A Game of Chicken in the Gulf of Aden

shipsNER, by Jerry Gordon and Ilana Freedman, April 24, 2015:

On the morning of April 21, 2015,   newspapers and media reporters trumpeted a headline that the Saudis were ending their month long air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen.  The halt reflected concerns of the Obama Administration over the deteriorating situation in Yemen and the increasing role of Iran. The operation, named “Decisive Resolve”, allegedly led by the Saudi coalition with US administration backing, had destroyed a missile base, armored vehicles, and planes held by Houthi forces. The Houthi militias were allegedly allied with Yemeni strongman and former president of Yemen for over thirty years, 73-year old Ali Abdullah Saleh.  Saleh, who has survived political isolation, sanctions, civil war, and assassin attempts, created an alliance with the Houthis, his former enemies, in a bid to return to power in Yemen. Latest reports indicate that Saleh has left Yemen, perhaps to join party members in discussions with Saudi Arabia and coalition members of the Gulf Cooperation Council about resolving the conflict.

Saudi Air Strikes in Yemen WSJ 4-22-15

Since the Saudi air strikes began on March 26, more than 1,000 civilians have been killed. The Saudis were seeking to restore the internationally-recognized and US-backed President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who served as president of Yemen from February 2012 until January 2015, when he was forced to resign after Houthi rebels raided his home and put him under house arrest. He subsequently escaped and fled to Saudi Arabia just as the Kingdom-led coalition began an air campaign against Houthi rebels on March 26, 2015.

Only hours after the first announcement of the cessation of Saudi air strikes, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir appeared at an Embassy press conference to announce the resumption of limited air attacks.  The Ambassador told reporters:

The Houthis should be under no illusion that we will continue to use force in order to stop them from taking Yemen over by aggressive action. We are determined to protect the Yemeni people and counter any aggressive moves that the Houthis may undertake. When the Houthis or their allies make aggressive moves there will be a response. The decision to calm matters now rests entirely with them.

In view of continued Houthi fighting in the central city of Taiz and against secessionist forces in Aden on the southern coast. This phase of the Saudi operation in Yemen was named “Renewal of Hope”, and was launched amid reports that the Houthis have surrounded the city of Aden on three sides.  In a later press conference on April 22nd, al-Jubeir said, “We will not allow them to take Yemen by force.”

The Houthis quickly put out a statement seeking the lifting of Saudi air and naval operations, and offering to hold political talks under UN auspices.  The defiant Houthi threatened to invade Saudi Arabia if the bombing continues.

A flotilla of nine Iranian vessels, seven commercial vessels escorted by two Iranian frigates, exited the Persian Gulf slow steaming down the Sea of Arabia towards a rendezvous in the Gulf of Aden. Nine US vessels were already positioned there. Nevertheless, that group has been joined by the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), an aircraft carrier capable of carrying 90 F/A-18 fighter jets and helicopters. The Roosevelt was accompanied by the USS Normandy (CG-60), a guided-missile escort ship. They came from the Fifth Fleet base in Bahrain in the Gulf, presumably to shadow the Iranian flotilla.

The Saudis, with the aid of Egyptian naval vessels, have established a virtual blockade of Yemen preventing deliveries of food, civilian goods, and weapons from Houthi ally, Iran.   The UN Security Council passed a resolution barring the supply of advanced missiles to Yemen.

Pentagon Chief Ashton Carter made his first comments on the dispatch of the US carrier and guided missile cruiser to the Arabian Sea while on a trip to California.  Carter told them that “he was not prepared to say whether the U.S. would be willing to forcibly stop and board one of the Iranian ships if it tries to cross into Yemen.”  Further, he said:

We have options. We’re not at that point. We’re at the point of trying to get the parties back to the table.

Still, he said the U.S. is making it clear to Iran that “obviously fanning the flames or contributing to it by any party is not welcome to us.”

President Obama in an MSNBC interview said:

Right now, their ships are in international waters. What we’ve said to them is that if there are weapons delivered to factions within Yemen that could threaten navigation, that’s a problem. And we’re not sending them obscure messages — we send them very direct messages about it.

