Today, Saturday, an American newspaper said that the realignment in the battle between the Yemeni army and the joint forces on one side, and the Houthis on the other, is another strategic development for the Saudis.
The Wall Street Journal, in a report translated by “The Yemeni Scene,” quoted Saudi officials as saying: “They do not intend to withdraw from Yemen, and that the military moves are aimed at increasing pressure on the Houthis in key areas.”
The newspaper said that Saudi officials asked the administration of US President Joe Biden to provide intelligence and military support to target the sites used by the Houthis to launch drones and missiles on Saudi cities, and the administration of President Joe Biden approved military sales to Saudi Arabia that include air-to-air missiles and the service of Saudi attack helicopters with more than one billion dollar.
The newspaper pointed out that there are few indications that Biden is ready to change course to help Saudi Arabia carry out attacks targeting the Houthis inside Yemen.
Some Biden administration officials are urging the president to loosen restrictions on military support for Riyadh so the United States can help them fend off the Houthi advance. But that could mean undoing one of Biden’s first foreign policy moves, to end offensive support for the Saudi-led campaign; According to the newspaper.
She indicated that the Houthis have made progress as they gain important new ground in the years-long war in Yemen, at a time when the United States is struggling to establish peace, and the Saudi-led coalition is struggling to defend the oil-rich city of Marib.
Quoting people familiar with the matter, she said that Saudi Arabia launched an internal re-evaluation of its strategy in Yemen, which it must face to achieve its goals later this November.
It noted that the joint Yemeni forces withdrew suddenly last week, from key sites near the city of Hodeidah on the western coast, with the support of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, without coordination with the United Nations peacekeeping forces in the region.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has pledged to send more troops to defend Marib, which is rich in energy resources.
For his part, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on his Twitter account, “We stand with the Yemeni people and will relentlessly target those who are fueling conflict and using the humanitarian crisis to enrich themselves.”
Meanwhile, US officials said they were quietly trying to negotiate the release of five Yemeni guards working for the US embassy in Sanaa after they were detained by the Houthis, “a provocative move seen as an intentional insult.”
These individuals were among about 36 local employees taken hostage last week when Houthi gunmen seized the diplomatic compound in Sanaa, where diplomatic operations were suspended in 2015. Most have already been released, but five are still held, according to the people. Familiar with negotiations in this regard.
Blinken condemned the Houthi attack, and called for the employees to be released unharmed and the complex to be evacuated immediately.
A Houthi spokesman declined to comment on the arrests or recent troop movements around Hodeidah. Nasr al-Din Amer, deputy information minister in the unrecognized Houthi government, said the Houthis would continue to attack foreign forces operating in Yemen.
With the Houthis just a few kilometers from the city of Marib, the battle could be bloody. More than two million civilians displaced from other parts of Yemen are believed to live there.
Amer added that they aim to prevent the Saudis from using Marib as a springboard to attack other parts of the country.
He continued, “Our strategy is clear in Marib.”
The Arab coalition that supports legitimacy, led by Saudi Arabia, described the withdrawal of forces from Hodeidah as a “redeployment and repositioning” with the aim of giving its allied forces more flexibility, and this was followed by air strikes to support new defensive positions in the far south. But the UN mission trying to enforce a three-year truce in the area described the moves as a “major shift on the front lines” and said the Saudis never told the team before withdrawing the troops.
These moves were a sign that the Saudi-led coalition was becoming more realistic and indicated that they would be retreating to where they have the best lines of defence, said Mohammed al-Basha, senior Yemen analyst at research firm Navanti Group.
Al-Basha pointed to satellite images indicating that Saudi Arabia was reducing its military presence.
Al-Basha said that even if the Saudis continued to reduce the size of their forces, this would not end the war between the Houthis and the Yemenis, who still oppose their rule.
“If this is the end of the Saudi intervention in the conflict, the war itself will likely continue for a long time,” he added.
He continued, “It is unlikely that the Houthis will stop, because they want everything.”