The UAE’s bitter choices: strikes in its cities or defeat in Yemen

January 19 2022

By Abdel Bari Atwan

There are two main choices for the UAE: escalate dramatically or exit quickly, both with considerable cost to Abu Dhabi

On 17 January, Yemeni resistance movement Ansarallah launched its first-ever retaliatory missile strikes into the UAE’s depth, hitting Abu Dhabi airport and a key petroleum facility. Within hours, the Saudi-led coalition struck Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, killing 23 civilians in the ensuing bombardments. Both sides have threatened to escalate, after seven years of a brutal war.

So, what are the options of the UAE and the Houthis after the recent and sudden military confrontations? Will Abu Dhabi withdraw again – as it claimed to have done in 2019 – or will it continue its expensive proxy war, via its Yemen-based mercenary armies? And how will the Houthis respond to each of these scenarios?

After the unprecedented drones and ballistic missile attack launched by Ansarallah, Yemen’s Houthi-dominated resistance movement, into the UAE’s territorial depth, there are two critical questions that arise. The first is about the real motives behind this new Ansarallah gambit, and the second, about the UAE’s reaction to this attack.

Importantly, will this escalation lead to a change in strategy in the long run: will Abu Dhabi return to this war after a semi-interruption of three years, or will it decide to withdraw completely this time – proxies included – in order to avoid potentially high costs?

The Houthis, who have targeted multiple strategic economic and military sites inside Saudi Arabia with ballistic and winged missiles over the past years, had thus far avoided targeting the UAE in its retaliatory strikes. The Emiratis are the second-lead and key partner in the Arab coalition’s “Decisive Storm” assault launched on Yemen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March 2015, in which he pledged to enter Houthi-controlled Sanaa “as a conqueror.”

When asked about why they neglected to retaliate against the UAE until now, sources close to the Houthis provided several reasons for that decision:

First, Ansarallah was unwilling to open two battle fronts at the same time – with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both – in addition to their internal battlefronts with the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC), and the Saudi-backed Islah party and al-Sharia army.

Second, the Houthis had reached an implicit, unwritten agreement with the UAE that can be summed up thus: “We left the south to you, so leave the north to us, and do not interfere in it politically or militarily… and you will be safe.”

Third, the desire of Iran, an Ansarallah ally, to maintain a cautious balance with the UAE – especially with the Emirate of Dubai, a critical commercial gateway for undermining the severity of US sanctions on Iran, estimated to account for more than $14 billion annually in Emirati-Iranian trade.

Fourth, the sudden decision of the UAE in 2019 to withdraw its official troops gradually from Yemen after a sharp increase in soldier losses, estimated at 150 dead and hundreds more wounded.

Among the most prominent of those injured was Zayed bin Hamdan, the son of former foreign minister and governor of the northern region Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, and also the son-in-law of the the de facto ruler of the Emirates, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ). Hamdan was paralyzed and is in a wheelchair.

The UAE’s strong return to the Yemeni theater in recent months, via its proxies, especially in the critical battles of Shabwah, Marib and Al-Bayda, has changed Ansarallah’s calculations. The UAE-backed Giant Brigades – headed by General Tariq Afash, nephew of the late Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh – and other southern factions, upended all the equations on the ground when it stymied the advance of Ansarallah forces on these key frontlines.

Because of this Emirati escalation in recent weeks, Ansarallah lost partial control of the oil-rich Shabwah governorate, inflicting huge human losses in its ranks, tipping the scales toward the Saudi-backed Sharia army and easing the siege on them in Marib, which the Saudis were on the verge of losing.

After several days of hesitation, during which consultations took place with allies in Tehran, Beirut, and among Yemeni tribal leaders, Ansarallah decided to send a strong message to the UAE. It did so by bombing the Emirati depth, but in a reduced and deliberate way, to deliver a warning message to Abu Dhabi: “You breached the agreement.. If you go back, we will return, and he who warns have been excused (from explaining further),” say the Houthi sources mentioned above.

The Emirati military response came quickly, less than 24 hours later, with an aerial bombardment of the home of retired General Abdullah Qassem al-Junaid, head of the Yemeni Air College in the heart of Sanaa – where three families resided – killing about 23 civilians and wounding dozens for the first time in years.

There are two options for the UAE after these recent developments.

First, to revive the 2019 ‘truce agreement’ with the Houthis, which would entail ordering UAE proxies to immediately withdraw from the Shabwah, Marib and Al-Bayda fronts and return to their former bases on the western coast, south of Hodeidah and near Bab al-Mandab, as a first step.

Second, to advance its proxies into Ansarallah’s geographic red lines, and throw its full weight back into the Yemeni war  to strengthen the exhausted military position of its Saudi ally. These were decisions implemented by the UAE and Saudi Arabia in an agreement reached during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MbS) visit to Abu Dhabi before last December’s Gulf summit.

It is not known which of the two options the Emirati leadership will choose. The first will be difficult as it will require an exit from the Saudi-led war coalition, an increase in tension with Riyadh, and the abandonment of its allies’ military ambitions in southern Yemen – but it will lead to halting any new Houthi attacks in the Emirati depth.

The second option may be vastly more expensive, because the Houthis are likely to continue their bombing of the UAE with more powerful retaliatory strikes targeting the oil and tourism infrastructure, especially the airports and the facilities of the “ADNOC” company, an Emirati version of Saudi Aramco.

Ansarallah’s bombardment of the UAE with missiles and drones, although expected, constituted a dangerous new development. It changed all the rules of engagement and moved the Yemeni war to a new stage where developments are difficult to anticipate.

Israel is about 1,600 kilometers from Sanaa – approximately the same distance between Abu Dhabi and Yemen’s capital city. Tel Aviv’s assistance to the UAE to investigate the Ansarallah strike capabilities comes on the back of increasing Israeli fears that it could be the next destination for Houthi ballistic missiles and armed drones. So, how then could this new element influence the direction of the Arab coalition countries in this war, and the UAE, in particular?

This unprecedented bombing of the Emirati depth will either lead to accelerate the exploration of a solution to end the Yemeni war – or escalate it, expand its circle, and invite other regional parties into it. The new entrants could include the countries and arms of the resistance axis, jihadists from all over the world, Russia, China, and a more active presence by western NATO states – similar to what happened in Syria.

In all cases, the surprises of the new year have already arrived, faster than we could have imagined.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Saudi’s Mohammed Bin Nayef Tortured upon Detention in 2020, NYT Reveals

 January 11, 2022

(FILES) – A file picture AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE

A number of Saudi princes, including two sons of the previous monarch, King Abdullah, remain in detention, The New York Times reported.

In an article published don Sunday, the NYT said that former Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef was one of the prominent figures to remain in detention.

The NYT said that Saudi princess, Basmah bint Saud, was released last Thursday nearly three years after being prisoned, noting that she was among a number of prominent Saudi activists, dissidents and members of the royal family either jailed or put under house arrest during the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Returning to bin Nayef, the daily said that after bin Salman ousted the former crown prince to claim the title for himself, he put him under house arrest until 2020. In March 2020, bin Nayef was arrested and detained.

At the start of his detention, Mohammed bin Nayef was held in solitary confinement, deprived of sleep and suspended upside down by his ankles, NYT said, according to two people briefed on his situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Last fall, he was moved to a villa inside the complex surrounding the king’s Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh, the capital, where he remains, the people said, as quoted by the daily.

Mohammed bin Nayef is kept by himself with no television or other electronic devices and receives only limited visits from his family, the people said, according to NYT. He appears to have sustained lasting damage to his ankles from his treatment in detention and cannot walk without a cane.

Source: NYT (edited by Al-Manar English Website)

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Macron, the Gulf, and Islam

January 6, 2022

French President, Emmanuel Macron (L) welcomes Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan prior to a working lunch at Fontainebleau castle on September 15, 2021 in Fontainebleau, France. Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images.

BY ALAIN GRESH


n December 3 and 4, 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to the Gulf for a short visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. This is likely to be his last foreign trip outside of Europe, as France has entered election season. The presidential election will take place on April 10 and 24, 2022, and

Macron is preparing to run for re-election.

Macron’s trip highlights the importance of the Gulf countries on at least two levels. First, at a time of the United States’ disengagement from the region, France is trying to occupy its place economically, militarily, and politically.

Second, at a time when the issue of Islam and Muslims is at the center of the presidential campaign, Macron wants to seek support for the French position against “radicalism,” and especially so after the adoption of the “Law against Separatism,” renamed the “Law Reinforcing the Principles of the Republic,” which came into force in August 2021 and which has caused much misunderstanding in the Muslim world (and elsewhere) as it appears to be (and is in fact) a law against Islam and Muslims.

The most successful stopover was in Abu Dhabi, where President Macron has a close personal relationship with the Emirates’ strongman, Mohamed bin Zayed (MBZ). The signing of a record contract for the sale of 80 Rafale aircraft was accompanied by the sale of twelve Eurocopter EC725 Caracal helicopters, and the singing of various economic partnership agreements. “This is the biggest military contract with a French component in our history – worth some 17 billion euros,”  Macron said.

For Macron, this is proof of the close ties between Paris and Abu Dhabi. “I think that the Emirates and the Crown Prince saw that France was a solid partner in the fight against terrorism (…), that is to say that we kept our commitments in the region and that we were attached to its balance.” For it is not only a question of arms sales, but of a community of views and coordination between Abu Dhabi and Paris in the “war against terrorism” (notably in Libya), and in the fight against “political Islam,” as shown by the presence on the trip of Laurent Nuñez, the national coordinator of intelligence and the fight against terrorism. MBZ’s support for French laws against “separatism” is particularly appreciated.

We should notice that the French president said nothing about the authoritarian nature of the Abu Dhabi regime, which imprisons and tortures its opponents, about its involvement in the deadly war in Yemen, or about its use of Pegasus spy software. Yet, a few days later, a report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) highlighted the dark side of the regime and Paris’s complicity in it.

The second stop was Doha. Although it did not call into question the very good relations between the two capitals (the visit was fruitful), the meeting was marked by an incident that was barely reported. The French delegation reported that Nuñez gave the local authorities a list of approximately fifteen entities (mosques, associations etc.)  whose funding by Qatari sources, private or public, France requested comes to an end. Anonymously, a Qatari official reacted quite strongly,

“This is a pure invention by Mr Nuñez – no such list has been given to our government and there would be no reason to create one. This is an attempt at political gain at the expense of Qatar. (…) Our government is working closely with its French counterparts on several bilateral and international initiatives to combat illicit financing from source to destination.”

Beyond the controversy, the incident illustrates Macron’s emphasis on controlling France’s Muslims and his willingness to assert that he is doing all he can to counter “political Islam”.

The last and most controversial stop of Macron’s trip to the Gulf, in France at least, was his visit to Saudi Arabia. For the first time since the horrific murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, a major head of state of the Western world agreed to meet Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the Saudi crown prince, widely considered the mastermind of this crime.

Relations between MBS and Macron had not been rosy since the French president “rescued” Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in 2018, when he was reportedly kidnapped in Saudi Arabia by MBS and forced to announce his resignation from Riyadh.

Relations between MBS and Macron had not been rosy since the French president “rescued” Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in 2018.

While the aim of the meeting was also to give a boost to bilateral relations – and to take advantage of the rift between Washington and Riyadh, with President Joe Biden refusing any contact with MBS – one of the objectives was a new mediation with Lebanon, which the Saudis are subjecting to a trade embargo that is aggravating the economic crisis in the country. The result was modest: a conversation between Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and MBS on Macron’s phone. Nothing more came of the visit – no return of ambassadors and no lifting of the embargo.

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Jan 4 2022

By Al-Ahed News

The UAE clock is ticking in Yemen

MbZ needed Yemen’s southern ports and waterways to underpin his ‘Maritime Empire’ and extend his security realm. But now the Yemeni resistance is set to blow a hole in those plans.