On the other hand, senior defense and military officials told NBC News that American warships were prepared to intercept the convoy of Iranian ships, because they were suspected of carrying weapons to Houthi rebel forces in Yemen.

Several versions of their mission have already been floated by various government offices. The White House, Pentagon and State Department have issued statements to the effect the US carrier battle group is there to monitoring sea lanes. White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said, “the principle goal is to maintain freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in the Gulf of Aden and in the Red Sea”.

On the other hand, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren suggested that there could be a flight of refugees across the narrow Bab al Mandab that separates Yemen from the horn of Africa. The US naval vessels might be conveniently positioned to prevent a disaster similar to the one last weekend in the Mediterranean that witnessed over 700 people attempting to flee from war-torn Libya, drowned when the overloaded fishing boat capsized.

The stories may be inconsistent, but one thing is clear. If history is any measure, the Iranian flotilla is certain to be carrying weapons and supplies to aid the Houthi forces, not the humanitarian assistance they claim is to alleviate the Saudi and Egyptian blockade of Yemeni ports.  The US administration has been clear that the shadowing US naval forces have not been given orders to enable them to hail and board Iranian vessels. They are concerned that boarding the Iranian ships might create an incident that could threaten a successful outcome in the ongoing nuclear in which President Obama and  Secretary of State Kerry have invested so much effort. The negotiations the Administration appears committed to closing a deal offering so-called signing bonuses of $30 to 50 billion in release of oil revenues.

These statements by Pentagon and Administration spokespersons reflect the quandary in which the Administration now finds itself, and they can’t seem to get their story straight.  In the midst of problematic negotiations on a possible nuclear agreement with Iran, which the Administration appears to want to complete at all costs, the US is also allegedly backing Saudi Arabia with both intelligence and weapons in the fight against the Iran-backed Houthi.  The American position in this conflict is far from clear.

One possibility not mentioned in any of the media is the possibility that the American presence is neither to stop the Iranian ships, nor to board them, but to keep the other countries’ naval officers from boarding them. The purpose of this mission would be to maintain our nuclear negotiations with Iran moving forward without the suggestion of our threatening them in another theater.

The situation in the region is extremely complicated and America’s mission there is uncertain. While appearing to support the Saudi position, the US has also provided intelligence to the Houthi, ostensibly to ward off threat of a resurgent AQAP. And while appearing to be a deterrent to Iranian arms delivery to the Houthis, the massive American presence on the scene may be, in fact, a deterrent to other ships whose mission is to board the Iranian cargo ships should they approach the port in Aden.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is existentially concerned about Iranian expansion of its hegemony into Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, where Iranian Quds Force and Revolutionary Guard “consultants’ have been active in expanding their control. In Iraq, they have been training Shia militia in the war against the Islamic State.

In response to the Iranian threat, Saudi Arabia has undertaken action to subjugate the restive Shia majority in Bahrain, home port for the US Fifth Fleet, and in the oil rich Eastern Province with a large Shia population.  The Saudis are spending billions to complete security fences on its northern and Southern borders, and the Kingdom has reportedly mobilized 150,000 troops for possible action in Yemen.

The situation is the Arabian Sea is fluid. The latest reports indicate that despite the strong words from Iran, their ships have now turned around and are heading back toward the Strait of Hormuz. At this writing, they are reported to be heading east in the Arabian Sea, south of Salalah, Oman.

Failed US Policy    Less than a year ago, President Obama hailed Yemen as a foreign policy ‘success’ story in its drone campaign against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. But with the fall of Yemen’s capital Sana’a to Houthi forces and the flight of ousted President Hadi to Saudi Arabia, the vacuum in the country has been filled by open conflict between Sunni tribes loyal to AQAP, those units loyal to Hadi, and secessionist forces in Aden. America’s precipitous and humiliating departure from Yemen was more than proof that our policy had been anything but successful.

Effectively Yemen is a failed state.  When the mobs attacked it, the US Embassy closed in panic, leaving 4,000 American citizens stranded in a country that was rapidly falling into chaos and bloody fighting. The US special operations contingent decamped to Camp Lemonnier across the Bab al Mandab at AFRICOM headquarters in Djibouti.  The former US special ops Yemen bases were overrun and destroyed. Without local intelligence from within Yemen, the counterterrorism drone campaign against the AQAP was effectively been shut down.

