When a combined Saudi-United Arab Emirates naval, armored , commando and air force landed by sea at the Yemen port of Aden Tuesday, Aug. 4, it faced hardly any resistance. The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels had fallen back, permitting the incoming force to clinch its conquest of the Red Sea port, contrary to all Western predictions.
Long convoys of heavy Saudi Abraham M1 tanks and French made Leclerc tanks contributed by the UAE were soon tearing up the road north of Aden to their next objective.
Among the heavy vehicles freighted in by air for the combined force were hundreds of armored personnel carriers – some Russian-made BMD3s, others Humvees made in America – all fitted with short-range ground-to-ground missiles – as well dozens of US-made mine-resistant, ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles designed to withstand roadside bombs.
Our military sources report that the Houthi insurgents have nowhere near the quantity or quality of equipment and weaponry to withstand this scale of offensive. So they retreated in the face of the Saudi-UAE advance.
It took the invaders three days to capture Yemen’s biggest air base at Al-Anad, 48 km north of Aden (see attached map), and prepare it for the takeoff of planes for air strikes. They then headed at speed to their next target, Houthi-held Taiz, 175 km north of Aden.
Houthis are sacrificed to Tehran’s broader interests
By Wednesday, Aug. 6, three quarters of Taiz province and most of Lahej province had fallen to the incoming armies. The ability of their heavily armored forces to cover 58km a day, attested strongly to the lack of resistance they faced.
According to DEBKA Weekly’s exclusive military sources, this rapid military advance would not have been possible unless Iran had given the Saudis advance intelligence on the Houthi deployments, and withheld from the insurgents third and fourth-generation anti-tank rockets for impeding the advance of Saudi and UAE tanks. Tehran had even cut by half the ammunition supplied for Houthi firearms.
In just a few days, the Houthis were brought so low that their leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi was forced to admit that his group had “suffered a defeat in the south in recent days” and he was “open to a political solution.”
It is not known if Tehran has confided its plans to its protégé, the Houthi leader, or told him that his rebellion is over and he must look forward to abandoning his conquests in Sanaa and pulling back to the Houthi stronghold of Saada in the north – or that he will be making way for the return from exile of his archenemy, President Abd Rabo Mansour, to form a new government with Houthi participation.
This plan is part of the package of understandings reached in Doha this week at a conference led by the American, Russian and Saudi foreign ministers (more about which in the leading article in this issue.) The Yemeni insurgent movement is the first, but not the last, to be sacrificed for these understandings.