SANAA, Jan. 22 (Saba) -In fact, on almost every measure, Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen has failed, three and a half years after the launch of what was meant to be a quick military operation, the Houthis are stronger than ever, al-Qaeda terrorists remain a major threat.
The ongoing aggression by the Saudi-led coalition has devastated Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, The war is estimated to have cost the Saudis upwards of $100 billion, eroded the international image of the kingdom and failed to achieve any of its objectives.
At the onset of the war, the Saudi king and his heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were confident that their clear military advantage would provide for an easy victory, which would in turn cement Riyadh’s position as a formidable force in the region.
In its campaign against Yemen, Saudi Arabia enjoys intelligence and logistical aid from the Americans, and has the fourth largest security budget in the world as well as advanced weaponry at its disposal.
Yet, the kingdom is finding it difficult to defeat a determined Yemeni army and resistance groups such as Ansarullah. In fact, in addition to holding on to the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, and other key areas, Yemeni army forces, supported by allied fighters from Popular Committees have fired over hundreds of missiles deep into Saudi territory and have captured over one hundred square miles within the kingdom.
In addition to that, the war has made both Saudi Arabia and the UAE less secure than they were before.
The Saudis claim they will have no choice but to escalate the war if they cannot reach an agreement at the talks.
But it would be far better than continuing with a war that has had incalculable humanitarian, financial, strategic and reputational costs for the Saudis but has not remotely advanced their own declared objectives.
At the start of the war Saudi officials forecast that the war would last only a few weeks. But almost four years of military stalemate have followed.
On periodic visits to Riyadh over the past three and a half years, Saudi officials have regularly acknowledged in private that the war was not going well, but equally consistently insisted that progress was just around the corner.
The optimistic official assurances were eerily reminiscent of those regularly issued by American political and military leaders for years in Vietnam, or by Soviet leaders in Afghanistan, before they finally and belatedly accepted the reality that their military interventions were counterproductive.
The murder of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, along with sharply deteriorating humanitarian conditions and growing media attention paid to the war in Yemen, has led to increased pressure on Saudi Arabia to end the war there.
The devastating war in Yemen has gotten more attention recently as outrage over the killing of a Saudi dissident in Istanbul has turned a spotlight on Saudi actions elsewhere, the harshest criticism of the Saudi-led war has focused on the airstrikes that have killed thousands of civilians at weddings, funerals and on school buses, aided by American-supplied bombs and intelligence.
Since then, despite thousands of air strikes and an air and naval blockade at a cost of some $5 to $6 billion a month for Riyadh, the Saudi-led alliance failed to dislodge the Houthis from the capital, Sanaa.
Yemenis are suffering in what may be the worst humanitarian situation on the planet; refugees have poured into Saudi Arabia and neighboring Oman; and Saudi Arabia’s reputation — critical to its ambitions to become a modern, industrial economy and tourist destination — is suffering badly in the United States and around the world.
If the Saudis applied the “benchmarking” approach associated with their economic reform plan — reassessing policies regularly and changing them if objectives are not being achieved they would have certainly altered their policies in Yemen several years ago.
As public anger over America’s role in the Saudi-led war , Congress has slowly tried to exert pressure on America’s longtime allies to reduce civilian casualties, a bipartisan group of lawmakers included a provision in the defense-spending bill requiring the Trump administration to certify that.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are taking “demonstrable actions” to avoid harming civilians and making a “good faith” effort to reach a political settlement to end the war.
On September 12, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assured Congress that the coalition was trying to minimize civilian casualties and enable deliveries of humanitarian aid to Yemen.
Yet his claim contradicted virtually every other independent assessment of the war, including a recent report by a group of United Nations experts and several Human Rights Watch investigations that alleged the coalition had committed war crimes.
Some terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda in Yemen have grown in weapons and number since the start of the Saudi campaign nearly four years ago.
But the persistence and resistance of Ansarullah is a clear indicator that the Yemeni people are still not intimidated by the Saudi regime and its backers, they still control Sana’a and other major cities, the coalition's campaign to seize the major port of Hudaydah has not materialized as a lightning or “golden” victory as the Saudi-led coalition had promised.
Despite these very early setbacks, the Saudis and their allies continue to plow ahead blindly and stubbornly, the coalition is not meaningfully closer to achieving its goals than it was three years ago, and they likely never will be.
International human rights groups say Saudi Arabia has committed war crimes by using unconventional weapons, conducting hundreds of airstrikes on residential areas and targeting civilian targets across Yemen.
The Saudis and Emiratis have largely ignored international criticism of civilian deaths and appeals for a political settlement.
Investigations by the UN and other bodies have found the Saudi-led coalition responsible for potential war crimes and the air strikes by the Saudis and their allies “have caused most of the documented civilian casualties.
The United States should continue to urge the Saudis to come to peace talks and pursue a negotiated settlement. Saudi Arabia should be pressed to end the current war.
Written by Mona Zaid