The current game of chicken on the high seas in the Gulf of Aden is a dangerous one, not the least because it is difficult to understand what the end game is supposed to be. The problem now is that the Iranian Ayatollah and his Revolutionary Guards commanders may relish such a confrontation with the US, Saudi and Egyptian naval contingents to see who would blink first in the game of chicken.  Some might consider the Iranian flotilla as a possible causus belli. After all the UN Security Council adopted a resolution barring the shipment of missiles into Yemen.

The dangerous confrontation seems, for the moment, to be averted. Iran’s ships have turned back, perhaps temporarily. We don’t know why, or what their long range game plan may bring.

The irony the Administration found itself in over the looming confrontation in the Gulf of Aden was that the US might have had to rely on the Saudis and the Egyptians, both of whom America had supplied weapons to, but over whom the US now has little to no control.  The looming question is whether a satisfactory denouement with Iran would even be possible were Iran already a nuclear state.

That Iran is on the brink of acquiring nuclear weapons is no longer the question. All evidence points to this being the case, ongoing talks with P5+1 and the so-called 13 year ‘deal’ notwithstanding.  Latest reports say that Iran is on the ‘nuclear threshold’ with less than three months before it has full nuclear weapons capability. The Iranian nuclear threshold concerns the Saudis, Gulf Emirates, Egypt, and Israel. Israel has not been diffident in the past about intercepting and boarding commercial vessels carrying illicit cargoes of missiles from Iran supplying proxies Hamas and Hezbollah.

In the game of chicken still being played out in the Arabian Sea, it remains to be seen whether the Obama Administration has the resolve to stare down this latest move by Iran, or is the President more than likely blink first?

Ilana Freedman is a veteran intelligence analyst, specializing in Islamic and related sources of terrorism and their impact on the Western world. Jerry Gordon is a Senior Editor at the New English Review

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Iranian General Threatens Strikes on Saudi Arabian Soil

Iran-Reveals-New-Missiles-HP_1

Clarion Project, April 21, 2015:

The commander of the ground troops in the Iranian army, General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, threatened Saudi Arabia with military strikes if it doesn’t stop the fighting in Yemen.

According to the Iranian Arabic language channel El-Alam, Pourdastan said that the Islamic Republic is not interested in getting into a conflict with Saudi Arabia. He called on Riyadh to stop fighting against her brothers in Yemen and said “by doing so she is entering a war of attrition which might expose her to severe strikes.”

Pourdastan reportedly claimed that his country will bomb Saudi Arabia if she won’t stop her attacks.

He added that “the Saudi army needs combat experience and that is why it is a weak army. If she will stand against a war of attrition she will be struck very hard and will be defeated. That’s why Riyadh should drop the option and turn to a diplomatic option and to negotiation.”

Pourdistan praised the successes of the Shiite aligned Yemini forces fighting against President Hadi, saying “The next stage will be carrying out strikes against Saudi Arabia.”

Pourdistan declared “the Islamic Republic is not interested in a confrontation with Saudi Arabia for she is a friend nation and our neighbor. The military advisor in the Saudi Embassy is currently in Iran. We invited him to the ceremonies of the Army Day that was on Saturday.

We want to have relations with Saudi Arabia and we don’t want bloody relations. There are still tables for dialogue and they can solve the problems. There is no need to use weapons or military equipment.”

Yet he also threatened Saudi Arabia saying “explosions might occur in Saudi Arabia through rockets falling on the ground. It is clear that dealing with that will be very hard for the Saudi officials.”

He suggested that forces in Yemen strike Saudi Arabia. He said “Based on the military purchases and the abilities of the Yemeni army, it is capable of inflicting painful strikes on Saudi Arabia.”

For more information about Iran’s regional ambitions see Clarion Project’s Factsheet: Iranian Regional Hegemony

Also see:

Khamenei Smashes Terms of Nuclear Agreement

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Kamenei (Photo: © Reuters)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Kamenei (Photo: © Reuters)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, April 12, 2015:

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei ended his eerie silence since the nuclear framework agreement was announced with a fiery speech accompanied with “Death to America” chants. Khamenei essentially smashed the viability of the nuclear framework to pieces, signalled a major escalations in the war in Yemen and essentially endorsed a violent jihad against the Saudi royal family.

