Yemen: Ceasefire Ends, Along With Iranian Support


October 14, 2022: The continued lack of fighting, even without renewing the ceasefire, has benefited both the government forces and the Shia rebels. That’s because Iran is in chaos from growing unrest caused by more and more Iranians, especially women but now the vital oil workers too, joining protests that demand an end to the religious dictatorship and the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps). The IRGC protects Iran’s religious government from angry Iranians. For the last month the IRGC has had a hard time doing that, even though they make more arrests and use gunfire against the protestors. That has not worked so far.

Iran also agreed to supply Russia with several thousand Shahed 131 and 136 cruise missiles for use in Ukraine. These are actually UAVs that are used mainly for one-way missions carrying explosives and were, until recently, a major smuggled export to the Yemen Shia rebels. All this means that Iran is not supplying the Shia rebels with sufficient cash weapons to continue its extortion tactics that make the Shia efforts self-sustaining. Without the Iranian weapon shipments and some cash, the Shia rebels are vulnerable. It is unclear how long Iranian support will be absent. Since the ceasefire was last renewed in early August, Iran has become a major source of weapons for Russian forces in Ukraine and, a month ago protests began throughout Iran, demanding an end to the government. If that uprising succeeds, using tactics similar to the one in 1979 that put the religious dictatorship in power, the Shia rebels in Yemen will have to negotiate an end to the war or be crushed by government troops and Saudi airpower.

The ceasefire was first agreed to in April and renewed in June and August for another two months. The UN sponsored peace talks were to consider a six-month extension but the Iran-backed Shia rebels have turned down that proposal, insisting that the ceasefire was not working for them. The rebels demanded large cash payments and other concessions if there was to be another ceasefire extension. The government refused. Some fighting resumed after the ceasefire expired, mainly in the usual war zones; Taiz province in the south and Marib in central Yemen. At least eight people have died and even more wounded in those areas since October 2nd. The Saudis have not resumed their airstrikes, nor have the rebels resumed attacks against targets in Saudi Arabia or the UAE (United Arab Emirates).

Iran does not openly participate in the ceasefire talks but controls what the Shia rebels will agree to. Iran opposed any ceasefire terms that further disrupt Iranian weapons smuggling. Iran wants to continue smuggling in ballistic and cruise missiles, which are brought in broken down, to be assembled under Iranian supervision in Shia territory and then fired at targets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Shia rebels have suffered heavy casualties since 2021 because of failed efforts to gain more territory as well as defending areas they have long occupied.

The April ceasefire and extensions were generally adhered to and that could be measured by the reduction (by more than 50 percent) in civilian casualties. This is not usually the case. Past ceasefires were seen as futile because the Shia rebels violated so many of them and, until recently, showed no interest in change, especially since Iran support is crucial to the maintenance of the Shia military efforts.

The current peace talks are different because the Shia and the Yemeni government both agree that allowing Yemen to be a battleground for the Iranian campaign to replace Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Moslem world is not good for Yemen. Then there is the situation in Iran. Yemeni Shia are aware of significant popular opposition in Iran to the Yemen war. The Saudis and UAE were always reluctant participants in the war but could not withdraw as long as Iran was attacking them from Shia rebel-controlled northern Yemen. This encouraged the Yemen government to seriously consider some kind of Shia autonomy and sufficient guarantees that the autonomy would not later be taken away. The problem with the autonomy proposal is that Iran has a veto.

Shia rebels risk an internal civil war if they attempt to defy Iranian orders. These orders are delivered by the Iranian embassy in Sanaa, the rebel occupied Yemen capital. The current Iranian ambassador is a former Quds Force general and many other “diplomats” are veteran Iranian Quds Force officers. The Quds Force is a component of the IRGC that specializes in instigating, supervising, and sustaining foreign rebellions and terror campaigns that might expand Iranian power and keep potential enemies on the defensive. Yemen was one of the least expensive Quds Force operations but with continued economic sanctions, Russian weapons purchases and a nationwide rebellion in Iran, support for Yemeni rebels is on hold.

October 7, 2022: The ceasefire meant more opportunities for the Saudi sponsored and financed mine-clearing efforts. So far, the demining teams have found and removed over 360,000 landmines and other dangerous explosive items. The landmines have become a major problem and the Saudi and UAE sponsored mine clearing efforts have been concentrating on eight provinces that are not under rebel control or threatened by the rebels. The total includes mines the rebels have not had a chance to use yet. Because the rebels keep poor records of where they plant them and have no plans to remove them, the orphaned landmines are going to be a problem for a long time. The rebel held capital is defended by at least 60,000 mines and many of these will still be in the ground long after the war is over. The Saudis and UAE train and pay Yemenis to do most of this work, alongside teams from other Arab nations. Eventually the local mine clearing teams will carry on by themselves. The demining effort began in 2018 and so far, 33 deminers have died, including five foreigners. Nearly fifty deminers have been wounded. During those four years 1,800 civilians were killed or wounded by the mines and other hidden explosives. The Shia rebels have planted over a million mines and explosive devices, either to defend their positions or terrorize uncooperative civilians.

October 2, 2022: The two-month ceasefire ended and there was no rush to extend it for a third time. There was not a major increase in fighting.




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