Jan 04 2022

UAE Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed bet on his Yemen war to consolidate his maritime and security ambitions. It may have backfired.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Karim Shami

On 3 January, a UAE-flagged vessel carrying ‘military supplies’ was seized by Yemeni resistance movement Ansarallah, which disseminated photos of the war contraband widely on social media.

One week earlier, Yemen’s Armed Forces launched a ballistic missile strike on Shabwah province, an area under the control of UAE-backed militias.

If a new strategy of targeting Emirati interests – instead of mainly Saudi ones – is taking shape in Yemen, these incidents are likely to have a ripple effect on the UAE’s role in both Yemen and the wider region.

Ambition and contest inside a house of glass

At the onset of the war on Yemen in 2015, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates divided their military-strategic roles in Yemen in accordance with country’s former partition lines of 1967–1990.

Back then, Yemen was divided into two separate states, north and south. The oil-rich north was attached to Saudi Arabia, while the communist south received significant aid and other assistance from its alliance with the USSR.

After the dissolution of the USSR, the nation unified under Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president of the former North Yemen since 1978, firmly consolidating the country under the influence of Saudi Arabia.

The UAE began its role as a regional player in West Asia after the death of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 2004.

The ambitious Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MbZ), subsequently took full control of the UAE. He overhauled his predecessor’s visions and prepared the UAE for a post-oil era, in which the country would transform from a traditional Gulf oil-dependent country to one with a diversified economy.

Briefly, the UAE’s diversified economy rested on the construction of mega projects funded by oil revenues, such as ports and airports that turned the UAE into a regional, free trade zone hub for importing and exporting oil, jewelry, electronics and other goods. The economy of the UAE would be further boosted by foreign investments in tourism, air transport, and real estate.

In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, foreign investments as well as real estate sectors depreciated, and the UAE struggled to achieve full recovery until 2019. Then, as others in the Arabian Peninsula, the Emirati economy took another bashing from the effects of COVID-19 on its tourism industry and the subsequent instability of the global oil market.

These downturns increased the importance of ports and airports in MbZ’s grand scheme. Today, re-exports (non-petroleum) account for almost 50 percent of total exports, making maritime security an ultimate priority for UAE foreign policy.

Ultimately, the success of MbZ has been in transforming the UAE from an absolute realm of sand to an absolute realm of glass, and his fortunes can remain intact as long as those glass towers stand.

A coalition of differing goals

When Ansarallah (the Houthis) – a northern Yemeni resistance movement against western and Gulf interventionism – took over the capital city of Sanaa, a coalition spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and the UAE was formed to push back and destroy it.

UAE officials claim that their role in the coalition is to support the ‘legal’ government of Hadi, who was overthrown by the Yemeni people in a popular uprising, and who subsequently sought protection in Riyadh.

Generally speaking, the UAE adamantly opposes any popular Islamic or resistance movements across the region, from the Polisario on the Atlantic Ocean to the Islamic Brotherhood on the Persian Gulf. The UAE has also periodically employed the hollow excuse of ‘restraining Iran’s influence’ to justify their aggressions in Yemen and elsewhere in the region.

However, the real reason for the conflict waged on Yemen by Saudi Arabia and the UAE has little to do with politics – and much more to do with the geography of South Yemen.

It’s all about geography…and location

Along the coastlines of Yemen are ports and islands overlooking the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa, and the Bab al-Mandab strait.

Photo Credit: The Cradle
Division of labor: Saudi interests lie primarily in Yemen’s north; the UAE’s ambitions, in the south.

The foreign policy of the UAE today is determined mainly by maritime trading and security. Control of Yemen’s south will assist the UAE in maintaining its regional trading dominance and will secure the waterways and airports to avoid future vulnerabilities.

Maritime trading will be determined in the upcoming years by the Maritime Silk Road,  which is part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Engineered to connect around 60 countries, the $4 trillion project will bolster the strategically-located Yemen as a vital hub of maritime trading, naturally diminishing the UAE’s location and role.

For the UAE, the three key sites in connection with maritime trading are the Aden governorate, Socotra Island, and Bab al-Mandab strait:

First is Aden province which includes Aden Port City, purported to be part of the Maritime Silk Road. It has the biggest container terminal in Yemen and is located on the Gulf of Aden near one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Aden also now hosts the country’s largest airport after the war coalition in 2015 destroyed the airport in Sanaa. Currently, Aden is under the control of the UAE.

Then there is Socotra, a unique natural and isolated wonder, a well-sized island surrounded by the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea. It faces the Horn of Africa from the west, and is also located on one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Currently, Socotra is controlled by the UAE.

Finally, there is the Bab al-Mandab strait, which will be an essential part of the Maritime Silk Road. The strait connects the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, and is shared by three countries: Yemen, Djibouti, and Eritrea. Around 20,000 ships pass through the strait each year, and the total petroleum flows through Bab al-Mandab account for nine percent of global supply.

The UAE is currently in control of the Bab al-Mandab strait.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

A colonial strategy that never tires

While the coalition may have ostensibly sought the unity of Yemen by re-establishing what they called the ‘legal’ Hadi government in Sanaa, the intent – at least by the UAE – was quite the opposite.

MbZ’s ambition within the coalition differs significantly from that of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS). Saudi Arabia sought mainly to dismantle Ansarallah, regain Yemen as its pawn, and eliminate any threats that might emerge from its southern border.

But the UAE saw in this war an opportunity to establish an oversized maritime role for itself by deploying the colonial principle of divide and conquer.

The Emiratis achieved their ‘self-styled maritime empire’ in Yemen with the aid of the Southern Movement, which came into existence in 2007. The Southern Movement was formed by tribes and groups seeking to divide Yemen along the old partition lines of 1967–1990.

The movement, however, would soon be restructured to match the aspirations of the UAE, and thus the formation of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) was announced in 2017.

Known for its brutality and ruthlessness, the STC was trained, equipped, and fully funded by the UAE. The council was established to provide the illusion of a governing authority, which could then bestow a semblance of “legitimacy” on the UAE’s unlawful actions in Yemen’s south. The STC even have their own ‘elected’ president in Aden, while Hadi has been holed up in Riyadh since 2015.

Through the STC, the UAE was able to seize both Aden and the island of Socotra. Without the formation of the STC, the UAE would have had absolutely no influence in Yemen.

The takeover of Bab Al Mandab strait, however, took a different route. The UAE established its dominance over the strait simply by building a military base on the tiny and uninhabited island of Perim (Mayyun).

Perim lies on the narrowest corridor of the strait at 26 km (16 miles) wide – and faces Djibouti, Eritrea, and Somalia to the west. Incidentally, the UAE has also built military bases and ports in both Eritrea (Assab port/base) and Somalia (Berbera port/base), whereas in Djibouti, the UAE established the port of Doraleh in a joint project with China.

With typical colonial-style flair, the UAE took on the ‘guardianship’ of the strait connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

The spoils of war

So how was all this achieved by a 50-year old emirate with a population of just over one million?

Certainly, none of this was possible without an American green light and the complete cluelessness of the Saudi crown prince.

Unlike his Saudi counterpart, MbZ is viewed in Washington (and London, for that matter) as a trustworthy ally who can achieve US foreign policy interests in the region without the public embarrassment associated with MbS.

Accordingly, the Bab al-Mandab strait fell neatly into a vital component of the Cold War 2.0 buildup between China and the US. The Arab ally that can control this essential strait will give the US leverage with which to jeopardize the Maritime Silk Road. Hence, its support for the ongoing conflict in Yemen.

MbZ also knew how to keep the UAE in the shadows by taking advantage – as he always does – of MbS’ inexperience and ignorance in matters related to geopolitics.

While the idea of a Saudi-led coalition and a regional show of force might have initially rung enticingly in the ears of MbS, today, after several costly years, many documented war crimes, and a shattered global reputation, the Saudi crown prince has essentially been cornered in defeat.

This, despite spending billions more than the UAE and taking on a barrage of targeted Yemeni ballistic missiles since 2019, when Ansarallah went on the offensive.

That same year, Ansarallah Leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi warned the UAE not to escalate its attacks on Yemen as the resistance movement’s retaliatory ‘options’ had expanded well beyond Yemen’s borders. The threat itself resulted in a partial withdrawal of Emirati troops, and later a full withdrawal in 2020.

Despite its military withdrawal, the UAE did not lose an inch of its dominance in the south due to the generous support and diplomatic protection it provided to the brutal STC.

Gains and losses 

Official reports indicate that by 2018 the UAE had recorded 112 military personnel deaths and injured soldiers in the thousands.

Further reports indicate that the UAE spends well over $16 billion a year to maintain its dominance in the war on Yemen. Billions of dollars have been spent just on logistics, propaganda, and the amassing of foreign mercenary militias.

Logistics are essential to maintaining the security of the maritime corridors and helping to puppeteer the UAE’s southern minions.

Propaganda is funded by both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, known for their ability and willingness to throw cash at such projects. Global and regional media has been well controlled: it is rare after seven years of war to hear details in mainstream media about Yemen that doesn’t focus primarily on the humanitarian dimension – often blamed on Ansarallah – and it is almost impossible to find analysis or data that highlights the monumental geopolitical and material losses encountered by the various coalition partners.

But the bulk of the UAE bill goes to STC ‘politicians’ who enjoy a life of luxury in a war-torn country in tandem with the 200,000 well-equipped and armed members who, as stated by an Emirati official, are the ‘biggest accomplishment’ of the UAE.

The gains made by the UAE since 2015 are utterly unmatched by its material losses.

The road ahead for the UAE

Both MbZ and MbS assumed the war on Yemen would be a blitz that would end rapidly and allow them to bask in the glory of victory. But for those who know Yemen well, the uncalculated consequences of that rosy, inexpert outlook would quickly emerge to flip the war’s course.

One of these consequences would be the growth of Ansarallah’s military sophistication and capabilities.

Ansarallah first started fighting with light arms, but was gradually able to manufacture its own accurate ballistic missiles and drones. And Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, unlike other leaders, did not hesitate to use these capabilities to strike at Saudi Arabia.

In 2021, Al-Houthi said in a broadcast: “We will liberate all of our country and take back all the areas that were occupied by the enemies. Our enemy’s aim is to subjugate our land to the US, the British and the Israelis.”

Currently, the ongoing battles are in areas surrounding Sanaa province, specifically in Marib. After the Saudi militias are defeated, the next confrontations are likely to be in areas under the control of the UAE.

MbZ will shortly face two choices: First, to withdraw completely from Yemen and cease his support for the STC, thereby losing control over the southern waterways and ports and scuttling his oversized regional ambitions.

His second choice is to take the risk and face Ansarallah’s retaliation, which may result in attacks on facilities and military bases inside and outside the UAE. In this event, tourism and foreign investment sectors in the UAE would be adversely affected, and a new kind of war will commence.

MbZ has prepared for the second option, both militarily and politically. This year alone, the UAE has attempted to conceal multiple military deals related to air defense systems with various countries that include Russia, the US, GreeceIsrael, and South Korea.

The UAE has also invested in manufacturing its own air defense system to counter the threat escalation triggered by its foreign policies.

On the political side, MbZ has recently managed to ease tensions with Iran and Turkey and has allowed China to build a port/base on the shores of the Persian Gulf. He has also struck unmatched cordial relations with Israel, and has – so far, unsuccessfully – tried to invest in an Israeli port that is, ironically, geared to be part of the Maritime Silk Road.

Perhaps, in his own mind, MbZ believes this may gain him more protection from the west and his neighbors, and bestow his maritime schemes with some legitimacy.

However, Mbz’s recent actions to strengthen the UAE’s defensive capabilities suggests that he expects his emirate to take direct hits from Ansarallah.

His friendly diplomatic overtures to neighboring countries is a tactical move on his part to ensure strong condemnation from the international community against any Ansarallah strikes on the UAE. How effective an international response might be as a result of a strike on the UAE remains to be seen. 