Wishful thinkers can’t dismiss the speech as theater for a domestic audience. Khamenei tweeted highlights in English to make sure the world, especially Americans, saw them. The threats and demands are so unequivocal that failing to follow through would sacrifice his entire credibility and prestige.

The Iranian Supreme Leader is unsatisfied with the nuclear framework agreement even though it generously permits Iran to retain the ability to produce nuclear weapons while getting major sanctions relief.

First, he said that the fact sheet published by the U.S. contains lies and does not reflect what Iran agreed to. The statement obliges the regime to seek significant revisions shortly after it gave President Obama the go ahead to make a high-profile victory lap.

Khamenei’s demands are inescapably incompatible with America’s requirements for a deal.

First, Iran is demanding that all sanctions be lifted on the first day that a final deal is signed. The framework only agrees to lift sanctions in phases and only those related to nuclear activity, not terrorism or human rights. Doing so would unfreeze the assets of individuals and entities involved in terrorism around the world, sparking a massive growth in Iran’s terrorist apparatus and proxy warfare.

The inherently flawed hope by the West that “moderate” President Rouhani and other Iranian figures can reign in Khamenei can be immediately ruled out, since Rouhani said the same exact thing.

Read more

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Houthis Want to Negotiate in Yemen but Still on Offensive

Mideast YemenCSP, by Aaron Kliegman, April 6, 2015:

A senior Houthi official said this weekend that Yemen’s Iranian-backed Shiite rebels are willing to negotiate a peace with the government of recently ousted President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi if a Sunni coalition led by Saudi Arabia ceases its airstrike campaign.

Saleh al-Sammad, the Houthi member who made the claim and was an adviser to Hadi, explained that “we [the Houthis] have no conditions except a halt to the aggression and sitting on the dialogue table within a specific time period … and any international or regional parties that have no aggressive positions towards the Yemeni people can oversee the dialogue.” He also said that the rebels want any talks to be broadcast on Yemeni television.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman said the kingdom will accept such negotiations if the meeting is held under the supervision of the Gulf Security Council (GCC).

The request comes as the Saudi-led coalition is bombarding rebel positions for a 12thstraight day as part of Operation Decisive Storm to combat Houthi expansion and Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East. The airstrikes are also targeting forces loyal to former Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is allied with the Houthis. Saudi Arabia and the United States recognize Hadi as Yemen’s legitimate leader but the rebels oppose his return to power.

Despite the coalition’s show of force aided by U.S. intelligence and logistical support, the Houthis, who are based in the northern part of Yemen, are gaining ground in their push southward to control the southern port city of Aden. In fact, the rebels hold many of the main Yemeni centers, including Sana’a, the capital, and gained control of the presidential palace in Aden where Hadi stayed temporarily after losing power.

As the fight for Aden and elsewhere intensifies, local tribes have mobilized to counter Houthi and pro-Saleh forces around the country. In Aden, tribes are heading there todefend the city, and further north, tribes of the Marib governorate, which are in central Yemen east of Sana’a, have mobilized 35,000 men for battle.

Aden is crucially important to both sides because of its strategic position on the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, the choke point between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. This is one of the world’s most important shipping lanes and oil routes. If Iran controls the Bab-el-Mandeb and the Strait of Hormuz, then it will cut off Saudi Arabia on both sides and control the world’s oil market.

Sammad denies, however, that the Houthis want to takeover the south, insisting that their mission is to confront al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is the terrorist group’s most dangerous branch and is based in the south. While most attention has been paid to the Saudi-Houthi conflict, AQAP seized Mukallah, the capital of Yemen’s eastern province of Hadramout, late last week one day after freeing hundreds of prisoners from government buildings.

Valerie Amos, United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, issued a statement showing her concern for the situation in Yemen, citing that 519 people have been killed and nearly 1,700 injured in the past two weeks.

