April 19, 2021


Biden's Policy Shift on Yemen Rings Alarm Bells in Riyadh: The shift of US policy vis-à-vis Yemen is placing a heavy burden on Saudi foreign policy. (Corrado Cok • Apr 19, 2021, Fair Observer)

Although largely predicted, Biden's move complicates the already shaky position of Saudi Arabia in the conflict. Riyadh faces multiple hurdles in Yemen while seeking an exit strategy. Over five years, a bombing campaign, a maritime blockade and military support to proxies on the ground, alongside the UAE, have not been sufficient to defeat the Houthi insurgency, while the human cost of this attempt has left indelible scars on Yemen and its people.

After acknowledging the impossibility of victory, Riyadh underwent painful negotiations with the leadership of Ansar Allah in 2019. A mediated solution would allow the Saudis to scale down their costly intervention and spare the Al Saud royal family an outright display of weakness in a region where military prowess is a determinant of political weight. However, last November, Ansar Allah began to intensify its attacks against Saudi targets utilizing Iran-supplied military hardware.

The Houthi campaign exposed the vulnerability of the Saudi strategic infrastructure to asymmetric attacks launched through drones, missiles and explosives-laden boats targeting oil facilities, airports, commercial vessels and ports. As a result, the mediation went awry, and Saudi Arabia scaled up its bombing campaign against Ansar Allah once again.

Moreover, the Saudi intervention in Yemen was confronted with another issue: southern separatism. After Abu Dhabi decided to partially pull out from Yemen in July 2019, the Southern Transitional Council (STC) -- the UAE's main political ally -- cut ties with the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and began to push for the independence of southern Yemen. Since then, STC separatism has forced the Saudis to commit to the maintenance of the anti-Ansar Allah coalition through the Riyadh Agreement between Hadi and the STC, which collapsed in April 2020 and came back into force last December.

Yet all evidence indicates that a power-sharing solution in Aden is far from secured as party-affiliated militias remain outside government control, some STC factions oppose the Riyadh Agreement, and tensions persist inside the coalition between the STC and the Islah party, the Yemeni offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. This indicates that Riyadh cannot disengage from southern Yemen without causing the collapse of the anti-Ansar Allah front.

We are with Iran, not the Sa'uds.

Posted by at April 19, 2021 1:36 PM