Saudis end military operation — and start another one — in Yemen

Yesterday’s announcement by Saudi Arabia of the end of the month-long air campaign, “Decisive Storm,” resulted in lots of news reports claiming that the bombing of Yemen had ended. Indeed, that’s what some Saudi officials seemed to think:

“The focus will now shift from military operations to the political process,” the Saudi Embassy in Washington said, adding this transition was at the request of Yemen’s Western-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

But if operation “Renewal of Hope” is supposed to mark a shift away from military operations, there’s no indication when that might happen.

“We are not talking about a cease-fire,” Saudi coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri told the Saudi-owned television network Al Arabiya, adding that the next phase of the operation “has a military component.”

As foreign warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition continue bombing Yemen, the Saudi spokesman insists:

“Members of the coalition have reiterated their commitment to restore Yemen’s security and stability without any foreign interference,” the spokesman said.

Mohammed al-Basha, Yemen’s chief representative in Washington, yesterday provided this assessment of the situation:

In an analysis for Middle East Eye, Simona Sikimic and Mary Atkinson write:

With the violence still apparently raging on the ground, and the future aims of the coalition marred in uncertainty, many commentators and analysts have been left wondering why now?

“I was not sure that they [the coalition] had set out any goals in the first place,” said [Charlene] Rodrigues [a journalist focusing on Yemen]. “There did not seem to be any plan so I cannot say what has been achieved apart from destruction. The Houthis until now had shown no signs of giving up and they were still fighting.”

According to Simon Henderson, the director of the Washington Institute’s Gulf Programme, “The fighting had appeared to be stalemated for at least the past two weeks.”

“Although the announced outcome is being depicted as a military success, it is unclear how it fits into a Saudi strategy to reinstate the government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, currently in exile in Riyadh, though the statement spoke of a political solution,” Henderson wrote on the think tank’s website.

Dawsari likewise stressed that the situation remained fragile.

“The decision to end Decisive Storm was a surprise to many people,” he said. “The storm started abruptly and ended abruptly. There is a lack of clarity in the announcement. It’s likely that there have been some negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but it’s hard to say.”

The Saudis and Hadi had rebuffed Iran’s offers of mediation just a day before announcing the end of Operation Decisive Storm. Yet, hours before the coalition press conference, the Iranians were dropping hints that a deal was on the horizon.

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