Saudi Arabia begins Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen

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Saudi Arabia and Arab allies began an airstrike campaign in Yemen at midnight last night in response to the growing threat from Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels, who have expanded their military control southward towards the port of Aden since their seizure of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, in late September.  Reports indicate that about one hundred Saudi warplanes are participating the campaign called “Decisive Storm,” alongside about 85 additional fighter jets from various Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan. Pakistan and Egypt have reportedly also provided military support for Decisive Storm with naval ships and airplanes. Saudi Arabia has closed off Yemeni airspace due to the escalating conflict and all of Yemen’s major ports have been shut down today.

Over last night, planes participating in Operation Decisive Storm struck Houthi positions throughout the country in what appears to be a wide-range air campaign. In Sana’a, warplanes bombed the International Airport and reportedly completely destroyed the Dulaimi military base nearby. Strikes also targeted the al-Anad airbase in southern Lahj province, an installation which hosted US special forces until this past weekend and which the Houthis captured yesterday, as well as Houthi positions in their stronghold of northern Sa’ada province bordering Saudi Arabia. There were also reports of strikes in Yemen’s third city Taiz, which the Houthis recently seized on March 21, as well as in the port city of Aden. Earlier this morning, warplanes participating in Operation Decisive Storm also hit al-Sawad military base south of Sana’a, in what appears to be a bid to weaken the Houthis’ military capabilities.

Houthi-controlled Yemeni state TV channels reported that 18 individuals have been killed and 24 others injured by the bombing campaign. Additionally, Saudi news outlets claimed that several Houthi leaders had been killed during the airstrikes, including Abd al Khaleq al Houthi, Youssel al Madani, and a leader called al-Fayshi. The same sources also claimed that Mohammad Ali al Houthi, the head of the rebels’ revolutionary committee, was injured.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Sates, Adel al-Jubeir, claimed that the operation’s intention is “to protect the legitimate government of Yemen from falling,” while another Saudi official told Reuters that a “land offensive might be needed to restore order.” The U.S. signaled its support for the operation and President Obama authorized “logistical and intelligence support.” More verbal support for the operation came from France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Turkey.

The Saudi-led military campaign comes against the backdrop of an ongoing six-month Houthi coup, during which the rebel group has extended its power throughout the country. Yemen’s president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi,  fled the capital for Aden in February after the Houthi rebels held his entire government under house arrest and forced Hadi to tender his resignation.

From the presidential palace in Aden, Hadi presented himself as the legitimate leader of Yemen as Houthi fighter jets attacked the palace on multiple occasions. The location of the Yemeni president became unclear yesterday, as reports emerged that he had fled the country. Today, Arab media sources claimed that Hadi left Aden for the Arab League Summit in Egypt.

The Houthi rebels, once a simple opposition group from the north, have become a major military and political player in Yemen since they took Sana’a in late September. Their links to Iran, which seemed tenuous at first, have become increasingly apparent. Speaking to Reuters in December, Iranian and Yemeni officials revealed that officials from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s elite Qods Force have been training Houthi combatants both in Yemen and Iran. Iranian arms-laden ships have been interdicted off the Yemeni coast numerous times, and on March 20 another such ship docked at a Houthi-controlled port and unloaded over 180 tons of weapons and ammunition.

The Iranians, for their part, have described the unfolding operation in Yemen as “a dangerous step,” and have called for an immediate cessation of the military operation. In a direct jab at Iran’s regional nemesis, Saudi Arabia, Mohammad Saleh-Jokar, a member of the Iranian National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, commented that “one of the reasons for this strike is that [Saudi] Arabia and some other countries…feel weakness in their political position,” vowing that “the smoke of this operation will go into the eyes of the Saudis.”

31 Comments

  • m3fd2002 says:

    Well, it looks like another “Pan-Arab” front being created. I’m not to sure how effective they will be. They are armed to the teeth, but haven’t yet shown any grit on how to optimize those weapons and tactics. Who will furnish the required ground forces? I’ll reserve judgment for the next few weeks. From my perspective, it looks like the Sunni’s have decided to act unilaterally. I’m not shocked since the USA and Europeans are viewed as “weak” combined with the Iranian’s overtly aggressive behavior. Totally, out of control, and it can get worse, a lot worse!

