Warplanes of the Royal Saudi Air Force bombed the positions of Yemen’s Houthi militia and destroyed most of their air defenses, Al Arabiya News Channel reported early on Thursday.
Arab Gulf states have announced that they have decided to “repel Houthi aggression” in neighboring Yemen, following a request from the country’s President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
In their joint statement Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait said they “decided to repel Houthi militias, al-Qaeda and ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] in the country.”
Also, Egypt just issued a statement pledging its involvement in the war (translated from Egyptian media):
“In response to a request from Yemen, Egypt declares to support both political and military steps taken by the coalition in support of a legitimate government in Yemen as part of its historic responsibility towards the security of Arab nationalism and the Arab Gulf region. The statement also added that Egypt is in current coordination with Saudi Arabia and sister Gulf States regarding participation of Egypt’s Navy, Air Force and ground troops if necessary as part of the framework of the coalition, in defense of the security and stability of Yemen and to secure the unity of its land and the national spirit of a sister state.”
(UPDATED: Badr Abdul Ati of Egypt’s foreign ministry denied what several media and TV announced regarding Egypt’s involvement in the war in Yemen.)
The Gulf states had warned that the Houthi coup in Yemen represented a “major threat” to the region’s stability.
It also accused the Iranian-backed militia of conducting military drills on the border of Saudi Arabia, a leading member of the GCC, with “heavy weapons.”
In an apparent reference to Iran, the statement said the “Houthi militia is backed by regional powers in order for it be their base of influence.”
The Gulf states said they had monitored the situation and the Houthi coup in Yemen with “great pain” and accused the Shiite militia of failing to respond to warnings from the United Nations Security Council as well as the GCC.
The statement stressed that the Arab states had sought over the previous period to restore stability in Yemen, noting the last initiative to host peace talks under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
In a letter sent the U.N. Security Council and seen by Al Arabiya News, Hadi requested “immediate support for the legitimate authority with all means and necessary measures to protect Yemen and repel the aggression of the Houthi militia that is expected at any time on the city of Aden and the province of Taiz, Marib, al-Jouf [and] an-Baidah.”
In his letter Hadi said such support was also needed to control “the missile capability that was looted” by the Houthi militias.
Hadi also told the Council that he had requested from the Arab Gulf states and the Arab League “immediate support with all means and necessary measures, including the military intervention to protect Yemen and its people from the ongoing Houthi aggression.”
The Iranian expansion in Yemen in the wake of the control of the Houthis on the reins of power in the capital Sanaa, about two months ago sounded alarm bells at the Gulf states.
Gulf states realize that Yemen, South Khasrtha, differs from Iraq or Syria. In Yemen’s internal differences plaguing everyone since the success of the Gulf initiative in forcing Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president, to step down, and also the expansion of the Yemeni demographic in Saudi Arabia, where nearly lives half a million Yemenis, as well as the Huthi force, which is now hitting strongly across Yemen by the arms seized from the Yemeni army camps, or by Iranian supplies.
All this makes it the largest threat Yemen and the Arab Gulf states had, especially Saudi Arabia. Yemen is the window to an Iranian incursion. Houthi fighters and loyalists of Yemen’s President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi are locked in a power struggle that is now drawing in neighboring Saudi Arabia and its main regional rival Iran in a war.
Saudi Arabia views Iran as its chief regional rival and considered the expansion of Houthi power in Yemen as a worrisome threat on its doorstep.
Deploying the gulf military force, known as Peninsula Shield, would pull Saudi Arabia and other nations directly into Yemen’s conflict and test pledges by gulf leaders to show more resolve in tackling regional hot spots.
Saudi Arabia insisted the only solution in Yemen was for the country’s “legitimate government to be allowed to exercise its authority and for Houthi rebels to evacuate all government institutions they have occupied.”
Meanwhile, Yemen Foreign Minister Riad Yassin said Hadi has asked neighboring Arabian Gulf countries to intervene militarily against the Shi’ite Houthi rebels who seized the capital, Sana’a, in September and now are advancing south toward Hadi’s base in Aden. He fled there from house arrest in Sana’a last month.
Middle East and Russian sources have confirmed that an Iranian ship has unloaded 185 tons of weapons at Yemen’s Port Saleef to the Houthis, Iran’s Shiite proxies in Yemen. Port Saleef connects directly with the capital, Sanaa, and is only about 500 miles – or 800 kilometers – south of Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, which is currently under the control of Saudi Arabia.
Houthis are a small step from surging south-ward to the Port of Aden, and controlling the Yemeni side of the critical Mandab Strait.
Following the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels’ occupation of the mostly Sunni Yemeni city of Ta’izz in south-west Yemen, the Houthis are a small step from surging south-ward to the Yemeni Port of Aden, and effectively controlling the Yemeni side of the critical naval chokepoint of Bab el-Mandeb, or Mandab Strait.
The military run south from Ta’izz to Port of Aden is downhill, and has no natural barriers. So, with Iran’s recent massive arms resupply of the Houthis through the Red Sea Port Saleef with 185 tons of weapons, the Houthi’s occupation of Aden is likely to occur soon.
In 2006, it was estimated that 3.3 million tanker barrels of oil pass through the Mandab Strait each day, out of a total world oil tanker trade of about 43 million barrels. The Iranian-backed Houthi control of the Mandab Straitwould mean that Iran effectively controls yet another naval chokepoint inaddition to the Strait of Hormuz which exits the Persian Gulf.
About 17 million barrels of oil, or close to 35% of the world’s tankered oil supply, pass through the Strait of Hormuz daily.
Bab el-Mandeb, or literally the “Gateway of Tears,” is the critical naval connector of the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. The Mandab Strait more immediately directly connects the southern outlet of the Red Sea with Gulf of Aden to the north-western aspect of the Arabian Sea. While Yemen controls the Arabian Peninsula’s eastern side of the Mandab Strait, Djibouti and Eritrea control the African western side of the critical strait.
With the Shiite Houthis militarily running the table south to Aden and controlling the western part of the country, they will have effectively occupied the territory holding 85% of Yemen’s population of 24 million people. Of Yemen’s total population, 57% are Sunnis and 42% are Shia of the Zaidi denomination, from which the Shiite Houthis are derived.
The eastern remainder of Yemen is relatively sparsely populated and mostly controlled by the Sunni extremist group al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. Also, with by occupying the ground down south through to Aden, the Shiite Houthis will be in charge of close to 10 million of Yemen’s Sunnis.
UPDATE: Badr Abdul Ati of Egypt’s foreign ministry denied what several media and TV announced regarding Egypt’s involvement in the war in Yemen.