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Saudi Arabia’s coalition crumbles in Yemen. 5 key takeaways from a failed war

Sudanese mercenaries fighting on the front lines, foreign officers and proxies in revolt.

Alex Christoforou

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Middle East Eye editor-in-chief David Hearst notes that “All in all, the first military venture to be launched by the 32-year-old Saudi prince as defense minister is a tactical and strategic shambles.”  

The Saudi war is heavily backed by the United States and the United Kingdom.

Zerohedge reports on MBS’ disastrous and illegal military adventure in Yemen that is killing millions of civilians and bankrupting the Saudi Kingdom.

Most Americans might be forgiven for having no clue what the war in Yemen actually looks like, especially as Western media has spent at least the first two years of the conflict completely ignoring the mass atrocities taking place while white-washing the Saudi coalition’s crimes. Unlike wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, which received near daily coverage as they were at their most intense, and in which many Americans could at least visualize the battlefield and the actors involved through endless photographs and video from on the ground, Yemen’s war has largely been a faceless and nameless conflict as far as major media is concerned.

Aside from mainstream media endlessly demonstrating its collective ignorance of Middle East dynamics, it is also no secret that the oil and gas monarchies allied to the West are rarely subject to media scrutiny or criticism, something lately demonstrated on an obscene and frighteningly absurd level with Thomas Friedman’s fawning and hagiographic interview with Saudi crown prince MBS published in the New York Times.

Saudi Arabia’s hired help in Yemen: Sudanese fighters headed to the front lines. Image souce: al-Arabiya

But any level of meticulous review of how the Saudi coalition (which heavily involves US assistance) is executing the war in Yemen would reveal a military and strategic disaster in the making. As Middle East Eye editor-in-chief David Hearst puts it“All in all, the first military venture to be launched by the 32-year-old Saudi prince as defense minister is a tactical and strategic shambles.”  

And if current battlefield trends continue, the likely outcome will be a protracted and humiliating Saudi coalition withdrawal with the spoils divided among Houthi and Saudi allied warlords, as well as others vying for power in Yemen’s tenuous political future. But what unsurprisingly unites most Yemenis at this point is shared hatred for the Saudi coalition bombs which rain down on civilian centers below. For this reason, Hearst concludes further of MBS’ war: “The prince, praised in Western circles as a young reformer who will spearhead the push back against Iran, has succeeded in uniting Yemenis against him, a rare feat in a polarized world. He has indeed shot himself, repeatedly, in the foot.

So how has this come about, and how is the war going from a military and strategic perspective?

First, to quickly review, Saudi airstrikes on already impoverished Yemen, which have killed and maimed tens of thousands of civilians (thousands among those are children according to the UN) and displaced hundreds of thousands, have been enabled by both US intelligence and military hardware. Cholera has recently exploded amidst the appalling war-time conditions, and civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and schools have been bombed by the Saudis. After Shia Houthi rebels overran Yemen’s north in 2014, embattled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi vowed to “extract Yemen from the claws of Iran” something which he’s repeatedly affirmed, having been given international backing from allies in the West, and a major bombing campaign began on March 2015 under the name “Operation Decisive Storm” (in a cheap mirroring of prior US wars in Iraq, the first of which was “Desert Storm”).

Saudi Arabia and its backers fear what they perceive as growing Iranian influence in the region, something grossly exaggerated, and seek to defend at all costs Yemeni forces loyal to President Hadi. The coalition includes Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Sudan, and the US and UK, and the Saudi initiated war has also lately received behind the scenes political support from Israel, something recently confirmed by Israeli officials. Concerning the supposed Iran threat in Yemen, an emergency session of the Arab League recently doubled down on its shared commitment to wage war against Iranian interests after it blamed Tehran for a November 4 ballistic missile attack from Shia Houthi rebels against the Saudi capital, which Iran denies playing a role in.

But the Saudi coalition is now in shambles according to a new Middle East Eye investigation. The report highlights some surprising facts long ignored in mainstream media and which give insight into how the Saudi military campaign is likely to end in total failure as “more than two years into a disastrous war, the coalition of ground forces assembled by the Saudis is showing signs of crumbling.”

The multi-national Saudi coalition is “showing signs of crumbling” while increasingly relying on mercenaries fighting on the ground in Yemen.

Below are 5 key takeaways from the full report.

1) Saudi coalition ground forces have a huge contingent of foreign fighters, namely Sudanese troops with UAE officers, suffering the brunt of the battle on the front lines.