The stakes are high for all parties. A coalition loss in Yemen will shake the emirates and monarchies of West Asia and shift the course of the Maritime Silk Road away from the UAE and its allies.

An Ansarallah-ruled Yemen would reap huge material benefits and geopolitical clout from the nation’s strategic location and unexploited natural resources, and would likely seek to establish regional and international ventures with trusted partners in the new multipolar system emerging.

The Saudis are on their way out, leaving the UAE with little cover for their Yemeni project. The current US administration, despite continued arms injections into the war front, is publicly attempting to keep a careful distance.

An Emirati counter using western mercenaries and Israeli special forces, while possible, could delay an Ansarallah victory, but would also invite countless additional consequences. It may even, this time, entirely flip the Arab discourse – already highly critical of “normalization” with Israel – against Abu Dhabi and Gulf monarchies in general.

With Ansarallah attacks on Emirati interests in and around Yemen this past week, the spotlight is now suddenly – certainly uncomfortably – focused on a UAE that prefers its place in the shadows of conflict.

So will the UAE fully withdraw from Yemen, or will MbZ risk shattering the fragile glass towers of his realm?The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Sayyed Nasrallah commemorates martyrdom of Soleimani, Al-Muhandis

January 3, 2022

Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah speaks on the second anniversary of the martyrdom of Major General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah speaking on the second anniversary of the martyrdom of Major General Qassem Soleimani and commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis on January 3, 2022

Speaking on the second anniversary of the martyrdom of former IRGC Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani and former Popular Mobilization Forces commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the repercussions of the US assassination of the two martyrs are still unfolding until this moment.

Two years after the martyrdom of the two leaders and their comrades, Sayyed Nasrallah asserted that commemorating them was a recognition of the sacrifices they have made.

“Over the last two years, there have been major battles that affirmed that the [axis of resistance] was still following in the footsteps of the two leaders, such as in the battle of Seif Al-Quds,” the secretary-general declared.

He urged the countries and peoples of the region to undertake a firm stance on the killer and the martyr. “Iraq must have a stance on who the killer is and who the martyr is,” Sayyed Nasrallah said.

“The United States occupied and tyrannized Iraq and committed massacres there before the assassination of Soleimani.”

The top leader attributed ISIS to Washington, “The United States created ISIS to return its armies to Iraq, and it is to bear the responsibility for all the crimes committed by ISIS.” 

“The United States is a historically unmatched hypocritical assassin,” he declared, highlighting the contrast with martyr Soleimani, who he said, “Stood by the Iraqi people and contributed to the establishment of the resistance and provided it with arms, strength, and momentum.”

In a similar vein, he praised Iran, saying, “The Islamic Republic was the first to stand by the Iraq people in the face of ISIS, which was brought upon by Washington.”

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah saw that the security Iraq is enjoying today was “the blessing of the martyrs. Is it fair to compare the criminal United States and Iran, who supported Iraq?”

“It is disastrous to compare the two martyrs who stood by Iraq and the United States who carried out massacres there,” he continued.

Saudi Arabia sent suicide bombers to Iraq

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said, “Saudi Arabia was sending suicide bombers and car bombs to Iraq. It sent its youth to murder the children, women, and men. However, Iran sent its men to die in defense of the children, women, and men.”

He also underscored that the Americans asked Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to spread the Wahhabi ideology.

The US is responsible for all Israeli crimes in Palestine and the region

“The United States is responsible for all of Israel’s crimes in Palestine and the region,” Sayyed Nasrallah underlined, calling back “Israel’s” doings in Lebanon, such as wars, air raids, and massacres, and blaming the United States for them. “The United States of America is responsible, so how could we perceive it as a friend?”

He also touched on the US crimes in Syria: “The US government killed the Syrian people and plunged their country into a devastating war.” He also emphasized that Washington “wants to turn Al-Tanf base in Syria into a sanctuary for ISIS to threaten Damascus.”

Regarding the war on Yemen, Sayyed Nasrallah said it was an American war waged by Saudi Arabia. “The Americans manipulated the Gulf states during the siege of Qatar to take money from it,” he added.

Touching on the US crimes in Afghanistan, he said, “The Americans committed crimes during their occupation of the country and their withdrawal from it while saying the killings ‘were a mistake’ as the Pentagon stands idle.”

The US forces are fated to leave this region

The Secretary-General also touched on Iraq’s internal affairs by saying, “Tolerating or turning a blind eye to the presence of US forces in Iraq is killing martyrs Soleimani and Al-Muhandis all over again,” stressing that Washington’s forces are fated to leave this region.

“The blood of martyrs Soleimani and Al-Muhandis is crying out to the minds and the consciences in the Arab and Islamic worlds,” the secretary-general asserted, stressing that the head of the snake in terms of aggression, occupation, and tyranny, is the United States, “And we must take it as an enemy.”

Prisoner Hisham Abu Hawash is a hero and resistance symbol

Touching on the topic of the hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah praised prisoner Hisham Abu Hawash – who has been hunger-striking for 140 days. He said Abu Hawash was a symbol of resistance alongside the six heroic prisoners who liberated themselves through operation Freedom Tunnel a few months ago.

“There are thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Zionist prisons, and they are suffering to a great extent,” Sayyed Nasrallah underscored.

Commenting on the Israeli occupation building a wall around Gaza, one of “Israel’s” latest provocative moves, the secretary-general said, “A few weeks ago, the construction of the massive wall around Gaza was completed to increase the severity of the blockade imposed on the Strip for the last 15 years,” adding, “while the entire world is standing idle.”

“Today, Palestine is occupied by the Zionists, and the world knows what the Palestinian people are suffering from due to the occupation, the displacement, and the diaspora,” Sayyed Nasrallah asserted.

It was an honor to combat the organizations brought upon by Saudi Arabia

Commenting on the latest crisis between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, Sayyed Nasrallah said, “We neither violated nor attacked Saudi Arabia. It was an accomplice to the universal war on the region, and we had the honor to combat the organizations brought upon the region by Saudi Arabia.”

He also responded to the latest statements made by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in which he described Hezbollah as “terrorist,” by saying, “The terrorists are the ones who sent thousands of Saudi takfiris to Syria and Iraq.”

“The terrorists are the ones holding thousands of Lebanese people hostage in the Gulf and making threats against Lebanon on a daily basis,” he declared while noting that no resignation of any Lebanese minister would change the Saudi stance, “For its problem is with those who thwarted its project for the region.”

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah concluded by affirming that Hezbollah was assiduous toward its internal allies, emphasizing the importance of inter-Lebanese dialogue.

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Saree: Yemeni Ballistic Missiles Hit Sensitive Targets in Saudi Jizan, Painful Ops Coming

Dec 25 2021

By Al-Ahed News

Yemeni armed forces spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, announced that “The Yemeni missile forces managed to demolish very important and sensitive sites in Saudi Jizan with three ballistic missiles of high accuracy and advanced technology.”

According to Saree, “The missiles hit its targets.”

Saree stressed that this targeting comes within the framework of the legitimate response to the crimes and escalation of the Saudi-American aggression and its siege on Yemen.

The Yemeni official promised “The Saudi regime with painful operations as long as it persists and continues in its brutal aggression and crimes.”

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Saudi Arabia and the UAE: Two rival allies

Once staunch allies, MbS and MbZ can’t seem to see eye-to-eye on regional matters anymore, and so a competition for primacy is underway.

December 16 2021

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and his Emirati counterpart Mohammad bin Zayed are old allies whose rivalry for West Asian dominance is heating up as they search for new groundings in the post-oil eraPhoto Credit: The Cradle

By Mohammad Salami

Many years ago, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was respected among its neighbors, close and far, as a protector of Arab unity and of Islam’s holiest sites within the Arabian Peninsula.

But after the 1998 establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Saudi Arabia’s role began to assume the form of  a ‘superior power’ among its closest neighbors. Over time, and with growing fortunes of their own, other GCC states began to challenge the status quo of the Saudi superpower in order to forge their own geopolitical directions and relationships based on national interests.

While competition between the oil-rich states is rife, today, the often starkly differing visions of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Saudi kingdom are giving shape to the Persian Gulf’s most potent new rivalry.

Like Qatar, which opened its borders to the US Military Central Command’s (CENTCOM) headquarters as leverage against Saudi diktats and as means to attain its own regional aspirations, the UAE has also invested heavily in an American buffer, becoming arguably Washington’s closest Arab ally today.

Abu Dhabi has spent a reported $4 billion cultivating their relationship with Washington via lobby groups and other personal strategic investments. The Emiratis’ abundant wealth, its expansive military spending and development of mercenary armies currently at work in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Egypt’s North Sinai, have paid off: the UAE is well positioned to challenge Riyadh within the GCC and adopt regional policies independent of the kingdom.

Border, oil, and foreign hub rivalries

The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and the UAE is not exactly new. In 1974, the two fledgling nations hammered out the Treaty of Jeddah to try and resolve border, land, and resource issues wedged between them.

Specifically, Riyadh laid claim to the oil-rich Buraimi Oasis and refused to recognize the Emirates until that area was ceded to the Saudis. Abu Dhabi capitulated and signed the treaty, but in 2004 decided to dispute its terms, claiming inconsistencies between the pre-treaty oral agreement and the actual text of said treaty. The issue remains unresolved to this day and is a clear example of residual tensions between the neighboring nations.

Another dispute surfaced in 2009 when the GCC agreed to create a joint bank to promote economic unity among member states. But when a decision was taken to establish the bank in Saudi territory, the UAE objected, pointing out that they had requested to host this joint venture for the previous five years.

Eventually the Emiratis withdrew from the plan and single currency negotiations within the GCC never took hold.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also embroiled in an economic war over oil sales at a time when the world is working to reduce its dependence on hydrocarbons. In recent years, both the US and the European Union (EU) have announced ambitious plans to combat global warming by radically reducing carbon emissions.

The Europeans in particular are planning to end the sale of all gas and diesel-run vehicles by 2035 and to reach a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

This has placed both Abu Dhabi and Riyadh in a race to out-produce each other before global demand wanes and favorable prices drop below the level needed to fill government coffers. This race against time has led the Emiratis into a $122 billion spending spree to boost their production capacity to five million barrels a day by the end of this decade. The Saudis, in turn, have begun to expand their own production capacities with an eye to producing 13 million barrels a day.

Meanwhile, the net share of oil revenue (oil rents) in Saudi Arabia’s 2019 GDP was about 50 percent higher than that of the UAE.

A more recent public dispute between the Persian Gulf neighbors occurred in July 2021 at the OPEC+ Summit, during which the UAE expressed its vigorous opposition to a Saudi decision to keep oil production levels low until December 2022, claiming this was “unfair” to the UAE.

But competition between Abu Dhabi and Riyadh in non-oil trade is also abundant. In October, Saudi Arabia licensed 44 international companies to set up regional headquarters in Riyadh in a deal that will add 67 billion riyals ($18 billion) to the economy. The offer came with a proviso: companies that base their operations outside the kingdom will be shut out of the lucrative Saudi market

The move came as part of the kingdom’s push to become a regional commercial hub and to vie for foreign capital and talent, ignoring the fact that many of these firms already had head offices up and running in the UAE.

Riyadh has set a 2023 end-of-year deadline for firms to set up headquarters in the country or risk losing out on Saudi government contracts.

A disastrous partnership in war

The overly ambitious goals of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) to vie for leadership in the region, as well as their rivalry with older regional powers like Iran and Turkey, has unfolded over their disastrous war in Yemen.

The six-year old war was launched with conflicting interests and end goals from both the kingdom and the UAE, paving the way for its collective failure.

For its part, the UAE sought to gain control over Yemen’s ports and shipping lanes, as well as of its strategic advantages such as the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and its proximity to the Horn of Africa. The Saudis, meanwhile, were more concerned with protecting their southern border from the political ideologies of the Zaidi Shia and the Ansarallah resistance movement, ideologies that reject all foreign intervention in Yemen – a country which has been under the Saudi thumb for decades.

