Friday, April 24, 2015

Saudis claim an end to "Decisive Storm" bombing raids on Yemen

"Operation Decisive Storm" a Saudi-led bombing operation targeting Houthi rebels who control much of Yemen will be ended after nearly a month.
The old operation will replaced by a new one called "Operation Restoring Hope" according to Saudi state-run television. The Saudis are aiming to restore the former president Mansour Hadi, a staunch ally of both the Saudis and other Arab states in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and of the United States. Brigadier Gen. Ahmed Assiri, a spokesperson for the Saudi military, said the campaign had achieved its objectives "by a very good planning, very precise execution, by the courage of our pilots, our sailors, our soldiers."
Those killed and who had their houses destroyed in the bombings may question the "precise execution" of the bombings:At least 46 people are dead tonight and several hundred others wounded after Saudi warplanes launched attacks on the outskirts of a missile depot in the Yemeni capital city of Sanaa.No military casualties were reported in the strikes, which set off a string of explosions around residential neighborhoods in Sanaa. Many of the casualties were from explosions blowing out windows in people’s homes.Saudi officials responded to the heavy death toll with no military casualties by claiming the fact that the strikes had caused explosions showed that Houthi rebels had stored small arms in the area.This means that the Saudis will bomb a military target even though they know quite well it will cause multiple civilian casualties because of its location. Saudi officials claim that their airstrikes have degraded Houthi military infrastructure, including key buildings in Sanaa. This may be true but the Houthis are far from beaten and the Saudis may be degrading their support among many Yemenis opposed to the Houthis by the destruction and casualties caused by the bombings.
Brigadier-General Ahmed al-Assiri, spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition said that the "Restoration of Hope" operation would aim at protecting civilians and combating "terrorism." The month long bombings could have combated terrorism by bombing Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) as they took control of the capital of Hadramawt province Mukala and seized a huge amount of weapons from military facilities. Instead the Saudis bombed urban areas in Sanaa, Taiz, and Aden, controlled by Houthis. Operation Restoration of Hope is said to be a "combination of political, diplomatic, and military action."
As if from another planet, al-Assiri went on:"The coalition has completed the 'Decisive Storm' campaign at the request of the Yemeni government and the President of Yemen. The primary goals of the campaign have been achieved and sovereignty has been protected. We are able to confirm that the Houthis are no longer a threat to Yemenis or neighbouring countries. The Yemeni government will now undertake all necessary actions to start rebuilding the country."The sovereign leaders have not set foot in Yemen and dare not as yet. The sovereign officials are far off in the safety of the Saudi capital Riyad. A naval blockade of Yemen will continue to stop the flow of weapons to the Houthis. As with AQAP the Houthis no doubt capture many weapons supplied to the Hadi government by the US and others.
Al Jazeera correspondent, Mohamed Vall, reporting from the Saudi Yemen border noted that there had been signs that Saudi policy was changing:"Iranian officials were optimistic of a ceasefire earlier in the day with US naval ships arriving in the region and greater levels of contact between the US and the Saudi monarchy. Most likely Iran, Saudi Arabia and others have come to some kind of agreement on the conflict."
The US had been attempting to persuade the Saudis for several days to let up on their bombings of Yemeni cities.They have sent warships to help patrol the waters off Yemen.
Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Zarif, has called for dialogue with the US and Western allies to help solve the crisis in Yemen. Iran had actually advised the Houthis against seizing the capital last September. Iran hoped that a political solution could be found in which the Houthis were able to negotiate a government agreeable to them. Instead no agreement was reached even after they seized the capital back last September. Since then they have extended their reign over much of the country even though they are a minority in Yemen and cannot hope to rule on their own. However, former president Saleh and troops loyal to him have helped the Houthi advance even to the southern port of Aden possible. Some of those fighting in Aden, I notice in photos, fly the southern separatist flag of South Yemen not the national flag, an ominous sign that separatists who are fighting the Houthis may not support a return of Hadi.
There is unlikely to be a ceasefire in areas controlled by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but there could possibly be at least cessation of hostilities in most areas where the Houthis are facing others. The Houthis themselves may realize they cannot win control of the country. The World Health Organization(WHO) estimates that just between March 19 and April 17, hostilities have killed 944 people and wounded 3,487. WHO warned health services in Yemen were on the point of collapse:"Major hospitals will soon be completely unable to provide humanitarian and emergency services or to perform operations and provide intensive care to needy patients.This increases the risk of communicable diseases such as measles, which is prevalent in Yemen, as well as polio, which has been eliminated but is now at risk of reappearing,"Even a pause in the fighting would help alleviate the humanitarian situation.


UPDATE: Some bombing has continued. Several raids took place just hours after the end of bombing was announced.