Sudanese forces, which constitute the bulk of the 10,000 foreign fighters in the Saudi-led coalition, are suffering high casualty rates. A senior source close to the presidency in Khartoum told Middle East Eye that over 500 of their troops had now been killed in Yemen.

Only two months ago, the commander of the Sudanese Army’s rapid support force, Lieutenant General Mohammed Hamdan Hamidati, quoted a figure of 412 troops killed, including 14 officers to  the Sudanese newspaper Al Akhbar. “There is huge pressure to withdraw from this on-going fight,” the Sudanese source told MEE. A force of up to 8,000 Sudanese troops are partly led by Emirati officers. They are deployed in southern Yemen as well as to the south and west of Taiz in al Makha.

2) Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has been dubbed “president of the mercenaries” for accepting over $2.2 billion from Saudi Arabia and Qatar in order to provide canon fodder for the Saudi ground war in Yemen in the form of thousands of young Sudanese troops, but he’s threatening revolt. To escape his untenable position, he is reportedly seeking help from Putin.

At home, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir is also having second thoughts. He remembers the lifeline he got when Riyadh deposited $1bn in Sudan’s Central Bank two years ago, followed by Qatar’s $1.22bn. But he hardly enjoys being known as “president of the mercenaries,” and he has other relationships to consider.

On Thursday, Bashir became the latest of a procession of Arab leaders to beat a path to Vladimir Putin’s door. He told the Russian president he needed protection from the US, was against confrontation with Iran, and supported the policy of keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. This follows an incident at home, which was variously described as espionage and a coup attempt. Taha Osman Ahmed al-Hussein was dismissed as the director of the Office of the Sudanese President after he was discovered carrying a Saudi passport and a residency permit for the UAE. He was caught maintaining secret contact with both.

3) Saudi-backed Yemeni fighters are increasingly mutinying and fear local mass push back from Yemen’s civilian population due to the unpopular bombing campaign.

Mutiny is also stirring in the ranks of Yemenis who two and a half years ago cheered the Saudi pushback against the Houthis who were trying to take over the entire country.

The Saudi relationship with Islah, the largest group of Yemeni fighters in the ground force employed by the coalition, has at best been ambivalent. The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s closest partner in Yemen, Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, is openly hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Yemeni party… They [Islahi leadership] are feeling the political price they are paying for supporting a campaign that turned in Yemeni eyes from liberation to occupation… Enough is enough. The regional Islahi leadership are now talking of starting direct negotiations with the Houthis, a senior Islah source told MEE.

4) Saudi proxy fighters are at war with each other: an Emirati-backed militia fighting under the Saudi coalition is assassinating other members of the Saudi coalition in what’s increasingly an internal coalition civil war. 

They are also paying a physical price. A number of Islahi sheikhs and scholars as well as Salafis who rejected Emirati leadership have been killed or targeted by assassination attempts. The list is growing: there have been assassinations of Khaled Ali al-Armani, a leader in the Islah Party, on 7 December 2016; Sheikh Abdullah Bin Amir Bin Ali Bin Abdaat al-Kathri, on 23 November 2017 in Hadhramaut; Abdelmajeed Batees (related to Saleh Batees) a leader in the Islah Party on 5 January 2017 in Hadhramaut; Mohammed Bin Lashgam, Deputy Director of Civil Status, on 17 January 2017; Khaled Ali al-Armani, a leader in the Islah Party, on 7 December 2016…

“The Emiratis do not conceal their hostility to Islah. Islahi sheikhs and scholars are being assassinated, and this is being co-ordinated by the pro-Emirati militia. In addition, the UAE is clearly enforcing the blockade of Taiz, and withholding support for our fighters in the city,” the source said.

5) Oman is entering the fray, which will further fragment the Saudi coalition as rivalries for territorial control develop.

As if the balance of competing outside forces  in Yemen is not complicated enough, enter Oman. Oman, too, regards southern Yemen as its backyard. It is particularly worried about the takeover of a series of strategic ports and islands off Yemen by the Emiratis. A Qatari diplomatic source described this as the Emiratis’ “seaborn empire,” but the Omanis are upset by this too.

The Omanis are understood to be quietly contacting local Yemeni tribal leaders in south Yemen, some of them separatist forces, to organize a more “orchestrated response” to the militias paid for and controlled by Abu Dhabi.