In yet another show of their conflicting interests, Saudi Arabia supports the Al-Islah Party, the branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen, while the UAE opposes it. But even more egregious, while Riyadh backs the parallel government of ousted Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in the south and north of the country, the UAE supports the Southern Transitional Council (STC), which holds deep differences with the Hadi government.

In 2019, this particular dispute unfolded when the STC gained control of the city of Aden, which was the seat of Hadi’s parallel administration. As clashes between the STC and Hadi loyalists unfolded, UAE troops were forced to join the battle to provide aid for the STC, in a battle that ended with over 300 dead and wounded.

With the STC strengthened and eventually able to declare autonomy in Aden in April 2020, the UAE withdrew its forces from the battlefield and headed south to secure Yemen’s ports for itself.

Beyond its role in Yemen, the UAE has also pursued diplomatic relations in the region in opposition to Saudi Arabia. Most recently the Emiratis have made efforts to improve their ties with Iran, Turkey, Syria, and even Israel, all of them countries Riyadh holds at a significant distance.

The safe train to Tehran

Last month, the diplomatic advisor to the UAE president, Anwar Gargash, spoke of conflict de-escalation with Iran, saying: “We have taken steps to de-escalate tensions [with Iran] as we have no interest in a confrontation.The whole region would pay the price of such a confrontation for decades to come,” he told audiences at the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate.

Saudi Arabia cannot so swiftly resolve its disputes with the Islamic Republic – exacerbated during the Yemen and Syria wars – with which it has a historic regional rivalry. The UAE’s advantage in such scenarios is that it enjoys the flexibility to resolve tensions without losing face – it is not perceived as ‘leading’ those conflicts, unlike the Saudis, and does not consider Iran a “menace,” also unlike the Saudis.

Moreover, Abu Dhabi has good reason to maintain functioning relations with Iran, a country with which it enjoys substantial trade relations, partly due to the large Iranian community living in the UAE and their local investments. Other reasons for the country’s focus on economic diplomacy instead of aggressive measures include the US administration’s desire to advance nuclear talks with Iran, and Tehran’s capacity to influence developments in Afghanistan and other key regional states.

By maintaining friendly relations with Iran, the UAE is looking to strike a balance of power with the Saudis, as Tehran could prove to be useful in the event of a serious dispute with Riyadh. Qatar did much the same, using Iranian aid to reduce the effects of sanctions during the 2017–2021 economic blockade imposed on Doha by the kingdom.

In regard to Israel, due to its central role in the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia cannot make peace with Israel openly. The UAE, however, has fewer restrictions, as evidenced by the signing of the so-called Abraham Accords in September 2020.

Well aware of its limited reach in the geopolitical arena, Abu Dhabi’s normalization of ties with Israel is an attempt to reduce their own vulnerability to regional threats, such as airstrikes on their infrastructure. The Abraham Accords also provide the Emiratis with direct US support, even against the dictatorial policies of Saudi Arabia.

The Turkish dilemma

The relationship between Ankara and Abu Dhabi has been improving over the past year. In late November, MbZ met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara after 10 years of tensions, in an attempt to resolve their rivalry as the UAE has become Turkey’s largest regional trading partner.

“From 2019 to 2020, UAE exports to Turkey increased by more than 110 percent and total trade increased by 21 percent,” Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, the UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, said on 25 November.

Abu Dhabi is also hoping to use Ankara’s significant influence in Azerbaijan, Palestine, Central Asia, and the Balkans to expand trade relations beyond West Asia. The UAE is also aware of the influence Turkey has in Afghanistan and is eager to face off against the Saudis in this arena as well.

Crucially, in preparation of the post-oil era, both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are not only vying to bolster their strategic influence over other regional players, but they need to gain an understanding of what life will look like in a carbon-neutral world.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Snowden’s award-winning director: Pegasus extremely violent, invasive

December 11, 2021

Famous director Laura Poitras’ latest documentary criticizes Israeli-manufactured spyware firm NSO and its surveillance software Pegasus.

Film director Laura Poitras, known for her documentary about US whistleblower Edward Snowden and Oscar-winning Citizenfour, delved into the surveillance topic to focus on private Israeli spyware firm NSO’s Pegasus program.

Poitras’ most recent work, Terror Contagion, is among the documentaries awaited to be shortlisted for the Oscar awards.

NSO Group’s Pegasus was exposed as having been used by oppressive regimes to spy on journalists, human rights activists, dissidents, and even heads of state. 

According to an investigation led by The Washington Post and 16 media partners, Pegasus is military-grade spyware leased by the Israeli firm to governments who used it in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, and business executives.

“It’s classified as a cyber weapon. This is how extremely violent and invasive this technology is,” Poitras told Deadline.

“NSO Group, this Israeli company, sells to other countries, often countries that have a very bad history or track record of human rights,” she added.

The Israeli manufactured software was allegedly used by the Saudi regime to assassinate Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 with the approval of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Information has shown that Omar Abdulaziz, Khashoggi’s friend, had his phone hacked in order to spy on the journalist. 

In Poitras’ documentary, Shourideh Malavi, a researcher with Forensic Architecture firm points out that Khashoggi’s “assassination was empowered with Israeli software.”

The award-winning director explained that when dealing with such software, “You don’t have to click on anything malicious. All they have to do is call you and you’re infected.”

“The infection allows them to obtain everything that’s on your phone, to activate your camera and your microphone. So, there’s no way to fend against it,” Poitras expressed.

She also noted that the software “can pretend to be you.”

“It can send messages as if it’s coming from you… or an email ‘from you’ that actually is coming through whoever the attacker is.”

Criticizing NSO, the director said such companies have “no sense of accountability… Now we have these cyber weapon mercenaries, NSO Group and others, that are selling these incredibly invasive, dangerous tools to regimes all over the world.”

Apple sued spyware maker NSO for targeting the users of its devices, saying the Israeli firm, at the center of the Pegasus surveillance scandal, needs to be held to account.

iOS devices of almost 10 US State Department employees were subjected to an attack by spyware developed by the Israeli NSO Group. Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters the assailant was unknown.

The sources told the agency the hacks took place over the last several months, and their targets were either based in Uganda or focused on matters concerning Kampala.

For its part, the United States placed NSO Group on its list of restricted companies.

As a victim herself, Poitras believes that surveillance is “a form of violence” that could damage many people, especially if it’s a journalist or a lawyer working with sources and clients.

“Anything you write, anything you do on your phone, anything you do over your computers, you just have to assume that it’s not private and it really impacts your life.”

Did French President Macron’s Gulf Tour Complicate US Regional Policy?

9 DECEMBER 2021

These three outcomes could complicate the US’ regional policy and possibly even be interpreted as an asymmetrical form of revenge for stealing France’s historically unprecedented nuclear sub deal with Australia.

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

French President Emmanuel Macron visited the Gulf countries of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and Saudi Arabia last weekend during a two-day trip. His regional tour resulted in several significant outcomes. The first is that Paris and Abu Dhabi clinched a €16 billion deal for 80 upgraded Rafale warplanes and 12 Airbus combat helicopters, which is France’s largest arms agreement to date. It comes a few months after the US and UK poached France’s €31 billion nuclear sub deal with Australia.

Second, Macron announced while in Doha that some EU countries were considering opening up a joint diplomatic mission in Kabul to liaise with the de facto Taliban-ruled government there. He noted, however, that this wouldn’t imply formal recognition of their authority. It should be remembered that the Qatari capital was the scene of peace talks between the US and the Taliban. It’s also where many foreign diplomats informally interact with the Taliban since the group has a political office there.

And finally, the French President held a joint phone call while in Riyadh between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati aimed at soothing over their recent differences. Another crisis between the two unexpectedly exploded after the Lebanese Information Minister (who resigned on Friday) earlier criticized the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Macron therefore showed that France is still crucial to managing disputes in its former Levantine colony.

These three outcomes could complicate the US’ regional policy and possibly even be interpreted as an asymmetrical form of revenge for stealing France’s historically unprecedented nuclear sub deal with Australia. To explain, despite a recent improvement in Emirati-Iranian relations, the former still remains suspicious of the latter’s alleged nuclear intentions and is skeptical of the US-led efforts to renegotiate the nuclear deal. France’s arming of the UAE is meant to maintain a regional military-strategic balance.

Regarding the second outcome, the US has pressured his partners to keep their distance from the Taliban until it capitulates to America’s pressure to unilaterally make far-reaching socio-political reforms. Macron’s pragmatic defiance of this demand is aimed at managing that war-torn country’s impending humanitarian crisis. It shows that France is behaving in an increasingly independent way, almost intentionally doing the opposite of what the US says in order to show its anger at AUKUS.

As for the last of Macron’s achievements, he’s signaling that France will compete to fill the diplomatic-strategic void left in the Levantine-Gulf regions following the US’ gradual disengagement from there as it pivots towards attempting to “contain” China in the Asia-Pacific. The US’ traditional partners like Saudi Arabia increasingly distrust it for that reason as well as its ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran. France therefore cleverly realized that it might be able to replace the US’ dwindling influence.

All of this complicates US policy. The declining unipolar hegemon no longer dominates the West Asian region in which it had previously exerted its dominance. Its flip-flopping policy there across the last three administrations (Obama-Trump-Biden) has concerned its traditional allies. America is no longer regarded as a reliable partner, but as a self-interested actor aiming solely to advance its short-term strategic interests. France is furious after AUKUS and actively competing to replace US influence there.

Its arming of the UAE is especially significant given the US’ prior claims of war crimes being committed by all sides of the Yemen War in which Abu Dhabi used to play a leading role. Washington has also recently criticized Riyadh for its alleged human rights violations, which would have been unthinkable under the prior administration. France, having recently been on the receiving end of the US’ selfish policies, is likely viewed as a sympathetic balancing force by the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

As French influence in West Asia rises in parallel with American influence’s decline there, Washington will have to learn to appreciate Paris and its traditional regional partners instead of taking them for granted. Its crazed quest to “contain” China at all costs has dealt enormous self-inflicted damage to US strategy in Europe (France) and West Asia (UAE, Saudi Arabia). The voids that it’s leaving in those parts of Eurasia are being filled by France and others, with unclear long-term strategic implications.

All that can be known for sure at this time is that American policy in those strategic spaces is being complicated by a combination of the self-inflicted damage that its “Pivot to Asia” has dealt and the geopolitical opportunism of France and others. New regional orders have a credible chance of emerging, with the end result being that multipolar processes there will accelerate. This will further erode America’s declining influence in Europe and West Asia, possibly opening up new opportunities for all.

Buckle up: Yemen is about to deliver a Saudi lesson

December 06 2021

Photo Credit: The Cradle

Every time the Saudis bomb Sanaa, the Yemeni resistance retaliates against Riyadh’s strategic vulnerabilities. With nonstop strikes on Yemen’s capital city today, brace yourself for a big Saudi explosion.

By Karim Shami

“Tell him Sanaa is far, Riyadh is getting closer” is what Yemenis call out whenever their capital city is targeted by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes.

The ‘him’ in this battle cry refers to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), who launched the six-year aggression against the Arab world’s poorest nation.

After every Saudi hit on Sanaa, this phrase floods social media, imploring the Yemeni resistance to retaliate directly against Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital city.

As the Saudis and their dwindling allies pound Sanaa relentlessly in the last days of their failed war, one wonders why they don’t yet comprehend the retaliatory firepower they are inviting in response.

It started like this …

In March 2015, one year after Yemen’s resistance movement Ansarallah took control of the capital, a 10-nation coalition was formed led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and backed logistically and politically by both the US and UK. Shortly thereafter, fighter jets and ground forces began conducting operations across provinces surrounding the capital.