    • Seneca says:

      There are lots of Saudi Arabian brigades and militias in Syria too!
      For example the Liwa-Al Islam and The Land of Al-Sham and Al-Kinanah.
      In Iraq there at least 3 brigades and Terrorist Organisations funded and armed by arab Gulf cooperation council for example:
      “Majlis Thuwar al Anbar”, “Jaish al-Mujahideen” and “Jaish Ansar al-Sunnah”!
      Seems like you are intentionally concealing important information about the involvement of arab countries backed brigades and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.Because you want to demonize Iran…

      • mike merlo says:

        “Because you want to demonize Iran…” too funny, Iran doesn’t need any help “demonizing” itself, it does quite well “demonizing” itself

  • mike merlo says:

    Great news. So how long before those supposed parts of President Obama’s Coalition organized to Combat/Confront ISIS/ISIL cease contributing in lieu of their concerns over Iran?

    With Pakistan & Egypt having allegedly decided to ‘throw in’ with the Saudi’s this means that the requisite manpower would possibly be available should the present circumstances continue to evolve on its present course.

    • Reality Check says:

      UAE dropped out before they started (after the photo op with the female pilot), the rest after a few sorties, except Jordan that did a few more well publicised sorties after the horrible execution of their pilot.

  • Mark says:

    The Yemen situation has finally prompted Saudi action. Hmm

    Egypt is busy in the Sinai & Libya. ISIS & Iran are neck deep in Iraq/Syria…….

    UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar….they all fall in with the Saudis. This Shia/Sunni thing is going to get interesting…..and bad.

  • Jeff Edelman says:

    This is as it should be. About time.

  • Telh says:

    Wars & rumours of wars, but the end is not yet…

  • avraham says:

    The Iranian are coducting a war that they expect wil give them the status of the supreme power on the midle east/This war is basically a religious one between the Sunis and the Shiaats . therefor the are seeing the Saudies as the major enemy.
    If by the end of the day they will have the help of UAS by being able to develop a nuclear bomb they will rule the midle east and the world.
    The only one which does not understand this fact is the US government

  • Verneoz says:

    Noting the presence of Pakistani elements in support of the Saudi operations, you are witnessing the nexus for the next Middle East nemesis against world peace. As Iran marches toward getting nuclear weapons, Pakistan (in order to receive large financial gains to prop up its corrupt regime) will start transferring their nuclear technology and nuke weapons to the Saudis, Egyptian, and other oil rich Sunni regimes in the Gulf region. This will spell a radical new era in nuclear proliferation not seen since the 1950s – 1960s. Muslims have little or no respect for human life…marry that with nuke weapons and you have a recipe of catastrophic consequences for all of humanity.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    avraham,

    You really should try reading this site. We are constantly exposing state sponsorship of terrorist groups. Our work on Pakistan has LWJ banned going on three years.

  • Will Fenwick says:

    It will be interesting to see what the ultimate Iranian reaction to this will be. If the Arab coalition can effectively enforce a blockade of the Yemeni coast, they’re is very little the Iranians can do to provide assistance to the Houthis. Pretty much their only realistic option if they wanted to break the blockade would be to use their Kilo-class subs which at least on paper have sufficient range to reach Yemen. Any Iranian surface force that would be dispatched would easily fall prey to Arab coalition air attack. Any Houthi captured naval forces are likely to be in poor shape, with questionable combat capabilities. It remains to be seen whether any houthi/saleh controlled air assets are intact after the initial Arab bombing waves (only the MiG 29’s are of any real value in challenging the no-fly zone) .
    As a result, i would expect any Iranian retaliation to occur from Iranian proxy groups in Iraq via guerrilla style raids into Saudi Arabia from across the Iraqi border. I suspect any other options available to the Iranians (ballistic missile attacks, naval raids in the gulf, ect) are likely to cause severe backlash against Iran and thus would be unpalatable to the Iranian regime.

    • mike merlo says:

      I don’t think any of what’s taking place in the ‘Region’ is “unpalatable” to the Iranians. This whole series of events has afforded the Iranians unprecedented opportunities. Since the Mad Mullahs took over Iran shortly afterwords to be followed by the Soviet Unions occupation of Afghanistan & Saddam starting a near decade long war with Iran both have curiously enough worked out to the Iranians advantage. Were it not for all the upheaval leading to the deterioration & collapse of Muslim Governments Iran would still be groveling about working through proxies & Terrorist ‘Groups.’ No matter how ‘all this’ plays out it looks to me like Iran at the very least will find themselves much better positioned as opposed to where they were in ’79 & ’80. They’ll have direct access to the Eastern Mediterranean & who knows maybe they’ll even partner up with Iraq & Syria & build a ‘Pipeline’ allowing them to avoid shipping their Oil via the Red Sea & Suez altogether piping their Oil & the Iraqi’s to their European clientele. Their position vis-a-vis Central Asia, the Caspian & their Caucasus Neighbors appears to be ‘healthier’ than its ever been & improving. Their relationship with Asia’s Big 3(Russia, Communist China, India) looks as solid as its ever been so from my vantage point once this ‘hoohah’ shakes out & the dust settles Iran will be well ensconced. And undoubtedly there’s a host of other benefits awaiting Iran as this process evolves & runs its course.

