…Coalition forces maintain momentum, Oman sponsors peace negotiations, fighting and humanitarian crises continue

Yemen updateUAE forces spearheaded Operation Golden Arrow that has driven the Huthis and their allies from Aden and several southern governorates since 14 July. It has been a dramatic and surprising turn of events – and the forward momentum is being maintained. Saudi Arabia and the UAE want to present this success as being directed by President Hadi, led by his military and carried out by Yemenis trained outside Yemen. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are actively seeking to bolster the position of President Hadi, who is also likely to send more ministers to Aden to challenge the faltering Huthi administration in Sana’a and work with local resistance groups to restore some services in the liberated areas – and prevent the southern movement, AQAP or others from exploiting any vacuum. Aden has been designated as the main airport and seaport for humanitarian aid and civilian traffic, replacing Sana’a airport and Hodeida port, which have been made unusable by heady air raids and naval shelling.

Coalition forces now control Lahij (with the important military base at al-Anad), Dhala and most of Abyan, and seem on the point of taking Ta’izz and Ibb. Yemeni forces trained by Saudi Arabia may also soon move into Marib, where Yemeni military officers have been co-ordinating with tribal forces in a move to take full control of the government from which they can threaten Sana’a. The Huthis have sent reinforcements to Marib. Some Saleh military units appear to have been moved close to Sana’a.

Huthi resistance is likely to be greater in Zaydi-majority governorates, where the terrain may better suit their style of fighting, but they have been weakened by nearly four months of bombing and increasing casualties. Though they were able to organise an impressively large demonstration in their favour in Sana’a on 11 August, they have failed to take a firm grip on government so that policy is drifting and economic decline accelerating. Their alliance with Saleh has held so far but is likely to come under increasing strain.

Oman is sponsoring peace negotiations in Muscat but it seems unlikely that the coalition will participate actively until they make further gains and threaten Sana’a. The Saudis and President Hadi insist on the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which requires major and probably unacceptable concessions by the Huthis. Fighting will thus continue and further exacerbate the humanitarian problems and inflict more damage on Yemen’s infrastructure and kill and maim more of its people.

AQAP remains influential in Mukalla and the Hadhrami coast and has failed to penetrate Wadi Hadhramaut where pro-Hadi military forces are in control. ISIS is increasingly active but AQAP remains much stronger. Both are trying to use the anti-Huthi drive to enhance their presence.

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