More than ten thousand airstrikes were reported by the close of 2016, with Sanaa taking the lion’s share – 2,600 raids – equivalent to one airstrike every 3.5 hours, every day for two consecutive years.

In parallel with the non-stop air operations, coalition-led land forces – mainly Yemeni mercenaries and Sudanese soldiers – wrested thousands of square kilometers from Ansarallah’s control.

Ansarallah, which found itself governing populations for the first time in its short history, had only secured their authority in Sanaa one year before the aggression. The movement had not yet had the time or resources to build their infrastructure, economy, military power, and foreign policies/connections.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

A game-changing 2018

By 2018, the war that was ‘supposed to take weeks to months at most’ – and according to MbS himself, just “a few days” – had become long, directionless, and costly, especially after Saudi/UAE hostilities against Qatar surfaced and blew up Gulf cohesion.

The 10-nation military alliance against Yemeni independence, once consisting of Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Morocco, Senegal and the Gulf states (except Oman) shrank overnight to two: the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

By 2018, Saudi-backed militias were entrenched in Sanaa’s west (Hodeidah) and east (Marib), and on Saudi Arabia’s southern borders, adjacent to Ansarallah’s stronghold in northern Yemen’s Saada Province. The UAE had its own undisclosed interests, and moved its militias primarily to the south, both for protection and to control Yemen’s strategic ports and waterways.

Ansarallah had already absorbed the shock of three years of foreign aggression, and gained valuable experience in both combat and military tactics. Its weapons manufacturing (mainly ballistic missiles and drones) capabilities and technological advances had steadily grown within the landlocked environs of Sanaa – under siege by the coalition and its western allies since the onset of war.

So, by 2018, Ansarallah was primed and ready to change the direction of the war from a purely defensive one to launching proactive hit-and-run battles.

The game changer in the Yemen war came in 2019, fast and hard. After four years of defense, Ansarallah began launching a series of operations named ‘Balance of Deterrence.’ The first of these, on 17 August, was the first operation where Yemen’s resistance launched homemade and modified ballistic missiles alongside tens of suicide drones at targets 1200km distance away, equivalent to the distance between London to Madrid or New York to Miami.

The targets were Saudi Arabia’s ARAMCO Sheba oil fields and refineries on the Saudi–UAE borders.

The second operation, which took place on 14 September, hit ARAMCO facilities in Saudi Arabia’s eastern-most territories, in Dammam. This time the strikes were on a spectacular scale and caught the world’s attention in a big way; photos and videos flew across social media before the Saudis had time to bury the details.

It took another five similar operations to discipline the Saudis to understand that targeting Sanaa would trigger a retaliation into the strategic depth of Saudi Arabia. In the aftermath of Ansarallah’s retaliatory strikes, air raids on Sanaa dropped from around one strike every three hours to three strikes per year.

Credit: almasirah.net

The war’s final chapter looms

After rapid advances in 2018 and targeted retaliatory strikes in 2019-20, Ansarallah regained most of the territories they had lost, leaving only Marib, the last stronghold of the Saudis in Yemen’s east, which is expected to be liberated imminently.

Last month, Saudi and Emirati-backed militias and mercenaries fled Hodeidah – the last Saudi stronghold in Yemen’s west – after Ansarallah announced plans to liberate the city and target the territory of the UAE.

With that stroke, the Saudis lost their footing in Yemen. Militarily speaking, foreign land forces have already lost the war and now pose zero threats to the Ansarallah-led government.

Worse yet, in 2021, for the first time in the six-year war, Yemenis in coalition-controlled provinces launched multiple public protests, complaining that the quality of life in Ansarallah-ruled areas was superior than theirs, with lower crime rates, a stable currency and cheaper raw materials available to those citizens.

Rather than scurrying to carve out a face-saving exit from this certain defeat, Riyadh has instead begun to escalate air raids on Sanaa and Marib in a ‘throw the kitchen sink at the problem’ attempt to weaken Ansarallah, consequences be damned.

This brings us to 19 November 2021 when Ansarallah made its 8th Balance of Deterrence statement (mentioned above) and launched strategic retaliatory strikes against military targets in Riyadh, Jeddah, Abha, Jizan, and Najran to remind the Saudis of its red lines.

The Saudis, irrationally, continue to pound populations in Sanaa with little regard for the retaliatory consequences or the global perception of this brutality. On 23 November, coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki even tried to justify bombing densely-populated areas by alleging that Ansarallah’s “military sites have taken hospitals, organizations, and civilians as human shields.”

The war is as good as over, so why these unnecessary air raids on Sanaa? Why would Saudi Arabia deliberately provoke and invite military strikes against Riyadh and ARAMCO? Why not instead exit Yemen overnight, in much the same way the US did in Afghanistan? Embarrassing as it may be, a quick, unpublicized retreat would at least keep Saudi cities protected.

This last-ditch escalation has nothing to do with war strategy, leverage-building or domestic politics.

A country of 2.1 million square kilometers boasting a population of 20 million nationals and 10 million foreigners with large oil and mineral reserves, Saudi Arabia has no parliament, no elections, and no democratic processes whatsoever.

All internal and external policies are made by one man, Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, deputy prime minister, minister of defense, chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, and chairman of the Council of Political and Security Affairs.

MbS is a punisher. He ordered the murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He kidnapped and beat up Lebanon’s former prime minister Saad Hariri before forcing him to broadcast his resignation from Riyadh. He besieged Qatar, destabilized Iraq, and boycotted all of Lebanon because of a single comment on the Yemen war. The list goes on.

A few years back, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor of former US president Barack Obama, recounted a chilling story during his boss’s farewell visit to Riyadh. As Obama protested the recent execution of 47 dissidents in the kingdom to King Salman, the then-deputy crown prince MbS stood up from his spectator’s seat and lectured the US president thus:

You don’t understand the Saudi justice system, he said. He argued that the Saudi public demanded vengeance against criminals, and those who had been beheaded had to be killed for the sake of stability in the kingdom.”

MbS may simply have reverted to ‘punisher’ mode in these last weeks and months of his very personal war in Yemen. ‘Vengeance’ for his defeat is merited; and killing is “for the sake of stability in the kingdom.”

But bombing Sanaa will also justify ‘Balance of Deterrence 9,’ a new set of advanced retaliatory strikes yet to be announced by Ansarallah.

Undoubtedly, ARAMCO and major Saudi cities will be targeted in the period ahead. Every ballistic missile reaching the kingdom of sand will result in a weaker Saudi Arabia and stronger Yemen, giving Ansarallah a reason to discipline the Saudis at present, and perhaps, to invade them in the future. Thus, the quote “Sanaa is far, Riyadh is getting closer” was born.

Credit: Cartoonist Kamal Sharaf; @kamalsharaf on Twitter

Under the command of MbS, the Saudis are unlikely to leave Yemen alone even if the war concludes – it will try to do what it has always done in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Qatar, and Syria, dividing populations with money and weapons.

But Yemen is different. Ansarallah will implement their own institutions, unlike those other nations where the US and its regional allies remain to engineer laws and policies to ensure a country’s dependence and stagnation once they depart. Yemen, after the war, will be more like Iran in its hostility towards and determination to break with externally-imposed agendas.

Buckle your seatbelt. Retaliation and revolution is about to be unharnessed in the Arabian Peninsula.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

At Least 16 People Martyred in Saudi-Led Strikes in Yemen’s Taiz

Nov 4, 2021

By Staff, Agencies

At least 16 people, including children, killed in Saudi-led strikes in Yemen’s southwestern province of Taiz, a report says, as Saudi Arabia keeps bombing the southern impoverished neighbor in defiance of international calls to end its bloody war.

The deadly aggression occurred on Friday evening, when Saudi-led warplanes targeted a gathering of civilians in Muqbana district of the province, Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network reported.

It added that continued presence of the enemy warplanes in the skies of Muqbana and the possibility of other strikes prevented the paramedics to reach the crime scene to exhume the bodies of the victims and attending the wounded.

The airstrikes came as the Saudi-led forces and its mercenaries have escalated their aggression in the western coastal region of Yemen.

Saudi Arabia, backed by the US and other key Western powers, launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the former Riyadh-backed regime back to power and crushing the popular Ansarullah resistance movement which has been running state affairs in the absence of an effective government in Yemen.

The war has stopped well shy of all of its goals, despite killing tens of thousands of Yemenis and displacing millions more. The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories.

An all-out blockade was also imposed on Yemen since the onset of the bloody war, pushing Yemen into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, including by hampering access to aid.

Despite heavily-armed Saudi Arabia’s continuous bombardment of the impoverished country, Yemeni armed forces and the Popular Committees have grown steadily in strength against the Saudi invaders and left Riyadh and its allies bogged down in the country.

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String of pearls: Yemen could be the Arab hub of the Maritime Silk Road

November 22, 2021

With an Ansarallah takeover of Yemen, Asia’s trade and connectivity projects could expand into some of the world’s most strategic waterways

By Pepe Escobar, posted with the author’s permission and cross-posted with TheCradle

https://media.thecradle.co/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/a.jpg

The usual suspects tried everything against Yemen.

First, coercing it into ‘structural reform.’ When that didn’t work, they instrumentalized takfiri mercenaries. They infiltrated and manipulated the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), ISIS. They used US drones and occasional marines.

And then, in 2015, they went Total Warfare: a UN-backed rogue coalition started bombing and starving Yemenis into submission – with barely a peep from the denizens of the ‘rules-based international order.’

The coalition – House of Saud, Qatar, UAE, US, UK – for all practical purposes, embarked on a final solution for Yemen.

Sovereignty and unity were never part of the deal. Yet soon the project stalled. Saudis and Emiratis were fighting each other for primacy in southern and eastern Yemen using mercenaries. In April 2017, Qatar clashed with both Saudis and Emiratis. The coalition started to unravel.

Now we reach a crucial inflexion point. Yemeni Armed Forces and allied fighters from Popular Committees, backed by a coalition of tribes, including the very powerful Murad, are on the verge of liberating strategic, oil and natural gas-rich Marib – the last stronghold of the House of Saud-backed mercenary army.

Tribal leaders are in the capital Sanaa talking to the quite popular Ansarallah movement to organize a peaceful takeover of Marib. So this process is in effect the result of a wide-ranging national interest deal between the Houthis and the Murad tribe.

The House of Saud, for its part, is allied with the collapsing forces behind former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, as well as political parties such as Al-Islah, Yemen’s Muslim Brotherhood. They have been incapable of resisting Ansarallah.

A repeat scenario is now playing in the western coastal port of Hodeidah, where takfiri mercenaries have vanished from the province’s southern and eastern districts.

Yemen’s Defense Minister Mohammad al-Atefi, talking to Lebanon’s al-Akhbar newspaper, stressed that, “according to strategic and military implications…we declare to the whole world that the international aggression against Yemen has already been defeated.”

It’s not a done deal yet – but we’re getting there.

Hezbollah, via its Executive Council Chairman Hashim Safieddine, adds to the context, stressing how the current diplomatic crisis between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia is directly linked to Mohammad bin Salman’s (MbS) fear and impotence when confronted with the liberation of strategic Marib and Hezbollah’s unwavering support for Yemen throughout the war.

A fabricated ‘civil war’

So how did we get here?

Venturing beyond the excellent analysis by Karim Shami here on The Cradle, some geoeconomic background is essential to understanding what’s really going on in Yemen.

For at least half a millennium before the Europeans started to show up, the ruling classes in southern Arabia built the area into a prime hub of intellectual and commercial exchange. Yemen became the prized destination of Prophet Muhammad’s descendants; by the 11th century they had woven solid spiritual and intellectual links with the wider world.

By the end of the 19th century, as noted in Isa Blumi’s outstanding Destroying Yemen (University of California Press, 2018), a “remarkable infrastructure that harnessed seasonal rains to produce a seemingly endless amount of wealth attracted no longer just disciples and descendants of prophets, but aggressive agents of capital seeking profits.”