      • Jackbo Godfrey says:

        Well said: We can hope for a blood bath between Sunni and Shia but it is looking like just a land grab of Iran, the “minority” Shia is growing in regional power and the Sunni alliances aint got what it takes to stop them. Iran unfortunately is the winner here and there and everywhere . . . Nuts!

      • Fred says:

        Any such pipeline would have to go through either ISIS or Kurdistan, both of whom will probably be around for a long time.

        • mike merlo says:

          Unless ‘Kurdistan’ extends the length of the Iranian Iraqi border a pipeline of the likes of which I’m talking about is a
          non-issue. Over the course of the next 2 to 4 years I don’t envision ISIS/ISIL holding on to those parts Southwestern Iraq they presently have presence in. Syria is a separate issue. Those parts of Syria that ISIS/ISIL presently control aren’t where a pipeline of the sorts I mentioned would be laid. It would up to the Syrians & their allies to dispose of or neutralize those Forces other than ISIS/ISIL that are presently galavanting about those parts of Syria. Besides obviously what I’m ‘talking about’ is purely speculation & at best a few years out.

    • Mark says:

      I don’t think the IRGC will engage directly via air or water. Insurgency has worked well for so long that they’ll try and activate Shiite proxies inside Saudi Arabia before they will risk naval craft or bump up the conflict with ballistic missiles.

  • rtloder says:

    Wealthy neighbour disallowing unity to protect their empire, old story new adaption, “carried out by robot type mechanism” will it work , next time will be the first , if Saudi could they would replayed Bahrain 2011-present, I think its just a stunt, I notice Yemen is a Republic not a Monarchy, probably because of Saud stupidity.

  • TLA says:

    BinLaden’s mission to unite the arab world’sgoing really well! 🙂

  • Dennis Weadock says:

    It is amazing, the lack of intelligent conversation in my country concerning this matter. I compare it to the time before WWII, woefully unprepared and stupid in our knowledge of the conflict unfolding before us. I truly fear our inaction will cause cataclysmic scenes abroad as well as here at home. Anyone with a sence of vision can see this coming.

    • Mark says:

      Agree 100%

    • Fred says:

      What exactly would you have us do? We will NOT be invading anyone anymore, not after the Iraq fiasco. We wasted our wars. Containment and support for local allies, that’s the way forward at this point.

  • Sean Osborne says:

    The 10-nation Sunni Arab land, sea and air forces (military) coalition came together to launch “Decisive Storm” pretty darn quick. A definite slap in the face to the Obama Administration’s efforts to form a cohesive anti-Islamic State coalition. And through all the time that has passed like water under a bridge these Sunni nations have not done the same to confront Israel for the better part of half a century to this point. Amazing, no?

    So, assuming this Sunni Arab coalition enjoys military success in Yemen against the Houthi and Saleh militias, how long might it be before they launch a coalition air campaign, perhaps even with Israeli participation, to render moot the truly existential threat emanating from Iran’s nuclear program for the foreseeable future? Yes, life is good outside the box.

    • Fred says:

      I wouldn’t count my chickens just yet. The Houthis are tough. Unless they agree to negotiate it could be a pretty bloody affair, and who knows what will happen to the coalition if it comes to a ground invasion. Arab coalitions don’t exactly have a brilliant history, and both the Saudis and the Egyptians have good reason to fear fighting in Yemen.

  • M3fd2002 says:

    Sudan has commited 15 aircraft to the operation. This is the first sign that the Iranians may have over reached. Sudan was somewhat in Iran’s camp.

    • mike merlo says:

      I was wondering the same thing. Where do you think Eritrea ‘stands’ in this hiccup of an affair?

  • Reality Check says:

    “Houthi fighter jets attacked the palace” could someone kindly clarify this. Do the Houthis have an airforce? Have they taken control of Yemen’s Migs?

    • Fred says:

      Yes, they have captured most of the air force bases in the country, if not all of them. Although the Saudis might have destroyed their air force by this point.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    I wouldn’t rule out Western mercenaries (Blackwater (Academi), Triple Canopy, etc.) to be involved with this one. It’s the perfect scenario.

    • Fred says:

      This would be a terrible, terrible idea. Remember what happened to the Roman Empire. This is one of the scenarios I’m terrified of- the US turning to mercenaries instead of our very awesome and powerful professional military. It would ruin us.

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