Russia issued a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council calling for a humanitarian ceasefire to the conflict, which the Red Cross supports. Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the U.N. condemned Russia’s actions for hurting the kingdom’s attempt to broker a peace. Furthermore, Russia’s proposal contains no demands for the Houthis. It is worth noting that Russia recently signed a military cooperation agreement with Iran, and the two countries have worked together in other capacities.

Despite calls to cease violence in Yemen, Aden’s importance will likely drive the Saudis and Houthis to continue fighting. The timing of the Houthis’ request for negotiations – when they control Aden and pro-Hadi forces are preparing a counteroffensive – could be a strategic ploy to preempt a possible military defeat with a diplomatic outreach in hopes of keeping the city. The Saudis will not let this happen, however, indicating that violence in Yemen may just be getting started.

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Al Qaeda in Yemen expanding footprint amid chaos, giving guidance to al-Shabaab

yemen680_0Fox News, by Catherine Herridge, April 06, 2015:

Al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate is expanding its footprint amid the chaos in the country and now providing guidance to the Somalia terror group that claimed responsibility for last week’s deadly terror attack at a university, an intelligence source told Fox News.

The warning underscores the growing threat posed by Al Qaeda in Yemen at a time when the advance of Shiite rebels has effectively created a power vacuum in the country, with the unrest stalling what had been a robust U.S. counterterrorism operation there.

The intelligence source told Fox News that the affiliate is providing guidance to Somalia’s al-Shabaab on how major plots — like the attack at Garissa University College in Kenya that killed nearly 150 people — can support their regional ambitions.

The intelligence source said Al Qaeda in Yemen is providing guidance and fighters, and sharing bomb-making techniques that account for the more sophisticated vehicle-borne explosive devices now being recovered in the region.

In mid-March, for instance, FBI investigators found a Toyota Hilux with IEDs welded to the floor and back-seat of a vehicle that had been tracked by the FBI from Somalia to Kenya.

Al Qaeda’s affiliate also got a boost last week by taking advantage of the fall of Mukalla — the capital of Yemen’s largest province, Hadramawt. Militants freed about 300 inmates from the city’s main prison. About one-third of the prisoners released are militants with Al Qaeda in Yemen, and one of the group’s top regional commanders, Khaled Batarfi, was among them.

A 2006 prison break had originally laid the foundation for the establishment of the group’s leadership.

Meanwhile, the influence of AQAP is not lost even on President Obama’s own party.

California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said Sunday that Al Qaeda is having a “resurgence.”

“In Yemen the news is really all bad,” Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told ABC’s “This Week.” “Just as we feared in the chaos … Al Qaeda has had a resurgence.”

“It’s absolutely a safe haven,” Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, also told ABC.

He said the administration’s policy is correct, though, compared to the alternative of a massive American occupation.

“That doesn’t mean that the administration’s strategy is flawless, however,” he said. “And I think had we put greater emphasis and resources in trying to deal with the governance issues in Yemen, this might have been prevented.”

At least 500 people have been killed in the fighting as Shiite rebels known as Houthis continue to try to overthrow the Yemen government and as neighboring Saudi Arabia leads an airstrike campaign to stop the rebels.

The administration has referred to its efforts in Yemen as a “success story” and just several days ago continued to defend its strategy.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told MSNBC that U.S. policy “should not be graded against the success or the stability of the Yemeni government.”

He also said the strategy has been to try to bolster the government in Yemen, which has for years been in a chaotic state and the administration’s objective “has never been to try to build a Jeffersonian democracy.”

“The goal is to make sure Yemen cannot be a safe haven that extremists can use to attack the West and to attack the United States,” he said.

Late last month, the administration removed U.S. personnel from the Arab country, as the situation deteriorated.