Soon we had Dutch traders venturing on terraced hills covered in coffee beans clashing with Ottoman Janissaries from Crimea, claiming them for the Sultan in Istanbul.

By the post-modern era, those “aggressive agents of capital seeking profits” had reduced Yemen to one of the advanced battlegrounds of the toxic mix between neoliberalism and Wahhabism.

The Anglo-American axis, since the Afghan jihad in the 1980s, promoted, financed and instrumentalized an essentialist, ahistorical version of ‘Islam’ that was simplistically reduced to Wahhabism: a deeply reactionary social engineering movement led by an antisocial front based in Arabia.

That operation shaped a shallow version of Islam sold to western public opinion as antithetical to universal – as in ‘rules-based international order’ – values. Hence, essentially anti-progressive. Yemen was at the frontline of this cultural and historical perversion.

Yet the promoters of the war unleashed in 2015 – a gloomy celebration of humanitarian imperialism, complete with carpet bombing, embargoes, and widespread forced starvation – did not factor in the role of the Yemeni Resistance. Much as it happened with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The war was a perverse manipulation by US, UK, French, Israeli and minions Saudi, Emirati and Qatari intel agencies. It was never a ‘civil war’ – as the hegemonic narrative goes – but an engineered project to reverse the gains of Yemen’s own ‘Arab Spring.’

The target was to return Yemen back to a mere satellite in Saudi Arabia’s backyard. And to ensure that Yemenis never dare to even dream of regaining their historic role as the economic, spiritual, cultural and political reference for a great deal of the Indian Ocean universe.

Add to the narrative the simplistic trope of blaming Shia Iran for supporting the Houthis. When it was clear that coalition mercenaries would fail to stop the Yemeni Resistance, a new narrative was birthed: the war was important to provide ‘security’ for the Saudi hacienda facing an ‘Iran-backed’ enemy.

That’s how Ansarallah became cast as Shia Houthis fighting Saudis and local ‘Sunni’ proxies. Context was thrown to the dogs, as in the vast, complex differences between Muslims in Yemen – Sufis of various orders, Zaydis (Houthis, the backbone of the Ansarallah movement, are Zaydis), Ismailis, and Shafii Sunnis – and the wider Islamic world.

Yemen goes BRI

So the whole Yemen story, once again, is essentially a tragic chapter of Empire attempting to plunder Third World/Global South wealth.

The House of Saud played the role of vassals seeking rewards. They do need it, as the House of Saud is in desperate financial straits that include subsidizing the US economy via mega-contracts and purchasing US debt.

The bottom line: the House of Saud won’t survive unless it dominates Yemen. The future of MBS is totally leveraged on winning his war, not least to pay his bills for western weapons and technical assistance already used. There are no definitive figures, but according to a western intel source close to the House of Saud, that bill amounted to at least $500 billion by 2017.

The stark reality made plain by the alliance between Ansarallah and major tribes is that Yemen refuses to surrender its national wealth to subsidize the Empire’s desperate need of liquidity, collateral for new infusions of cash, and thirst for commodities. Stark reality has absolutely nothing to do with the imperial narrative of Yemen as ‘pre-modern tribal traditions’ averse to change, thus susceptible to violence and mired in endless ‘civil war.’

And that brings us to the enticing ‘another world is possible’ angle when the Yemeni Resistance finally extricates the nation from the grip of the hawkish, crumbling neoliberal/Wahhabi coalition.

As the Chinese very well know, Yemen is rich not only in the so far unexplored oil and gas reserves, but also in gold, silver, zinc, copper and nickel.

Beijing also knows all there is to know about the ultra-strategic Bab al Mandab between Yemen’s southwestern coast and the Horn of Africa. Moreover, Yemen boasts a series of strategically located Indian Ocean ports and Red Sea ports on the way to the Mediterranean, such as Hodeidah.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

These waterways practically scream Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and especially the Maritime Silk Road – with Yemeni ports complementing China’s only overseas naval base in Djibouti, where roads and railways connect to Ethiopia.

The Ansarallah–tribal alliance may even, in the medium to long term, exercise full control for access to the Suez Canal.

One very possible scenario is Yemen joining the ‘string of pearls’ – ports linked by the BRI across the Indian Ocean. There will, of course, be major pushback by proponents of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ agenda. That’s where the Iranian connection enters the picture.

BRI in the near future will feature the progressive interconnection between the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – with a special role for the port of Gwadar – and the emerging China–Iran corridor that will traverse Afghanistan. The port of Chabahar in Iran, only 80 km away from Gwadar, will also bloom, whether by definitive commitments by India or a possible future takeover by China.

Warm links between Iran and Yemen will translate into renewed Indian Ocean trade, without Sanaa depending on Tehran, as it is essentially self-sufficient in energy and already manufactures its own weapons. Unlike the Saudi vassals of Empire, Iran will certainly invest in the Yemeni economy.

The Empire will not take any of this lightly. There are plenty of similarities with the Afghan scenario. Afghanistan is now set to be integrated into the New Silk Roads – a commitment shared by the SCO. Now it’s not so far-fetched to picture Yemen as a SCO observer, integrated to BRI and profiting from Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) packages. Stranger things have happened in the ongoing Eurasia saga.

The “Worst Director” Award Goes to MBS for His “I Blame My Failure in Yemen on Hezbollah”

Nov 15 2021

The “Worst Director” Award Goes to MBS for His “I Blame My Failure in Yemen on Hezbollah”

By Mohammad Youssef

Beirut – Saudi Arabia that has ignited unfounded irrational crisis with Lebanon, continues to exercise its mounting pressure on the country to dictate its political will, avenge its humiliating defeat in Yemen, and invest in tension to yield electoral gains in the next parliamentary elections early next year.

Riyadh has used a feeble pretext to escalate the situation; a statement by the Lebanese minister of information that he pronounced prior to assuming his office depicting the war in Yemen as absurd and aimless.

Saudi Arabia launched a fierce campaign against Lebanon threatening to severe the relations; announced Lebanese ambassador to Riyadh persona non grata and summoned its ambassador to Lebanon back to Riyadh.

Not only that, Saudi Arabia dictated on other Gulf countries especially Bahrain, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates to follow its path and impose similar stern measures against Lebanon.

Digging into the reasons as why Riyadh is punishing Lebanon and the Lebanese, we could simply find the following:

First, Riyadh is outraged with the futility of its allies in Lebanon that yielded no gains whatsoever in their antagonistic relation with Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia had supplied them with all kinds of support and spent billions of dollars to fight the party through its allies, and the whole issue ended with Hezbollah accumulating gains and successes on every level.

Riyadh has never treated Lebanon as a sovereign independent state, but as an another arena for its political influence where it could dictate its will as it likes. This was clearly dramatized when it imprisoned former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and forced him to resign back in 2017.

Second, Riyadh wants Lebanon to hold the brunt and responsibility of its humiliating defeat in Yemen, it accuses Hezbollah of helping Ansarullah and supplying them with military expertise.

Hezbollah has clearly announced its condemnation for the Saudi criminal war against the Yemenis, politically and morally and on media outlets supported their struggle against Riyadh aggression. After it has exhausted other places in Iraq and Syria, and not finding any other place to avenge its defeat and continued losses, Saudi Arabia is taking revenge on Lebanon using Hezbollah as a pretext to compensate its defeat in Yemen.

Third, Hezbollah is the target for a persistent campaign from the Western Powers headed by Washington and its proxy “Israel” and aided by retrogressive Arab countries headed by Saudi Arabia.

Now, after their failed military attempts to eradicate the Resistance in Lebanon, thanks to the Axis of Resistance that successfully sabotaged their aggressive conspiracies, those sinister tyrant powers have joined efforts to make use of the coming parliamentary elections to gain the majority, so it can carry out a comprehensive change in the political scene.

To sum up, Riyadh’s oppressive aggression against Lebanon is baseless and unjustifiable. It is surely doomed to fail as its precedents.

Riyadh is not only acting in an irrational way, more dangerously, it lacks a sober and wise foreign policy, no wonder it is making all these grave strategic mistakes.

From Lebanon to Yemen, the same shameful scenario is on play with the signature of a director who lacks any vision, Mohammad bin Salman!

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Why Marib’s liberation will break the Saudis and shake West Asia

November 12 2021

A Houthi fighter in front of the ancient throne of the Queen of Sheba, located in Marib, Yemen.Photo Credit: The Cradle

If Ansarallah controls Marib, it will control all of Yemen and some of the world’s most strategic waterways. No wonder its adversaries are shaken.

By Karim Shami

Marib, the ancient capital of Sheba, referred to in both the Bible and the Holy Quran as a wealthy and wise kingdom, once ruled across the entire southern Arabian peninsula.

Today, Marib has risen again, this time as the final stronghold of Yemen’s latest invaders, now in panicked retreat after a six-year battle that has depleted their coffers and exhausted their forces.

This war was announced from Washington on 26 March 2015 and led by Saudi Arabia in support of the overthrown government of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, a regime that had already lost the capital city of Sanaa to Yemen’s Ansarallah (Houthis) movement a few months prior.

A coalition of 10 countries, including pack leaders Saudi Arabia and the UAE, was formed to force the return of his highly unpopular government. The name Operation Decisive Storm was chosen and the air strikes began.

Ansarallah were assessed as being weak and the operation was expected to last no more than a few weeks or months, at the most.

Instead, Ansarallah prevailed, forcing its Saudi and Emirati foes to insert ground troops into the expanding quagmire and divide their roles in Yemen.

Today, the UAE is present mainly in the country’s south controlling its strategic ports and islands, while the Saudis remain in the north, along their extensive northern border with Yemen, in the east, where the province of Marib and its rich oil and gas fields are located, and in the west, in the coastal city of Hodeidah.

For Yemenis, the importance of Marib is not limited to its oil and gas fields, but also for its ancient culture, its inclusion in the holy Quran, and its significant historical sites and water engineering feats, such as the ancient Marib dam built around the 8th century BC. A new dam, the country’s largest, was later built near the cherished ruins of the old one.

Saudi Arabia acknowledged Marib’s importance by making it the stronghold for its war operations, building military bases and bribing local tribes to fight alongside the coalition. Most of Riyadh’s military and intelligence operations – excluding air strikes – were launched from Marib against the northern Houthi-controlled Sanaa city and province.

Ansarallah endured these onslaughts for three years, then flipped the war on its adversaries in 2018 by going on the offensive. Since then, the group has expanded its territorial gains significantly, destabilized Saudi Arabia’s own borders, and exponentially advanced its military tactics and capabilities in drone and missile technology.

These startling gains forced the coalition to the negotiating table in 2018 to sign the Hodeidah Agreement. The agreement was a boon for Ansarallah from a military perspective, first and foremost. Hodeidah and its Red Sea port are west of Sanaa, and the negotiated ceasefire would help Ansarallah turn its focus on only two fronts now, the east (Marib) and the south.

But the agreement also had humanitarian benefits for a country besieged by land, sea, and air by coalition forces since the war’s onset. With goods now entering the port, fresh access to medicine, fuel and food reduced the crisis in territories controlled by Ansarallah.

In 2019, Ansarallah marched eastward, increasing their defence operations inside Saudi Arabia, and targeting the capital city of Riyadh, airports, and Aramco facilities in retaliation for Saudi airstrikes. The UAE was also threatened when drone activity caused a brief closure of Dubai airport.

The UAE’s very existence depends on the security of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Understanding that they were one ballistic missile away from an existential disaster, the Emiratis withdrew from Marib leaving the Saudis to their own devices, and headed south. The ten-nation coalition had now dwindled to two, neither of whom were fighting alongside the other.

For Sanaa, access to oil is a higher priority than access to ports, hence Ansarallah’s decision to first push eastward, where Marib lies. Although the reverse would have been easier – at 17,000 km², Marib requires a huge military presence, while Hodeidah port and its surrounding areas are less than 1,000 km² – the Yemeni rebels chose the harder, more dangerous fight first.

