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Friday, November 6, 2015

Division reported in US administration over support for Saudi operations in Yemen

The Obama administration is reportedly divided on support for the Saudi war in Yemen, which has caused increasing carnage.
Official estimates now place the death toll from Saudi-led airstrikes alone at about 1,500 civilians. There have been reports of the use of cluster bombs in the north, which hit a wedding party, a UN storage warehouse and port facilities in a Houthi-controlled port. Several residential areas in the capital, Sanaa, have also been bombed. A naval blockade in which the U.S. is a participant has made it difficult for aid supplies to reach Houthi-controlled areas.
The latest incident was the bombing of a hospital in the north run by Doctors without Borders. The attack ruined the hospital and wounded two staff members. The U.S. is reluctant to irritate the Saudis at this time because they are anxious to gain support for the nuclear deal with Iran, opposed by many U.S. allies including the Saudis and other Gulf states but Israel as well. On the issue of the Iran nuclear deal both Israel and many Arab states agree. Iran is a supporter of the Houthi rebels in Yemen the targets of the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.
The Houthis took a large portion of western Yemen even south to the port of Aden. Since the Saudi campaign in March they have lost many southern areas including the port of Aden. The conflict has been a boon for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula which has formed alliances with local tribes to battle against the Houthis and has managed to gain control of large areas including the major port of Mukalla to the east of Aden. The group apparently has infiltrated into Aden. A recent suicide attack killed two members of a militia loyal to President Hadi's government which has established some offices in Aden in an attempt to restore a functioning recognized government in parts of Yemen again. There have been several other attacks, one shown on the appended image. Officials from the Hadi government and the president himself had been in exile in Saudi Arabia.
The UN has been trying to reach a peace agreement and political settlement for some time. However, the process is often fruitless since the UN has passed a resolution demanding that the Houthi's withdraw from all the areas they have taken and lay down their arms. Nevertheless, the Yemen government has agreed to a meeting to discuss implementation of the resolution and the Houthis as well.
Meanwhile, the Saudis are pressing for further gains supported by a large contingent of troops from the UAE. The Saudis are recruiting proxies for the battle to avoid political difficulties that might come from too many Saudi casualties. Sudan has agreed to send up to 6,000 soldiers to Yemen. The Saudis are in effect also hiring mercenaries to the tune of 800 former Colombian military. The first group of 100 under contract wtih Saudi Arabia already arrived in Aden this month. The group will wear Saudi uniforms but will be under the command of the UAE armed forces. This presence of foreign troops is not likely to go down well with locals.
Many of the militia who supported the Saudi offensive in Aden and area are southern separatists. They have no love for the Saudis or Hadi and local tribes are not likely to be happy with what is happening. An article in the Washington Post by Peter Salisbury an associate of the UK think-tank Chatham House, gives a good account of the difficulties of negotiating any successful political solution in Yemen. He fears that the West and the Saudis will press for a solution that may meet the wishes of the Hadi government, and traditional power brokers within Yemen but will leave out important players contributing to continuing instability within Yemen. The Hadi government is unlikely to have much support in Yemen, and even those who have supported it such as the southern separatists do so only to advance their own political interests. If these interests are ignored, rebellion and conflict will break out again.

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