Iran Ditches Yemen Rebels: “The Saudis Have the Ball.”

As Yemen peace talks went into their second day Wednesday, Dec. 16 at an undisclosed Swiss venue, the seven-day ceasefire broke down just hours after it was announced Tuesday.
Taking part in the UN-backed peace talks are Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and his government, representatives of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, and the General People’s Congress party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh – whose loyalists in the security forces have backed the rebels.
Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels on behalf of exiled President Hadi, said his side was only responding to repeated violations by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
All of DEBKA Weekly’s Gulf sources agreed that a complete cease-fire in Yemen was no better than a pipe dream. The Houthis used the truce to fire missiles at Saudi-led forces, which consist for now mostly of Colombian mercenaries hired by the United Arab Emirate and a Sudanese infantry battalion contributed by Khartoum to the war effort.
These forces are using the lull for advancing toward Taiz in the Yemeni highlands near the Red Sea port of Mocha. They missed their September deadline for reaching Sanaa, the capital. They may also miss reaching Taiz.
Tuesday, Dec. 15, the Saudi-led force was ambushed ahead of its destination by Houthis shooting Russian Tochka missiles. The Saudi commander Col. Abdullah al-Sahyan and the Emirati officer Sultan al-Ketbi were killed.
Both parties understand that they have no choice but to reach an agreement for ending the war. The rebel leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, in particular, is in a fix since he received a secret message from his backers in Tehran informing him that Iran is bogged down in the Iraqi and Syrian wars and the Houthis would henceforth have to fend for themselves.
The message ended with the enigmatic phrase: “The ball is in the Saudis’ court.”
The Houthi leader saw exactly what it meant: Iran had ditched the Yemeni rebels and left them no option other than to come to terms with Saudi Arabia for ending the war with all possible speed.
This week, the Houthis were no longer fighting to win but to enhance their bargaining position against Riyadh.

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