Like the proxy war in Syria, it appears that Gulf/US plans have backfired, and we are perhaps in for a long Saudi coalition death spiral fueled by delusion and denial. Sadly, it is primarily Yemeni civilians and common people in the region that will continue to bear the brunt of suffering wrought by such evil and delusional stupidity.

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Rod Rosenstein resigns from his post before President Trump can fire him

Rosenstein’s comments about secretly recording the President backfire, and resignation may throw the Mueller Russiagate probe into question.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Washington Times broke the story that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resigned from his post. He submitted his resignation to Chief of Staff John Kelly.  At present the breaking story says the following:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is out at the Department of Justice.

Axios reported that Mr. Rosenstein verbally resigned to White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly, but CNN said that he is expecting to be fired.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, declined to comment on the reports.

Mr. Rosenstein’s departure immediately throws Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe into chaos.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation, leaving Mr. Rosenstein in charge.

President Trump mulled firing the No. 2 at the Department of Justice over the weekend.

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This report came after Fox News reported that the Deputy AG was summoned to the White House. Fox reported a little more detail:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is heading to the White House expecting to be fired, sources tell Fox News, in the wake of a report that he suggested wearing a wire against President Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office last year.

This is a developing story, however one major factor that comes under consideration is the fate of Robert Mueller and his Russiagate investigation, which was authorized by Rosenstein. CNBC had this to say in their piece:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is resigning Monday, according to Axios, which cited a source familiar with the matter.

NBC News’ Pete Williams, however, reported that Rosenstein would not resign of his own accord, and that he will only depart if the White House fired him. He will refuse to resign if asked to do so, Williams added.

Rosenstein was at the White House when Williams reported this on the air. However, President Donald Trump is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Bloomberg later reported that the White House accepted Rosenstein’s resignation, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein’s expected resignation will immediately raise questions about the fate of the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

Rosenstein’s job security was called into question after The New York Times reported last week that the No. 2 DOJ official had discussed invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump, and had also talked about surreptitiously recording the president.

Rosenstein oversees the special counsel investigation, and has appointed Mueller to run the Russia probe last year, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case.

The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the report.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Axios’ report. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to CNBC’s inquiry.

Trump has repeatedly blasted Mueller’s inquiry, which also is focused on possible collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign.

He has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and has repeatedly vented frustration about Sessions’ recusal, which directly led to Mueller’s appointment by Rosenstein.

Rosenstein’s expected departure comes on the heels of a guilty plea by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort to conspiracy charges related to his consulting work in Ukraine, which predates his role on the campaign.

As part of the investigation, Mueller’s team has been locked in an ongoing back-and-forth with Trump’s legal team over an in-person interview with the president.

Trump’s lawyers, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have signaled that Trump is unwilling to sit for an interview, calling it a “perjury trap” and setting up a potential challenge for Mueller to subpoena the president.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

 

 

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European Council crushes Theresa May’s soft Brexit dream (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May hoped that the European Council was ready to see things her way, in terms of proceeding with a soft Brexit, which was essentially no Brexit at all…at least not the hard Brexit that was voted on in a democratic referendum approximately two years ago.

Much to May’s surprise, European Council President Donald Tusk delivered a death blow verdict for May’s Brexit, noting that EU leaders are in full agreement that Chequers plan for Brexit “will not work” because “it risks undermining the single market.”

Without a miracle compromise springing up come during the October summit, the UK will drift into the March 29, 2019 deadline without a deal and out of the European Union…which was initially what was voted for way back in 2016, leaving everyone asking, what the hell was May doing wasting Britain’s time and resources for two years, so as to return back to the hard Brexit terms she was charged with carrying forward after the 2016 referendum?

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss what was a disastrous EU summit in Salzburg for UK PM Theresa May, in what looks to be the final nail in May’s tenure as UK Prime Minister, as a hard Brexit now seems all but certain.

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Via Zerohedge

Tusk was speaking at the end of an EU summit in Salzburg, where the leaders of the 27 remaining states in the bloc were discussing Brexit. He said that while there were “positive elements” in May’s Chequers plan, a deal that puts the single market at risk cannot be accepted.

“Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market,” Tusk said. He also said that he could not “exclude” the possibility that the UK could exit the EU in March with no deal.

May has been urging her European counterparts to accept her controversial Chequers plan which has split both the Conservative party and the broader UK population after it was thrashed out back in July. However, despite the painfully-slow negotiation process, which appears to have made little headway with just a few months left, the UK is set to leave the EU on March 29 2019 – with or without an exit deal.

