Against the background of ineffectual “Determination Storm” air operation unleashed by Saudi Arabia on March 26, the Riyadh political regime has organised and announced the start of a new operation, Reviving Hope, through the possible organisation of a political dialogue to resolve the Yemeni conflict but the Persian monarchy remains however committed to carrying out ground operations against Yemen.
So, on May 4-5 in the suburbs of Aden Bureik, two Riyadh planned landing attempts of Egyptian-Sudanese sea-borne troops from 4 and then 12 boats took place. According to the Yemeni media, both armed attacks were pushed back, three boats were sunk, two Egyptians and one Sudanese were captured. It is possible that the landing was used as a “combat reconnaissance” in order to determine the most convenient base for the landing of larger armed forces of the Saudi coalition and launching of an active phase of the ground operation against Yemen.
However the main obstacle for Riyadh to carry out such an overland operation is finding the answer to the question: who will carry it out?
The Saudi Arabian army, as the Iraqi publication Nahrain Net reports, can’t carry out such a ground-based operation due to the reluctance of the troops to participate. Nearly 4000 soldiers of the Saudi army and National Guard over the last few days have deserted their positions on the border regions of Yemen, and during the entire period of the “Determination Storm” air operation about 10,000 Saudi soldiers abandoned their fighting positions. In view of the growth of Saudi military desertion, the guards at the Yemeni-Saudi border checkpoints change very often. The fighting spirit of Saudi soldiers and officers remains catastrophically low and yet Riyadh is incapable of coping with these problems, the participation of Saudi troops in ground operations in Yemen remains extremely problematic.
Given the reserved position shown by Washington concerning the participation in such ground operations in Yemen, some Arab states will certainly have to participate or are interested in supporting the Riyadh, or else mercenary troops in Saudi Arabia. However, taking into account the uniqueness of Yemen, where there has never been any restrictions on the ownership or on the purchase of weapons, any foreign troops on the territory of Yemen will no doubt be active in the face of armed opposition from the Yemenis, who put aside all the internal divisions and united in the fight against the foreign enemy.
At the same time, as reported by Reuters on the beginning of the ground operations in Yemen in early May, it was announced that the official representative of the coalition Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri (Ahmed al-Asiri) was fighting with Shiite rebels Houthis. That is why Saudi Arabia is trying to strengthen the military potential of the coalition, reaching an agreement with Senegal to send 2100 troops to participate in ground operations. Hereof, in particular, recently announced in an interview with Reuters, the Senegalese Minister of Foreign Affairs, underlined the readiness of his country “to join the fight against the Houthis and protect the shrines of Mecca and Medina.”
As the head of the Sudanese Ministry of Information Ahmad al-Bilyal declared the other day, their government is also ready to make the affirmative decision apropos the participation in land military operations in Yemen territory. According to him, the Sudanese paramilitary forces are in full combat readiness and, if necessary, a team of Sudanese soldiers will travel to Yemen, which consists of almost 1.5 thousand soldiers.
Egypt and Jordan already spoke about the readiness to join land operations in Yemen earlier. In particular, Egypt expressed its readiness to send 700 special forces troops and Jordan – 1.5 thousand soldiers “to liberate Aden.”
Despite all these statements of certain Arab countries to support the KSA in land operations in Yemen, Yemeni military circles estimate the possibility of putting together a ground operations group of even 6-7 thousand soldiers from Saudi Arabia highly unlikely, as well as the ability of this military formation to achieve the results expected in Riyadh of forcibly removing the Houthis from the political arena.
Furthermore it is expected that if the Saudis can’t resolve the situation peacefully, the Yemen army and Houthis will be compelled to begin full-scale military operations in border regions of Saudi Arabia with the purpose of forcing Riyadh to stop its aggression, air and sea blockades of Yemen. At the same time it is necessary to remember that already at the end of March, 2015 the Houthis promised to carry out a series of shahid acts of terrorism if Riyadh did not stop military operations. The first and main target of these terrorist attacks will be the oil infrastructure of the Eastern Province, where there are very strong protests coming from the Saudi population and where damage will be maximum. The result of such actions can be rather grievous to Riyadh, as it will be similar to the effects of the explosion in 2014, which caused a sudden rise in oil prices, the panic in the foreign market, and within Saudi Arabia.
For the reasons stated above, appeals of Riyadh for ground operations are very dangerous. It will not only mean a still bigger involvement of Saudi Arabia and its allies in the conflict in the territory of Yemen, but also the deepening of opposition in the Muslim world. In addition, this operation is very dangerous, and from a political perspective, as the only bet is on Hadi, without having the broad support of Yemen’s population may lead to a protracted internal conflict in this complex multi-faceted country. That is why it is necessary to work towards a peaceful settlement of the Yemeni conflict, with the possibility of a coalition government, which should include representatives of various political circles in Yemen, including the movements of Ansar Allah, Houthis.
Vladimir Odintsov, political commentator, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.