By Nasser Arrabyee
Despite its stated aims, the main beneficiary of the Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm at least so far is Al-Qaeda and its jihadist followers, writes Nasser Arrabyee in Al Ahram Weekly.
It has been about one month since Saudi Arabia started airstrikes on all Yemeni provinces 22 in total in both the south and north. In the capital, Sanaa, the bombings come day and night, at any and all times.
However, Saudi Arabia has failed to force the Houthis and army and security allies from advancing or even deviating from their path. Top Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi said Sunday night, after 25 days of airstrikes, “We will not retreat, we will not surrender, and military operations against Al-Qaeda and agents of Saudi Arabia will never stop.”
Blockaded Yemen is now under the control of Houthi.
In his one-hour long televised speech, after repeated rumours that he was killed, the Houthi top leader threatened: “When we attack the Saudi aggressors (in their homeland), we should not be blamed.”
Hours after this defiant speech, Saudi warplanes and allied warships pounded the capital Sanaa with high impact bombs that shook the whole capital like earthquakes, killing and injuring in minutes more than 400 people in their homes, their shops, and their cars. Glass fronts in malls and shops, as well as homes, were shattered 30 kilometres away from the site of the bombings (Faj Attan west) in all directions of the capital Sanaa. On the same day Monday, 20 April 84 civilians were killed and injured in Sanaa and elsewhere by more airstrikes, according to Yemen Ministry of Health in a statement issued Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia’s stated aim is to help deposed and exiled Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi return to power in Yemen. But Saudi Arabia can also be using the now Riyadh-based Hadi as justification for its war on Yemen. No soldier or unit of the army and security forces is loyal to Hadi, as was made clear from this war. Now, all units are fighting with Houthi against the Saudis and their regional alliance, despite the fact that Hadi keeps issuing decrees from Riyadh to sack commanders of the army and security, and to appoint others he thinks are loyal to him. No concrete results have followed from such decrees, which were not implemented even when Hadi was still in Sanaa or Aden.
So far, the Operation Decisive Storm has achieved, beyond the high number of casualties, the following:
Destruction of the infrastructure of the army and security apparatus, and other civil installations like factories, schools, mosques and antiquity sites. No immediate effect has been felt on the army and security, however, in terms of daily functioning because soldiers and their units were already deployed and remain deployed.
Helping Al-Qaeda and IS (Islamic State) to regroup and expand into the chaos.
Al-Qaeda leader Khaled Ba Tarfi would not have sat in the Presidential Palace and acted as president without the current war on Yemen.
Ba Tarfi and 300 more Al-Qaeda operatives were released from Mukalla Prison earlier this month after the city fell under the control of Al-Qaeda elements who emerged suddenly from their hideouts in the desert and oil-rich province of Hudhrmout in the far east of Yemen.
Having looted all the money from the banks, and all weapons from the military and security bases of this city, Al-Qaeda now, under the leadership of Ba Tarfi, has started to form religious police to run the city, Taliban or IS-style. This week, Al-Qaeda started to organise a mobilising festival in which Al-Qaeda leaders and propagandists speak to reassure local people that they have the decisive solutions for all their problems the divine solution, as they say.
The Al-Qaeda plan to take over Mukalla Hudhrmout started after Hadi escaped from house arrest in Sanaa to Aden in February. That was the obvious sign that Hadi was alone. Hadi is enemy number one for Al-Qaeda since he said in the United States around two years ago that he loves the drones that kill terrorists.
Al-Qaeda started by storming Al-Mansorah Prison in Aden in March setting free about 800 prisoners, including Al-Qaeda leaders. Al-Qaeda seemed to be confident enough to storm the maximum-security prison on the same day when their comrades called, ironically, anti-Qaeda popular committees, overran the main security camp killing everyone facing them and looting everything.
When Hadi came to Aden he had no single security or military unit loyal to him, and so he asked tribesmen from his home province of Abyan to help safeguard him. Even those tribesmen were not sincere to Hadi who came to them only as a fugitive, as a leading member told me after Hadi escaped to Oman and then to Saudi Arabia. The commander of these tribesmen was Abdul Latif Al-Sayed, who was Al-Qaeda leader of Jaar emirate until 2013.
If a Saudi ground invasion of Yemen starts now, this would be an even better chance for Al-Qaeda not only to expand and recruit more, but also to return to Saudi Arabia, their original homeland. The important leaders of Al-Qaeda and all its financiers are from Saudi Arabia. The strategic goal of Al-Qaeda and its slain leader, Osama Bin Laden, is to liberate Saudi Arabia from the Al-Saud dynasty that they regard as traitorous and the agent of America, the enemy of Islam in their thinking.
The Yemen Muslim Brotherhood party, the Sunni Islamist Islah Party, has declared officially its support for the Saudi war on Yemen. All senior officials of the party inside Yemen were put in the custody of Houthi authorities after that declared position, which was considered high treason.
Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda Salafists defeated by Houthi in Damaj (Saada north) last year, and tribesmen loyal to the Brotherhood, have been forming an important front in the oil-rich province of Mareb with Saudi Arabia supporting them with weapons and money and General Ali Muhsen guiding and instructing them from his exile in Riyadh.
With so many complications, the Saudi war will certainly further tear an already torn and destroyed Yemen, with no one winning in the end but Al-Qaeda that finds chaos and destruction its natural breeding ground. Al-Qaeda would be the strongest group left in Yemen if the Saudi war defeats the Houthis and destroys their military and security capabilities. And not only in the south and east, but also in the north and everywhere else.
The five suicide bombers who bombed two Houthi-frequented mosques in Sanaa last month, killing and injuring about 500 people during Friday prayers, indicate that Al-Qaeda is everywhere as long as there is no state and law and order. The Yemenis supporting the Saudi war from inside or outside Yemen are mainly from the Muslim Brotherhood, whose leaders are directly or indirectly linked to Al-Qaeda.
In addition to the Riyadh-based General Muhsen, the US/UN-designated global terrorist Abdul Majid Al-Zandani, the spiritual guide of Osama Bin Laden, is the most prominent leader the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Zandani, all his sons, and war leaders and allies are now in Mareb waiting for a timely opportunity to retaliate and take revenge on the Houthi for dismissing them from their home and religious school, Iman University in Sanaa.
Iman University now is a military barracks under Houthi control, which had said it was a maker of suicide bombers and jihadists.
Al-Zandani has publicly declared his support for Saudi war on Yemen and called his followers to fight with the Saudis a jihad, or holy war.
The Muslim Brotherhood and their allies seem to be lucky to have the current Saudi monarch, King Salman, and his son Mohamed, sponsor their activities, unlike the late monarch, Abdullah, who cracked down on them in his country and Yemen.