The Saudi army failed in its strategy to end Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebellion with a blitz operation launched ten days ago on both sides of the kingdom's southern border with Yemen, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources report. The deteriorating situation of this proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran on Yemeni soil is drawing the US and other Middle East nations ever more deeply into the conflict.
Riyadh has deployed a large force including a light brigade backed by a battalion of artillery, marines and engineers, and Saudi F-15s and Tornados. They bombarded Houthi units which had taken up position inside the kingdom near the town of Jebel Dukhan. Yet the tide of war was not reversed and the Saudi reconnaissance teams which infiltrated Houthi positions inside Yemen were overwhelmed.
Although the Saudi and Yemeni commanders announced Thursday, Nov. 19, that they had killed a large number of Houthi commanders in battle, all Saudi attempts to break through to the rebel positions in northern Yemen and the Saudi side of the border in Jebel Dukhan and Harp Sufiyan have been thrown back. The Yemeni insurgents are attacking Saudi armored vehicles advancing through the mountain passes and planting thousands of roadside bombs to blow them up.
The Saudi army also failed to create a 10-kilometer buffer zone on both sides of the 1,500-km long border to isolate the Houthi pocket and gain greater freedom of movement.
Jordan to the rescue
In desperation, Saudi King Abdullah is reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Gulf sources, as putting through an urgent phone call to the Jordanian monarch on Nov. 16 with an appeal to send over the Jordanian army's elite Royal Special Force of 2,000 commandoes to support the Saudi war effort in Yemen. He promised to defray all its expenses.
Trained in 2007 by the US security giant Blackwater, the Jordanian force's main task is to defend the Hashemite throne in Amman. Our sources report that, shortly before this issue closed, Jordan's Abdullah instructed the Royal Special Force to prepare to set out for Saudi Arabia over the weekend. Their mission when they reached the war arena was to break through to the narrow mountain passes on foot and fight the Yemen rebel intruders to the finish and flushed out.
As the fighting spreads, the United States has started airlifting arms to Yemen. This was no easy task. The Yemeni army is trained in the use of Russian weapons, supplied by the Soviet Union for the civil war that raged in Yemen in the 1970s and 1980s. The Americans went shopping for Russian ammunition and spares in East European countries and are flying them into Yemen from US air bases in Romania and Bulgaria.