Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan and Sudan.
In the operation, codenamed “Operation Decisive Storm,” Saudi Arabia deployed some 100 fighter jets in the airstrikes, while some 150,000 soldiers await a possible invasion. Also present are navy units, news agencies report. Aircraft from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and Egypt are also part of the military force.
Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, in a televised speech, described the Saudi-led operation as a “despicable aggression.”
“What do they expect us to do, surrender, announce our defeat and act like cowards? Absolutely not. This is not how the honourable Yemeni people think. We will fight back. All 24 million Yemenis will stand united and face that despicable aggression,” al-Houthi said. He added, “If any army tries to invade our country, we will prove that Yemen will be a grave for those who invade us.”
On March 26, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demanded that Yemen’s sovereignty and territorial integrity be respected and rejected foreign interference, which he said had the potential to worsen the situation, rather than facilitating a political transition. He recalled the Security Council Presidential Declaration of March 22, which ratified the legitimacy of Hadi as president and urged the states to refrain from taking actions against Yemeni unity and independence. Ban called on all those involved in the Yemeni conflict not to forget their obligations under international humanitarian law, and ensure the protection of civilians and UN personnel.
Iran, which says it provides diplomatic and humanitarian support to the Houthis, denounced the Saudi-led air campaign, saying it “considers this action a dangerous step.” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a March 27 statement that Iran is “ready to cooperate with its brothers in the region, to make it easier for different groups in Yemen to have dialogue to protect the integrity and facilitate restoration of stability and the security in that country.”
The comment came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview that his country could provide logistical support for the Saudi-led military operation. Zarif noted that Iran respects its strategic relations with Turkey.
Regarding official statements by the U.S. on the situation, on March 26 White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz responded to a reporter’s question as to whether the U.S. would undertake direct military involvement. Schultz replied:
“While the U.S. are not taking direct military action in Yemen in support of this effort, we are establishing a joint planning cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate U.S. military and intelligence support. More specifically to your question I think, we are fully aware and supportive of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] members’ decision to respond to President Hadi’s request and take this action to defend Saudi Arabia’s border and to protect Yemen’s legitimate government.” The U.S. itself has shown utter disregard for Yemen’s sovereignty. For the past several years it has been using drones to carry out regular targeted assassinations against those it deems terrorists in Yemen, killing many civilians in the process.
The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed its opposition to the Saudi-led airstrikes in a March 26 statement, which said in part:
“Moscow expresses its gravest concern with the latest developments in the friendly Yemen Republic. Russia has always consistently supported the country’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity,” the Foreign Ministry said. “Along with that, we consider it especially important that all sides in the Yemen conflict and their foreign allies immediately stop all military actions and attempts to reach their goals with weapons,” the Ministry stressed. “We are convinced that deep disagreements existing in Yemen now can only be solved by nationwide dialogue,” it added.
“In its turn, Russia, in its contacts with all parties involved in the Yemen developments, continues to build up, including on the UN platform, efforts on soonest resolution of the military conflict in Yemen,” the Foreign Ministry said.
The European Union opposes the airstrikes with the EU High Representative and Vice President Federica Mogherini saying the operation “dramatically worsened the already fragile situation” and “risk[s] having serious regional consequences.”
(With files from Al-Manar, Prensa Latina, TASS, Asharq Al-Aswat, Al Jazeera. Photos: Al Rai)