By Adam Simpson for Gulf State Analytics
On March 26, 2015, a Saudi Arabian-led military coalition — composed of ten Sunni Muslim states, including all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members except Oman — launched “Operation Decisive Storm” in Yemen. The coalition’s objectives were three-fold: to roll back the gains made by Ansar Allah (Yemen’s dominant Houthi militia), to restore President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi’s government, and to bring security and stability to the country. Though the Saudis have since declared their mission accomplished, military operations have resumed under the re-branded moniker “Operation: Restoring Hope.” It is difficult to imagine how a military campaign, especially one limited to air strikes, could achieve these objectives.
The coalition’s strikes, albeit aggressive in nature, have thus far had little effect on Ansar Allah’s advances. One of the original goals was to prevent the Houthis from seizing Aden. Although the city remains heavily contested, the Houthis were able to seize portions large enough to force Hadi to flee to safety in Riyadh. As of this writing, the Houthis are making a final push for the Tawahi district, perhaps one of the last remaining bastions of the Hadi government within Yemen.
The Houthis have advanced far outside their northwestern province of Sa’ada, beyond the capital city of Sana’a, and are now fighting local groups for control in several southern provinces, including Abyan and Shabwa. Interestingly, the strikes led by the Saudi Arabian military coalition are not focused on the critical southern front. Though coalition bombs have struck hotspots in Aden and Taiz, they have also pummeled Houthi strongholds in northern Sa’ada province, in Sana’a, and in the coastal cities of Hodeidah and Haradh. If the coalition strikes are aimed at immobilizing the Houthis, their mission has patently failed. While there have been notable raids into Saudi territory, Houthi manpower remains focused on the local resistance in Yemen’s southern provinces where the outcome of the war will be decided.
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