The “Houthis” outperform “America” despite the decisive “Saudi” and “Emirati” support (special translation)


An American website said that the US “diplomatic first” strategy in Yemen has led to the strengthening of the Houthis and Iran, which poses a threat to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the main international shipping lanes in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Oman.

And the American researcher Catherine Zimmerman considered in an analysis published by “The Dispatch” website, translated by “The Yemeni Scene,” that “the Houthis and their friends in Tehran have outperformed Washington and its partners in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, and they have undoubtedly seen, with irony from the United States and its allies, the focus of the United States’ operations increasingly complex military transfers to its proxies.

She noted that the support of the Saudis and the Emiratis is crucial to the Yemeni army’s anti-Houthi forces, but the ongoing intervention is now very costly.

Here is the full text of the analysis:

How did the ‘diplomacy first’ strategy fail in Yemen?

Kathryn Zimmerman

As evidenced by news that the State Department is trying to secure the release of Yemeni employees taken hostage in an attack on the US Embassy, ​​the shortcomings of the Biden administration’s “diplomacy first” strategy are quickly evident in Yemen. The Houthis are consolidating the gains to take advantage of that diplomacy that gives them the upper hand in the Yemeni war, and hostage-taking is another ploy for more concessions.

Adamantly rejecting the notion that diplomacy works only if backed by a credible threat of force, Biden’s team has ceded Yemen to the Islamic Republic of Iran, threatening not only Yemen, but Yemen’s neighbors, US allies in the Middle East, and ultimately the United States itself.

The Biden administration entered power determined to get away from the dilemmas of the Middle East. In the case of Yemen, this meant distancing the United States from the Saudi-led military intervention that began in March 2015 after a Houthi-led coup in September 2014.

The Obama administration initially provided intelligence and logistical support to the Saudi military while negotiating the final details of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. With civilian casualties mounting, the Obama administration blocked the transfer of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia in December 2016, a decision the Trump administration reversed with a major arms sale. for the kingdom. In February 2021, Biden announced the end of all US support for offensive operations in Yemen, including related arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Then Secretary of State Anthony Blinken appointed career diplomat Timothy Lenderking as the US special envoy to advance the diplomatic track in Yemen.

But then, Biden’s team made a series of crude mistakes, handing initiative and influence to the Houthis, and everyone guaranteed their eventual victory. First, Blinken rescinded the Trump administration’s designation of the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization. Although Trump’s decision was in doubt; But the Biden administration removed it at no charge. In doing so, the United States lost a modicum of leverage to force the Houthis to engage in meaningful negotiations while simultaneously weakening the Houthi military opposition.

More importantly, the timing of the Biden administration seemed more an ideological dictate than smart realpolitik. In early September, when the new UN envoy to Yemen took office, US diplomatic outreach escalated: US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Yemen envoy Lenderking met with senior Saudi and Emirati officials with the goal of reaching a ceasefire. But their diplomatic push was out of sync with the facts on the ground, as it came at a time when the Houthis had broken through major fronts. Perhaps most importantly, the Houthis have shown little interest in the peace process, with a senior Houthi official expressing doubts about the value of diplomacy.

Today, the battle for oil and gas-rich Marib province marks the beginning of a Houthi victory if they capture the last major stronghold in northeastern Yemen. Four years ago, Marib was promising in Yemen’s tragedy: the front lines barely touched, resulting in a thriving economy. A quarter of Yemen’s displaced have sought refuge in Ma’rib, and the addition of nearly 2 million people has severely strained local capacities.

When Biden’s team was calling for negotiations in February 2021, the Houthis intensified their campaign in Marib and advanced to within 10 miles of the provincial capital. The Saudi air campaign has prevented the Houthis’ advance into Marib for the past nine months.

The forces facing the Houthis in Marib are few in number and have rarely been paid in the past two years as the support they received from the Saudi-led coalition has dried up under US diplomatic pressure, and reinforcements are non-existent. Meanwhile, Houthi fighters are flocking to Marib despite the high casualties. The Houthis have estimated that there are better returns from the battlefield than from the negotiating table.

All of this should have been clear to Biden’s team, as well as the historical context: The last time the Houthis negotiated credibly was when they were under military pressure, in the face of the imminent loss of the Red Sea city of Hodeidah. The Houthis agreed to negotiations to stop this offensive, then used the time they bought to consolidate their positions, making the attack on Hodeidah a more costly military endeavor.

The truth is that the Houthis and their friends in Tehran have outdone Washington and its former partners in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, and have undoubtedly watched, with cynicism, the United States and its allies focus increasingly complex military transfers to its proxies.

For the Saudis and Emiratis, whose support has been crucial to anti-Houthi forces, the ongoing intervention now could prove very costly, particularly as Congress seeks to further constrain U.S. military cooperation. Thus, Saudi forces reduced their presence in Marib, and those in positions in the far south could be withdrawn, and the UAE evacuated a base in a neighboring province.

It is not yet clear whether the Houthis will choose to negotiate even after they have taken control of Marib, as they can very well press forward. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has turned to grumbling that it is “sick” of the Houthis’ refusal to engage in diplomatic processes even as US pressure on Gulf partners has paved the way militarily for the Houthis.

Seeking Tehran’s help to bring the Houthis to the negotiating table on the sidelines of the nuclear talks is futile. The result of “diplomacy first” will now be the strengthening of the Houthis—that is, Iran—in Yemen, threatening Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the major international shipping lanes in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Oman.

Was this result inevitable? far from it. The Americans were not in a fight, and Washington had a reasonable amount of leverage that could be escalated if necessary. Instead, in its loyalty to diplomacy first, or more appropriately, diplomacy only, and its desperate desire for a warm signal to Tehran, the Biden administration allowed the Iranian empire to grow, with future losses for the United States and its allies.

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