The main sticking point that has emerged, and left May and the EU at loggerheads, has been how to avoid new checks on the Irish border. May has claimed that her proposals were the “only serious, credible” way to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. She said during a press conference after the Salzburg meeting that she would not accept the EU’s “backstop” plan to avoid a Northern Ireland hard border. She said the UK would shortly be bringing forward its own proposals.

May also said that there was “a lot of hard work to be done,” adding that the UK was also preparing for the eventuality of having to leave the EU without a deal. Tusk, meanwhile, said that the upcoming October summit would be the “moment of truth” for reaching a deal, and that “if the conditions are there” another summit would be held in November to “formalize” it.

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Russia makes HUGE strides in drone technology

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The US and Israel are universally recognized leaders in the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Thousands of American and Israeli UAVs are operating across the world daily.

The US military has recently successfully tested an air-to-air missile to turn its MQ-9 Reaper drone into an effective long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance unmanned spy aircraft capable of air-to-surface as well as air-to-air missions. This is a major breakthrough. It’s not a secret that Russia has been lagging behind in UAV development. Now its seems to be going to change with tangible progress made to narrow the gap.

Very few nations boast drones capable of high-altitude long endurance (HALE) missions. Russia is to enter the club of the chosen. In late 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry awarded a HALE UAV contract to the Kazan-based Simonov design bureau.

This month, Russian Zvezda military news TV channel showed a video (below) of Altair (Altius) heavy drone prototype aircraft number “03”, going through its first flight test.

Propelled by two RED A03/V12 500hp high fuel efficiency diesel engines, each producing a capacity of 500 hp on takeoff, the 5-ton heavy vehicle with a wingspan of 28.5 meters boasts a maximum altitude of 12km and a range of 10,000km at a cruising speed of 150-250km/h.

Wingspan: about 30 meters. Maximum speed: up to 950 km/h. Flight endurance: 48 hours. Payload: two tons, which allows the creation of a strike version. The vehicle is able to autonomously take off and land or be guided by an operator from the ground.

The UAV can carry the usual range of optical and thermal sensors as well as synthetic-aperture ground-surveillance radar with the resolution of .1 meter at the range of 35km and 1 meter at the range of 125km. The communications equipment allows real-time data exchange.

Russia’s UAV program currently underway includes the development of a range of large, small, and mid-sized drones. The Orion-E medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV was unveiled at the MAKS 2017 air show. Its developer, Kronstadt Technologies, claims it could be modified for strike missions. The one-ton drone is going through testing now. The Orion-E is capable of automatic takeoff and landing.

It can fly continuously for 24 hours, carrying a surveillance payload of up to 200 kg to include a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) turret, synthetic aperture radar and high resolution cameras. The drone can reach a maximum altitude of 7,500 m. Its range is 250 km.

The Sukhoi design bureau is currently developing the Okhotnik (Hunter) strike drone with a range of about 3,500km. The drone made its maiden flight this year. In its current capacity, it has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection.

The Kazan-based Eniks Design Bureau is working on the small T-16 weaponized aerial vehicle able to carry 6 kg of payload.

The new Russian Korsar (Corsair) tactical surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be upgraded to receive an electronic warfare system. Its operational range will be increased from 150km to 250km. The drone was revealed at Victory Day military parade along with the Korsar unmanned combat helicopter version.

The rotary wing drone lacks the speed and altitude of the fixed wing variant, but has a great advantage of being able to operate without landing strips and can be sea-based. Both drones can carry guided and unguided munitions. The fixed-wing version can be armed with Ataka 9M120 missiles.

The first Russian helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells was presented at the Army-2018 international forum. With the horizontal cruising speed of the drone up to 60 kph, the unmanned chopper can stay in the air at least 2.5 hours to conduct reconnaissance operations. Its payload is up to 5 kg.

Last November, the Kalashnikov Concern reported that it would start production of heavy unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying up to several tons of cargo and operating for several days at a time without needing to recharge.

All in all, the Russian military operate 1,900 drones on a daily basis. The multi-purpose Orlan-10 with a range of 600km has become a working horse that no military operation, including combat actions in Syria, can be conducted without. Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov,
the head of the Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development, Russian drones performed over 23,000 flights, lasting 140,000 hours in total.

Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027 puts the creation of armed UAVs at the top of priorities’ list. Looks like the effort begins to pay off. Russia is well on the way to become second to none in UAV capability.

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Via Strategic Culture

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