Gulf states continue to pay price in Yemen despite advances


A coalition armored vehicle on fire after being ambushed by Houthi rebels

The Saudi-led coalition against Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels and their pro-Saleh supporters in Yemen continues to experience losses in both southern Saudi Arabia and inside Yemen. While the coalition has been able to retake several cities and towns in southern Yemen, the Houthi rebels continue to be successful in taking out coalition armor, as well as some positions inside southern Saudi Arabia.

Houthi rebels, through their official satellite channel Al Masirah TV, have released several videos in the past detailing the destruction of Saudi and Emirati vehicles in Yemen and in southern Saudi Arabia. [See Threat Matrix report, Gulf states pay price for intervention against Houthis in Yemen.]

Al Masirah continues to release videos showing Houthi attacks against the coalition. Footage released yesterday shows Houthi rebels and pro-Saleh supporters targeting coalition troops, including Saudis and Emiratis, in Marib province. Several armored vehicles are shown being destroyed, while several coalition troops are seen retreating from the battlefield. A second video shows an ambush on more Saudi and Emirati armored vehicles in Marib.

The footage was released as Emirati troops are reporting success inside the province and the capital city of Marib. The capture of Marib, which borders Sanaa province, allows the coalition to enter Sanaa, the capital of the Houthi government. Pro-Hadi military officials, who are allied to the Saudi-led coalition, said that their forces lost seven fighters in Marib and killed 11 Houthi rebels. While the coalition has made gains in city, the Houthi rebels have continued to make gains in Taiz province near Jerrah mountain.

The UAE has reported two soldiers killed in recent days, bringing its death toll to 54 since the start of this month. The UAE reportedly sent 3,000 troops and armored vehicles to Yemen last last month in order to support the Saudi-led intervention in the country.

The other 52 Emirati troops were killed by a Houthi missile strike on a coalition base earlier this month. At least 10 Saudi troops and five Bahraini troops were also killed in the attack. The Houthis have also released a video showing the launch of the Tochka ballistic missiles on the base in Marib. In response to the missile attack, Qatar deployed 1000 troops and 200 armored vehicles to assist the coalition. Al Jazeera has reported that the Qatari troops will be responsible for securing Jawf province. Saudi Arabia has also increased airstrikes on Houthi-held cities, which has led to more civilians being killed inadvertently. It was also reported that Egypt planned on deploying troops to Yemen, but Egyptian military officials have since denied this claim.

In more recently released footage, the Houthis claim to have captured the Dar al Nasr military outpost in the southern Saudi province of Jizan. In a second video from Jizan, a Saudi military convoy is shown being ambushed near Dar al Nasr. At least two destroyed armored vehicles are shown before the convoy withdraws from the area. The Houthis then claim that two US-made Abrams tanks were captured.

The Saudis are said to have tried to recapture the outpost, but have so far been unsuccessful. Their forces were reported to have lost five soldiers “by fire from across its border with Yemen” over the weekend, according to the Associated Press.

Despite making gains against the Houthis in Marib and in Aden, the Gulf states are paying a price for their intervention in Yemen. The UAE has lost the most troops in combat since its establishment in 1971. The coalition continues to see armored vehicles and even US-supplied Abrams tanks captured or destroyed in both Yemen and Saudi Arabia. And while the coalition is focused on combating the Houthis, the intervention has also had the effect of strengthening al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

AQAP has been able to exploit the chaotic situation and make several gains in the country. The jihadist group captured the coastal city of Mukallah in Hadramout province in April and freed over 300 prisoners after overrunning the city’s prison. As the Houthis were overrunning Sanaa, AQAP was able to capture a military base in Shabwa province. AQAP reportedly also captured several districts inside the strategic port city of Aden.

The Islamic State also has a fledgling “wilayat” in the country and the group has been able to mount several attacks on Shiite mosques in Yemen.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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  • m3fd2002 says:

    It’s the only way they are going to get combat experience. The Gulf States/Saudi’s have spent 100’s of billions on weapons that have traditionally been used for parades. Now they are starting to utilize them. Initially, not very effectively I would guess. But they are getting valuable real-time combat experience, and their performance will improve with time. The Iranians have been funneling major weapons shipments to the Houthis for years. The Saudi’s have had enough. I’ve seen comments coming from Arab capitols indicating that they want to resolve the Yemen issue first, then move on to Syria. I wouldn’t be shocked if Academi is involved in Yemen doing some “consulting” work for the Saudi’s etc.. Conflict emulates boxing is some way’s. it’s all about the “class” of fighters in the ring. A mismatch ends quickly, an even match can be quite bloody. Let’s see if they have what it takes.

  • mike merlo says:

    am looking forward to the Houthi’s & the Iranians pulling a Rommel & ‘Blitzkrieging’ their way up Western Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea. Hopefully tossing in some seaborne commando raids to spice things up. Kinda like an Iranian version of Inchon. With a bit of luck maybe they can dodge their way to within artillery/mortar range of Riyadh. Earlier on I thought that maybe it would be AQ & their associates that would get their claws on the Eastern Reaches of the Red Sea with an eye to Mecca & Jedda but it looks like the Houthi & the Iranians will have 1st ‘crack’ at the region(Prize?). With over a 1/3 of the Saudi population concentrated in its South Western corner along with some very formidable geography this could get spooky violent very quickly. No wonder the Saudi’s are scared. If any of the aforementioned regarding Southwest Saudi Arabia should come to pass the world most likely will be treated to the Saudi’s openly making ‘common cause’ with AQ & their associates as they reach out to any & all to save the Saudi Monarchy’s hide. This just keeps getting better & better

  • Kent Gatewood says:

    The Gulf Sunnis have to clear the area of armed Shias before they are compelled to face Persia across the waters.

  • Michael W says:

    What is the Saudi coalition going to do if it achieves its objective of reaching Sanna? An occupation force will be niggled or suffer persistent casualties. There are lots of Yemenis with scores to settle after killing their family members. The Saudis are going to learn another lesson in Yemen as if the first were not enough. Their paranoia has gotten the best of them…they see Iran everywhere. After purchasing all this equipment, they felt it had to be used. Unfortunately, the only persons the Saudis can beat are their wives and girlfriends.

  • jean says:

    Is there a published non classified order of battle for both sides? I have tried to sort through the nonstandard media outlets. How big is this conflict, what is size and composition of both sides. Can the Iranian proxies mount a credible threat against the Kingdom?

  • Colin says:

    Well they ethnically cleansed the area of Jews and Christians centuries ago, looks like they will do the same to the Shiites if they succeed.


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