Saudis talk peace but are preparing an offensive against Houthi rebels
The Saudi coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, some time ago decided that the bombing campaign alone was not sufficient to defeat the Houthis. Special forces and military equipment were sent to bolster local militia in Aden.
The change in tactics has enabled the coalition and allies in Aden to retake the port of Aden and much of the rest of southern Yemen. However, with the recent buildup of troops have come casualties. Both the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and even Bahrain suffered casualties, with sixty killed in one day recently. One report, puts the total number of coalition troops on the ground at 10,000. Yemeni officials report much lower numbers and from only Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar. Officials claimed there were at least around 2,000. No doubt the presence of so many foreign troops in Yemen may turn even those opposed to the Houthis against their "liberators" especially given the destruction and civilian casualties caused by the bombing campaign.
Egypt has now sent between 150 and 200 troops to join battle in Yemen. Sudan has committed to sending 6,000 troops according to a source close to the Qatari military. Newly arriving Qatari troops are bringing Apache helicopters, armored vehicles, and rocket launchers. One reportputs the number of Qatari troops at 1,000. Troops appear to be massing in the central province of Marib for a march on the capital Sanaa to the north.
Ex-president Saleh has close ties with the tribal leaders in the area. Authorities are trying to determine how the Houthis managed to get coordinates to a weapons depot that they successfully hit in a rocket attack that killed many coalition troops. The tribal leaders are for the present fighting alongside forces loyal to Hadi and the coalition troops but many in the armed forces are loyal to Saleh who up until now has supported the Houthis. Saleh may perhaps be changing sides for the moment but still helping the Houthis on occasion.
Special UN envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ahmed, announced that the warring parties in Yemen have agreed to take part in peace talks next week. There have never been actual peace talks. The UN has passed a resolution demanding that the Houthis withdraw from all the territories they have seized. In a statement yesterday, Mansour Hadi, the president of the "internationally recognized" government of Yemen now located in Ryadh, Saudi Arabia, said he would attend the talks but that for negotiations to take place the Houthis must pull back from all the areas seized since last year. This would include Sanaa the capital. This is tantamount to a surrender and saves the coalition a bloody fight to regain territory. More than 4,500 people have been killed since the conflict began last March. Many people have been internally displaced while other fled to Djibouti and even Somalia. There is a dire humanitarian crisis with many hungry, depleted medical services and supplies, and diseases spreading. Many of the Arab States see the conflict as a battle with Iran which supports the Houthis.
The situation is more complex than this as the Houthis have support from ex-president Saleh and troops loyal to him and his son. Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula(AQAP) appears to be one of the winners in this battle as it has extended its area of control and alliances with local Sunni leaders. The coalition has not attacked AQAP as long as it has confined its activity to fighting the Houthis but when Hadi was in power the group launched devastating attacks on the government and its military. Another winner will be the southern separatist movement. Their flag can be regularly seen in areas taken from the Houthis and in military convoys. This group will insist on autonomy or even separation of southern Yemen from the north. When Hadi was in power before they often clashed with the armed forces and they reject Hadi's plan to divide Yemen into six federated regions. In this opposition they actually agree with their Houthi opponents. Even should the coalition be successful in retaking the rest of the areas occupied by the Houthi, there is no guarantee of any peace or stable government under a regime headed by Hadi.