Today, the complete liberation of Marib is imminent. Of its 14 districts, 13 are now back in Yemeni hands, with only Marib city and the oil fields remaining, alongside one major Saudi military base (Sahen Jin).

Marib’s liberation will be an unprecedented victory for Ansarallah that will place Sanaa back firmly on the world map. Aside from the huge morale boost for the Houthi rebels, Ansarallah will gain control of Yemen’s vital water and oil resources and bring relief for the capital’s civilians. Despite the fact that areas controlled by the group enjoy more financial stability ($1 = 600 Yemeni Rials versus 1,480 Rials in areas outside their control) the war has impoverished Sanaa.

Marib’s liberation will also mean that Ansarallah will govern around 80 percent of the Yemeni population of 30 million, secure its eastern front, and make a move on Hodeidah where remaining coalition forces are based.

After the liberation of Hodeidah and Marib, Saudi Arabia will lose its boots on the ground in Yemen, but will it retreat and accept defeat?

Will Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman – also his country’s minister of defense – who spearheaded the war against Yemen, accept this fait accompli? Will Saudi Arabia continue bombing Yemen for another six years?

With so many unexpected victories under its belt, Ansarallah is now in a position to direct these Saudi decisions. Already this year, the Yemeni rebels have bombed Aramco and Saudi airports in retaliation for airstrikes in Sanaa. Riyadh clearly understands the correlation – bombing Sanaa means Aramco will get hit – and so although the war is still fiercely being played out, important deterrences have been established.

In September, during the approach toward Marib, Ansarallah leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said: “We will liberate the entirety of our country and recover all regions occupied by the Saudi-led aggression.”

After the fall of Marib, Saudi Arabia will never be the same. Having expended all its chips and a vast fortune on bringing the Houthis to heel, Riyadh’s influence in the Arab and Muslim world are set to decline.

Through proxies and large financial donations, the Saudis have historically managed Muslim communities and dictated the policies of entire states. But in an actual direct war, led by one of the world’s wealthiest nations against one of its poorest, the Saudis lost resoundingly.

After the fall of Marib, the UAE’s position is less clear, but it will ultimately face one of two choices: either surrender to Ansarallah’s demands or face reprisals inside Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Yemen has vast mineral reserves of zinc, silver, nickel, gold, copper and cobalt as well as oil and gas fields, resources that the Saudis have not allowed successive Yemeni rulers to exploit, develop or monetize since 1934.

Yemen was then (arguably still is) considered a Saudi backwater, and Riyadh’s policy toward its southern neighbor was entirely driven by the kingdom’s founder, Abdul Aziz Al Saud, who declared in an infamous quote:

the honor of Saudis is in the humiliation of Yemen, and their (Saudi) humiliation is in the glory of Yemen.”

These words had monumental significance: the guiding principle for all future Saudi monarchs would be to subjugate Yemen at all cost, or the price would be existential.

With Ansarallah in charge, reverberations will be felt across West Asia – not least because Yemenis still consider the Saudi provinces of Jizan and Najran to be part of Yemen.

Yemen is often referred to as the ‘birthplace of Arabs,’ with numerous tribes stretching across the Arabian peninsula to Iraq tracing their origins back to Yemen.

At the other end of the Arabian peninsula, Ansarallah will also be controlling the strait of Bab al Mandab which leads directly to the straits of Suez. This gives them geopolitical and geoeconomic clout over Egypt, historically the ‘mother’ of the Arab world, and a country which itself has launched a failed war against Yemen.

Ansarallah controlling access to the Suez Canal will be a nightmare for the Israelis – Tel Aviv and Zionism are the mortal enemy of the Houthis, and no ship heading for Israel will be allowed to cross this strait.

China and Iran will be big winners in the ensuing geopolitical shuffle. Iran will gain its first diehard ally in the Arabian Peninsula – one that has oil, produces its own weapons, and can defend itself without costing Tehran money, manpower or resources.

Yemen’s geography is of strategic importance to China too: its southwestern part faces the east coast of Africa, and with the Bab al Mandab strait, Yemen has more than 10 major ports on the Indian ocean, and through the Red Sea to the Mediterranean.

It is the closest West Asian nation to the Horn of Africa, where China has its only overseas military base in Djibouti, and where it has built roads and railways connecting the latter to Ethiopia.

With the US, UK and western countries in general having supported the aggression against the Yemeni people, Ansarallah is more likely to choose to align with China, Iran, and other unaligned nations.

Reports indicate that Saudi Arabia spent well over $300 billion on its war on Yemen. Six years later, it is on the verge of being soundly defeated, with only Marib blocking that path. Marib is the city that will soon dictate the terms that end this war, and perhaps the end of Saudi power projection as we know it.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.Author

Hezbollah Media Managed to ‘Defame’ Saudi, Al-Manar Part of the Campaign: Leaks

November 9, 2021

Hariri Resignation
Hariri resignation

Iran and Hezbollah media considerably managed to ‘defame’ Saudi Arabia regarding the issue of 2017 abduction of former Lebanese PM Saad Hariri, a leaked document revealed.

In an article published on Friday (November 5), Al-Akhbar Lebanese newspaper revealed a leaked document on a paper conducted by Saudi Royal Diwan’s “Decision Support Center”, which is tasked with “supporting decision-making and public policies” in the Kingdom.

The paper tackled how the Kingdom failed to deal with two major issues: abduction of Saad Hariri and the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi in 2018.

According to Al-Akhbar’s Hussein Ibrahim, the paper criticized the performance of the Kingdom on both political and media levels.

In the case of Saad Hariri abduction, the paper by the “Decision Support Center” attributed the Kingdom’s failure to “gaps in the Saudi Government’s communication with the internal institutions as well as the international sides.”

Even more, the paper blamed Saad Hariri for “being vague in his stances” towards those who didn’t believe that his resignation was a decision by himself, Al-Akhbar added.

“Hezbollah considerably managed to turn the case into a national one, while Hariri failed to turn the tables on Hezbollah,” the paper said as cited by the Lebanese daily.

Meanwhile, the paper acknowledged that the Kingdom’s foes had the upper hand on the level of information warfare, as it named media outlets belonging to Iran and Hezbollah.

The “Decision Support Center” also pointed to the weak coverage of the issue (Hariri abduction) by Saudi media outlets, adding that Riyadh was not well-prepared to politically deal with case, Al-Akhbar reported.

According to the paper, Riyadh’s handling of Hariri abduction issue left negative impact on the foreign media’s coverage. Among Hezbollah-affiliated media outlets which the paper said have negatively impacted the foreign media coverage, was Al-Manar.

The paper also named three journalists of Al-Manar: Marwa Haidar (an editor at Al-Manar English Website), Yusuf Fernandez and Zahraa Tawbe (editors at Al-Manar Spanish Website).

In a surprising move, Saad Hariri announced resignation from Riyadh on November 3, 2017, claiming he was doing so over assassination threats. It was revealed then, that Hariri was abducted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who forced him to resign in a bid to turn the tables on Hezbollah.

Source: Al-Akhbar Newspaper and Al-Manar English Website

Jewish-American Group Visits Saudi Arabia to Advance Normalization with ‘Israel’

Nov 5, 2021

Jewish-American Group Visits Saudi Arabia to Advance Normalization with ‘Israel’

By Staff, Agencies

A Jewish-American group visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently to advance the normalization of ties between the kingdom and the ‘Israeli’ occupation regime, with a member of the group predicting a deal in the coming months or year.

The delegation, consisting of 20 Jewish-American leaders, met with senior Saudi officials, including at least six government ministers and top representatives of the Saudi royal house, according to Zionist media.

The visit came at the invitation of the Saudis and with the support of the Biden administration, after a visit to the UAE – the first Arab country that normalized its relations with the occupation regime in 2020 – in order to strengthen bilateral ties.

“The Saudis are preparing their citizens for normalization with ‘Israel’,” said Jewish-American businessman Phil Rosen, a member of the delegation, ‘Israeli’ Ynet news website reported.

Rosen also said he “would not be surprised if we see normalization between Saudi Arabia and the Tel Aviv occupation regime in the coming months or year.”

Under US-pushed normalization deals, a number of Arab countries, including the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco, have agreed to establish official diplomatic ties with the apartheid entity.

The normalization accords, however, have been denounced by Palestinians the people of the region as “treacherous”, and sparked protests in the countries that signed them.

In recent weeks, the Zionist regime has approved plans for more than 1,700 new illegal units in the East al-Quds settlements of Givat Hamatos and Pisgat Zeev.

In a statement on Wednesday, UN experts condemned the regime’s illegal expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East al-Quds as “the engine of the occupation” and hold the Zionist entity responsible for a wide range of rights violations against the Palestinian people.

The Liberation of Marib: Three Goals with Three Results

Nov 5,2021

The Liberation of Marib: Three Goals with Three Results

By Ali Al-Darwani

The pace of the liberation operations of Marib is accelerating unexpectedly, suggesting that its conclusion is around the corner. This is what the battlefield says. Looking at previous military operations by the army and the popular committees, including the ones in Nasr Min Allah, Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous, and Amkan Minhom to the subsequent operations in Al-Bayda, Shabwa, and Marib, all the way to Rabi Al-Nasr 2, tell us the victories on the ground are understated. The armed forces hold back on declarations in order not to compromise military, security, and intelligence operations. This means that the announcement by Brigadier General Yehya Saree during Wednesday’s briefing by the armed forces downplays the extent the achievements on the ground. And the coming days will reveal the reality.

This is as far as the battlefield is concerned.

The situation is not much different when we examine the data and expectations, which expose convictions among the mercenaries of the aggression, of the inevitable liberation of Marib, or, according to them, the fall of Marib. It’s just a matter of announcing it officially, which reflects the collapse of the morale of the elements of the aggression and their acceptance of the expected fait accompli. Perhaps the defeat of the aggression in Fardt Nihm, then in Kovel and Mas, and more recently in Abdiya, Mahlia, Rahba, Jabal Murad, and Juba add insult to injury. They can be added to the many setbacks they’ve suffered and will be carrying on their backs to the city of Marib.

The string of defeats were reflected in statements and insinuations by the leaders of the mercenaries and their media mouthpieces, which began to talk about the danger of the fall of Marib for the rest of region. They are not just talking about Yemen’s occupied south, but rather about the Arabian Peninsula and the region as a whole.

These exaggerations are tempting Riyadh to throw more weight behind these battles even though it has spared no effort in providing military support, especially from the air, including hundreds of raids to prevent and curb military progress on the ground. But to no avail.

Nevertheless, the mercenaries issued a statement – attributed to the parties supporting it – mourning Marib in light of the recent victories by Yemen’s armed forces and holding the Saudi-led coalition and the regime it backs responsible for the defeat.

Marib is important to Yemen politically, militarily, and economically. Politically, it is an occupied part of the country and cannot in any way be left in the hands of the invaders and occupiers. It must be returned to the bosom of the homeland and complete national sovereignty must be imposed and restored.

Militarily, Marib has always been a focal point and a dagger in Yemen’s waist. The forces of aggression used it as a camp in which they collected elements of Al-Qaeda, Daesh, and other takfiris, as well as remnants of the Islah party, and a handful of mercenaries looking for Riyadh’s crumbs, including oil and gas. This dangerous outpost, which threatened all its neighboring areas – Al-Jawf in the north, Sanaa in the west, and al-Bayda in the south – should not remain a source of danger and a hotbed for the elements of Al-Qaeda and Daesh.

Economically, Riyadh has used Marib as a tool for its siege, cutting off oil, gas, and electricity supplies – the most vital services for all aspects of life for a large segment of the Yemeni people – to other areas. Liberating Marib will break part of the unjust siege and plans by the aggressors and their hopes to break the will of the people and bring them to their knees will be destroyed.

