Yemen: The Sad Sustained Starvation Stalemate

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November 22, 2016: Government forces continue to gain ground but at a very slow rate. The Shia rebels pull back when their situations appears hopeless, trying to minimize their losses. The same attitude prevails with the government forces, including the better armed and trained Saudi led Arab coalition force. Despite that attitude as many as 7,000 have died (and over 30,000 wounded) in the 20 months of fighting. More than three million people have been driven from their homes and about half the population is dependent on foreign food aid to survive. The most heavily fought over area continues to be Taiz city, near the Red Sea. Most of the Red Sea coast has remained under rebel control. In the northwest the Red Sea port of Hodeida is in rebel territory and has been the main port for the delivery of foreign aid for civilians in rebel held areas. The rebels are accused of expelling UN personnel needed to inspect aid shipments and the government claims the rebels have been seizing aid shipments and preventing UN personnel from verifying that the aid is going to civilians. In March 2015 Iran has made a deal with the Shia rebels to modernize and upgrade Hodeida but with the intervention of the Saudi led coalition that Iranian aid effort never got going.

The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab oil states in the Persian Gulf) declared its intervention in Yemen a success and that it should be the model for further joint efforts against Iranian aggression. While the Iran-backed Shia rebels in Yemen have not surrendered they are very much losing. Iran won’t admit that but the fact that Iran calls for more ceasefires and peace talks in Yemen says otherwise. The GCC also points out that while Iran criticizes civilian casualties from GCC airstrikes in Yemen it ignores the deliberate airstrikes on Sunni civilians in Syria by Russian and Syrian warplanes. The GCC and the U.S. recently announced that the naval blockade around Yemen has been successful and four Iranian attempts to smuggle weapons (to Yemeni Shia rebels) have been intercepted since early 2015. The blockade is maintained by GCC, American and other foreign warships and that includes joint patrols and more sharing of information to make it more difficult for smugglers. The GCC would also like to expand its efforts against Iran to Lebanon and Gaza but that requires the cooperation of Egypt and Israel. To that end the GCC proposes a GCC+2 model with the +2 being Egypt and Jordan. Since Jordan has been a long-time ally of Israel (in the sense that the two neighbors have cooperated against Islamic terrorism for over four decades) that would make it more politically acceptable to openly accept Israel as an official ally.

November 21, 2016: A 48 hour ceasefire ended at midday and the government is not interested in extending it. As with past ceasefires this one was constantly violated by both sides. As usual, most of the ceasefire fighting took place in and around the city of Taiz and in two days fifteen rebels and nine pro-government fighters died.

November 19, 2016: Saudi Arabian air defense forces used a Patriot missile to shoot down a ballistic missile fired by Shia rebels at a base in central Yemen (Marib). The rebels said they had fired the missile at a Saudi base in Jizan province (near the Yemen border).

November 18, 2016: The Saudi led coalition agreed to a 48 hour ceasefire, to allow food deliveries. The ceasefire begins on the 19th.

In the north, on the Saudi border, a Saudi border guard was killed when his post was fired on by Shia rebels in Yemen.

November 17, 2016: In the southwest (Taiz province, inland, near the Red Sea coast) heavy fighting flared up again outside Taiz City leaving 80 rebels, pro-government tribesmen and civilians. This was supposed to be the first day of a ceasefire to allow emergency supplies (mainly food and medical) to get through to civilians. Like all the other ceasefires, someone broke it, leading to most everyone else opening fire. The Shia resistance continues in Taiz because the province has a lengthy Red Sea coastline which enabled smugglers to bring in weapons and other aid for the Shia rebels even though the rebels gradually lost control of some of the Taiz coast. This made smuggling operations along the Red Sea coast more difficult but obviously not impossible. The rebels still have access to most of the Yemeni Red Sea coast and apparently some of the smuggling efforts are succeeding.

November 15, 2016: Saudi Arabian air defense forces used a Patriot missile to shoot down a ballistic missile fired by Shia rebels in Yemen at the Saudi border city of Najran.

November 11, 2016: In the northwest a Yemeni rebels fired at least nine rockets across the Saudi border into Dhahran Al Janoub province and wounded 14 civilians.

The government charged senior central bank official Ibrahim al Nahari with corruption and removed him from his post. Nahari is currently based in the United States. His removal is another side effect of the October decision by the government to move the Central Bank from Sanaa to Aden and appoint a new pro-Saudi official to run it. This was move was possible because the rebels had lost so many income sources that foreign banks and most of the Yemeni economy saw it in their best interest to support the move. Nahari was accused of being a little too eager to work with Iran and the Shia rebels.

November 10, 2016: In the southeast (outside the port city of Mukalla) several raids and airstrikes by government and coalition forces killed 30 al Qaeda men.

In the northwest near the border and the Saudi Arabian province of Jizan a shell fired from rebel territory into a Saudi town near the border wounded two civilians. The Saudis retaliate with artillery or air strikes and this has become part of an endless cycle of retaliatory attacks. Yemeni rebels also claimed to have occupied two villages on the Saudi side of the border in Jizan province. The Saudis denied this and the Yemeni rebels did not provide any proof.

November 8, 2016: Iran called for political settlements in Syria and Yemen. In both countries a Shia minority is trying to gain control of the entire country by force. In both cases the local Shia are doing this with Iranian support and that has not proven sufficient to achieve Shia victory.

November 6, 2016: In the northwest near the border and the Saudi Arabian province of Jizan Yemeni rebels fired a mortar shell in Saudi territory and wounded a civilians.

November 3, 2016: In the north (Jawf province) Saudi forces killed Yemeni rebels seeking to cross the border.

November 1, 2016: The U.S. blacklisted the Yemeni Omgy money exchange firm for handling financial transactions for al Qaeda.

October 28, 2016: In the south (Lahj province, just north of the port of Aden) soldiers reported that an al Qaeda leader, who had surrendered in September, was murdered while in jail apparently to prevent him from providing information on al Qaeda operations.

October 27, 2016: Saudi Arabian air defense forces used a Patriot missile to shoot down a ballistic missile fired by Shia rebels in Yemen at the Saudi holy city of Mecca. The rebels later claimed that the missile was aimed at the airport, not the holy places, which are sacred to all branches of Islam. The Saudis are not letting this go and along with six of their allies are planning to take the issue to the UN. The growing power of Iran, and their calls for Shia clerics to run the Moslem holy places at Mecca and Medina, have united Saudis like never before. This was demonstrated when al Qaeda went to war with the Saud family after the U.S. 2003 invasion of Iraq. The terror group lost, because very few Saudis sided with them. Iran has been urging the Shia minorities across the Gulf to keep protesting, and assured the Shia majority in Bahrain that Bahraini independence would be respected. But most Shia Arabs don't trust Iran, and this has weakened the Arab Shia reform movement (because of this ancient split among Shia).

October 25, 2016: In the northwest Yemeni Shia rebels fired artillery shells at the Saudi town of Najran and killed seven civilians (foreign workers from Bangladesh and Pakistan).

October 23, 2016: In Yemen the GCC airstrikes resumed as the GCC backed government accused the Shia rebels of breaking the UN arranged ceasefire.

October 21, 2016: In central Yemen (Marib province) an American airstrike killed an al Qaeda leader. Elsewhere in Marib another U.S. airstrike killed four more al Qaeda men. So far in 2016 the U.S. has carried out at least 30 of these airstrikes in Yemen, most of them using UAVs. This compares to 23 each year in 2015 and 2014 and 26 in 2013.

 

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