Speaking of the results, internally, thwarting the aggression and its plans, especially the partition plan, and taking one of the most important cards out of the equation, is considered an important achievement, which will bring the aggressors to the negotiating table without arrogance as well as political and humanitarian blackmail.

It will undermine their ability for political maneuvering and their dangerous gamble at the expense of the Yemeni people, their present, and their future.

The second result concerns the people of Marib who will return to their homes, and farms after being displaced for years. Meanwhile, calm and security will return to the country, the price of the riyal and the prices of essential goods and materials will decline, as these have recently been achieved in liberated districts in the south of the governorate. As for the people of Marib belonging to the other camp, Sayyed Abdul-Malik al-Houthi’s initiative still stands; they must seize it today because it is their only way out.

The third result is regional. It relates to [Mohammed] bin Salman and the loss of one of his most important cards, which he uses to bargain here and there, selling and buying from other people’s possessions. By doing so, he is losing what he imagined from a regional position – strength and reliance on his cross-border influence and powers. Now, he will appear to have lost all these cards and will stop fiddling with and engaging in unfair bargains.

What has been achieved to date clearly expresses that, by God’s grace, the Yemenis have overcome strategic obstacles to reach the position of imposing conditions on the enemy, with confidence and power, depending on the facts on the battlefield as well as historic and geographical facts. To God be the glory before and after.

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لا «معجزة» حاضرة لوقْف الهجوم: واشنطن تسابق الزمن لـ«إنقاذ» مأرب
تمثّل جولة ليندركينغ محاولة أميركية متكرّرة لقطع الطريق على استعادة ما تبقّى من محافظة مأرب (أ ف ب )

حطّ المبعوث الأميركي إلى اليمن، تيم ليندركينغ، مجدّداً، في المنطقة، حاملاً مبادرة تستهدف، على ما يبدو، استدراك التطوّرات الميدانية المتسارعة في محيط مدينة مأرب، وهو ما أدلى به صراحة بحديثه عن «الحاجة الملحّة إلى خفض التصعيد» هناك. والظاهر أن ليندركينغ، الذي تُظلّل جولته نصائح خبراء أميركيين بالعمل على محاصرة الخسائر بدلاً من السعي خلف «معجزة» لن تَتحقّق، سيحاول إقناع السعودية بتلبية جانب من مطالب «أنصار الله» أملاً في دفْع الأخيرة إلى وقْف هجومها. لكن إلى أن يتمكّن المبعوث الأميركي من إنجاز مهمّته، تتسارع المفاوضات بين قبائل مأرب وقيادة صنعاء، وسط أنباء عن تحقيقها تقدّماً كبيراً، وهو ما قد يفوّت الفرصة الأخيرة على كلّ من الرياض وواشنطن وحلفائهما المحليين


على رغم توالي سقوط المواقع والحاميات في محيط مدينة مأرب بيد قوات صنعاء، إلّا أن الجانب السعودي لا يزال يضع رهانه على حرب استنزاف طويلة الأمد ضدّ الجيش اليمني و«اللجان الشعبية»، أملاً في منعهما من السيطرة على المدينة. ولذا، فهو يعاكس رغبة السكان في تسليم مناطقهم من دون قتال، ويحثّ القوات الموالية له على تعزيز خطّ الدفاع الأخير عن مركز المحافظة، عبر حفر الخنادق ونصْب المتاريس وزرع الألغام الأرضية. وعلى خطّ موازٍ لذلك، بدأت الولايات المتحدة تحرّكاً متجدّداً، بهدف قطع الطريق على قوّات صنعاء لاستعادة ما تبقّى من المحافظة. وفي هذا الإطار، تأتي زيارة المبعوث الأميركي تيم ليندركينغ، الجديدة إلى المنطقة، حيث يحمل في جعبته مبادرة يُرجّح أن تكون السعودية قد وافقت عليها، خصوصاً أن الأيام الماضية شهدت مشاورات مكثّفة بين ليندركينغ ومسؤولين آخرين في وزارة الخارجية الأميركية من جهة، وسفيرَي السعودية في اليمن وواشنطن (محمد آل جابر، وريما بنت بندر بن سلطان) من جهة أخرى.

وفيما ذكر الحساب الرسمي للخارجية الأميركية على «تويتر» أن مهمّة المبعوث الجديدة ستُركّز على مناقشة مسألة واردات الوقود عبر ميناء الحديدة، واستئناف الرحلات الجوية عبر مطار صنعاء، في إشارة واضحة إلى رفع الحصار، نصح العديد من الخبراء العسكريّين الأميركيّين حكومتهم بعدم تجاهل المعطيات الجديدة على الأرض، معتبرين أنه يمكن تلافي العواقب الخطيرة لاستمرار المعارك باتّفاق سلام يلبّي شروط حركة «أنصار الله» أو أكبر قدر ممكن منها. ومن بين هؤلاء الخبراء، المتخصّص في الاستراتيجيات العسكرية، آرون ميلير، الذي أوصى الإدارة الأميركية بالدفْع باتفاق سلام يوقف المعارك في مأرب لانعدام الخيارات البديلة، وفق ما سمّاه «تغيّر معطيات مسرح المعارك». واعترف ميلير بأن إيقاف تقدّم قوات صنعاء باتجاه المدينة «بات مستحيلاً من الناحية العسكرية، ونحتاج إلى معجزة حتى نوقف الهجوم»، معتبراً أن «أقصر الطرق لإيقافهم هو القبول باتفاق سلام يراعي شروطهم». ورأى ميلير أن استمرار المعارك «يصبّ في مصلحة المهاجمين وليس المدافعين، والضربات الجوية لطيران التحالف لم تَعُد في هذه المرحلة مجدية بسبب تغيّر التضاريس الميدانية بشكل متتالٍ والالتحام المباشر لمقاتلي قوات صنعاء والقوات الحكومية»، لافتاً إلى أن الجيش و«اللجان» «لديهما خطوط إمداد أفضل».

ينصح خبراء عسكريون الإدارة الأميركية بالدفْع باتفاق سلام يوقف المعارك لانعدام الخيارات البديلة


إلّا أنه من غير المعلوم حتى الآن مدى استعداد السعودية لقبول تسوية من هذا النوع. إذ طوال فترة الحرب، لم تستطع المملكة مغادرة الشروط الإلغائية ومنطق الغلبة والفوز. وعلى رغم فقدانها الكثير من الأوراق، إن لم يكن معظمها، على مرّ سنوات الحرب، سواءً لناحية الخريطة الميدانية أو المزاج العالمي، إلّا أن الرياض بقيت أسيرة المربّع الأوّل. وقد كانت التسوية الوحيدة التي قبلت بها «اتفاقية استوكهولم» بخصوص مدينة الحديدة عام 2018، والتي فرضتها الضغوط الدولية على ولي العهد، محمد بن سلمان، على إثر الضجة العالمية الناتجة من قتل الصحافي جمال خاشقجي. ومع أن قيادة صنعاء عادت وقدّمت، الصيف الماضي، مبادرة بشأن مأرب للوفد العُماني الذي زار العاصمة اليمنية آنذاك، إلّا أن الرياض لم تكلّف نفسها عناء الردّ على المبادرة. بل عمدت، بدلاً من ذلك، إلى إمداد الجبهة بالمزيد من الذخائر المتوسّطة والثقيلة، واتّخاذ إجراء احتياطي تمثّل في سحب السلاح النوعي خوفاً من وقوعه بيد قوات صنعاء، فضلاً عن تكثيف إصدار البيانات المفخّمة حول القدرة على تحقيق الانتصار.
على أيّ حال، وإلى أن تُعرَف تفاصيل المبادرة الأميركية الجديدة، يستمرّ مسؤولو ما يسمّى «الشرعية»، وبعض الأحزاب المحسوبة على التحالف السعودي – الإماراتي، بدفْعٍ من الرياض، في التحريض على تأخير تسليم مدينة مأرب ومديرية الوادي لقوات صنعاء، خصوصاً بعدما انضمّت قبيلة عبيدة، ثاني أكبر قبيلة في المحافظة بعد قبيلة مراد والمتركّز تواجدها في الوادي، إلى طاولة المفاوضات، التي تتوالى الأنباء عن تحقيق تقدّم ملحوظ فيها منذ ليل أول من أمس. وفي هذا الإطار، يحاول مسؤولو حكومة هادي التقليل من أهمية تراجع قواتهم، مدّعين أن خيارات الجيش و«اللجان» محدودة، ما بين الاتّجاه عبر الصحراء نحو منطقة حقول الغاز والنفط شرق مأرب، حيث سيكونان فريسة لمقاتلات «التحالف»، وما بين تطويق مدينة مأرب من جهات ثلاث، وهو المرجّح بالنسبة إليهم. والظاهر أن هذه التصريحات تأتي ردّاً على البيان الذي أصدرته يوم الاثنين الماضي، الأحزاب المنخرطة في القتال إلى جانب السعودية، وعلى رأسها «الإصلاح»، والذي فُهِم على أنه اعتراف مسبق بالهزيمة، ورسالة إبراء ذمّة إلى كلّ من «التحالف» و«الشرعية»، علماً أن البيان المذكور حمّل مسؤولية الهزيمة لـ«سوء إدارة التحالف العربي للمعركة»، واتهم حكومة هادي بـ«الخذلان والفساد».

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Sayyed Safieddine: Lebanese Crisis Rooted In MBS’ Fear of Yemen’s Marib Liberation

Nov 1, 2021

Sayyed Safieddine: Lebanese Crisis Rooted In MBS’ Fear of Yemen’s Marib Liberation

By Staff, Agencies

The Head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council, His Eminence Sayyed Hashem Safieddine said the diplomatic crisis between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia is rooted in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [MBS]’s “fear” of the liberation of the Yemeni strategic city of Marib as Beirut supports Yemenis fighting the Saudi war.

Sayyed Safieddine noted in a statement that it is not “reasonable” to think that the diplomatic crisis is related to remarks made by the Lebanese information minister “it is rather greater than that.”

“What is happening in Saudi Arabia is a major thing, as the Saudis and the Gulf [countries] in general, who have followed the path of forming relations with ‘Israel’, cannot bear a voice from Lebanon and others who will criticize them in the future over the Saudi-‘Israeli’ relations, which will be made public in the coming days,” he added.

The senior Hezbollah official further underlined that the Saudi Crown Prince lives in a state of “dilemma and anxiety” and will have to face an excessive situation after the fall of Marib, emphasizing that MBS is fearful of losing all his illusions.

Sayyed Safieddine warned that all those who work to interrupt the Lebanese government, undermine the country’s stability, and mount US and Saudi sanctions to destroy Lebanon, highlighting Hezbollah’s sacrifices “in order not to lead our country to internal clashes, and for this, we [have striven to] resolve the economic and internal problems of the Lebanese people.”

His Eminence emphasized that those who are pushing to fabricate security, diplomatic and political crises in Lebanon are the ones that are working to sabotage the country.

He said that the future of Lebanon is not in the hands of the Saudis “but in the hands of God and thanks to those who sacrificed for the dignity of the country.”

Saudi Arabia will not tolerate any criticism in the future, especially after its relations with the ‘Israeli’ regime will be public in the coming days, the Hezbollah official added.

The Saudi-Lebanon row began after current Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi said during a television program that was recorded before Kordahi became minister, but was aired last Monday, that the 2015-present Saudi Arabia-led war on Yemen was an act of aggression by Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates [UAE], the kingdom’s most significant ally in the military campaign.

Kordahi called the war “absurd,” saying it had to stop because he was opposed to wars between Arabs. The minister also said the Yemeni army forces and their allied fighters from the Popular Committees were “defending themselves … against an external aggression.”

The Saudi kingdom subsequently recalled its ambassador from Beirut and expelled the Lebanese envoy from the Saudi capital.

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