Obama has said several times in recent years that Al Qaeda has been “decimated” or is “on the run.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

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Many countries, but not US, are evacuating their citizens from Yemen (breitbart.com)

With Yemen collapsing further into chaos on a daily basis, many countries are evacuating their citizens from Yemen. Many of these people are foreign workers who came to Yemen to earn money. Here are some examples:

  • The Canadian government is confirming that Russian planes have evacuated an undisclosed number of Canadians from Yemen.
  • India’s defense has so far evacuated 1800 Indians from Yemen, by air and by sea. In addition, the Indian Navy is evacuating Indian nationals from Aden. There are also 200 other people belonging to 20 different nations.
  • The Chinese government dispatched a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy frigate to help evacuate 225 nationals from 10 countries, including Pakistan, Ethiopia, Singapore, Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Britain, Canada and Yemen. Chinese military officials confirmed that this was the first time that a Chinese military vessel evacuated non-Chinese citizens in a humanitarian assistance mission.
  • Pakistan has evacuated 183 people from Yemen, including 35 foreigners.
  • Jordan has so far evacuated 157 Jordanians from Yemen in the last two days. They were evacuated by buses into Saudi Arabia, where they stayed in hotels awaiting air transfer to Jordan.
  • Turkey has evacuated 230 people from Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, including 45 from other countries.
  • Algeria has evacuated 160 citizens from Yemen, on a plane flown from Sanaa to Cairo provided by Algerian national carrier Air Algerie. In addition, 40 Tunisians, 15 Mauritians, eight Libyans, three Moroccans and a Palestinian were also flown out of Sanaa.
  • Bangladesh estimates that there are about 1500 to 3000 Bangladeshis living in Yemen, and is requesting help from India to evacuate them.
  • Two Thai students were evacuated from Yemen on Sunday, and arrived in Bangkok, Thailand. The two students had been studying Modern Standard Arabic at a university in western Yemen. Another eight Thai students reached Saudi Arabia.

However, many Americans living in Yemen are feeling abandoned after the State Dept. said that it has no plans to help evacuate them. According to a State Department travel advisory issued on Friday:

The level of instability and ongoing threats in Yemen remain severe. There are no plans for a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of U.S. citizens at this time. We encourage all U.S. citizens to shelter in a secure location until they are able to depart safely. U.S. citizens wishing to depart should do so via commercial transportation options when they become available. Keep vital records and travel documents close at hand; U.S. citizens should be prepared to depart at a moment’s notice. The airports are currently closed, but may open unexpectedly; other unforeseen opportunities to depart may also suddenly arise.

Additionally, some foreign governments may arrange transportation for their nationals and may be willing to offer assistance to others. There is no guarantee that foreign governments will assist U.S. citizens in leaving Yemen. U.S. citizens who choose to seek foreign government assistance in leaving Yemen should only do so if they can safely make their way to the point of embarkation and have received confirmation that there is space available. Even if assured there is space aboard transportation, U.S. citizens should be aware that there is no guarantee that they will be permitted to board the transport, or may have to wait an indefinite period until they can do so. There is also no guarantee of where travelers will go.

Houthis Capture Aden, What’s Next For The Saudis?

CSP, by Sean MacCormac, April 2, 2015:

Houthi rebels seized the Maasheeq presidential palace in Aden after an intense battle through the city’s commercial center today, despite stiff resistance from Saudi air support over the past two days. Early reports about a possibly Saudi-led amphibious landing at Aden were false; a port official indicates that the warship was a Chinese vessel sent to the area to evacuate foreign nationals. The loss of Aden, the last real stronghold of pro-Hadi forces, is a major blow to the Saudi-led coalition. Fighting is still underway as loyalist forces still maintain control of several sectors of Aden. As long as Aden remains in rebel hands, President Hadi will find it nearly impossible to return to Yemen. Furthermore, with Aden in Houthi control, Iran may find it a convenient port and base for any operations near the Bab el-Mandeb strait, and to protect shipping from east Africa to Iran.

The fall of Aden comes just hours after Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula conducted a raid on the Hadrawmawt prison complex in the coastal city of Mukalla in southeast Yemen. 300 prisoners were freed, including Al-Qaeda top regional commander Khalid Batarfi. Whatever the ideological leanings of the prisoners, past events have shown that these prison breaks make excellent recruitment opportunities for Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda militants were also able to seize Mukalla’s radio headquarters and also engaged in combat with security forces throughout the city.

Saudi Arabia has also confirmed the first Saudi casualty since their entrance into the conflict a week ago. Border guard Cpl. Ali Yahya al-Maliki was confirmed killed along with ten other Saudis wounded when his observation post in Asir province was fired upon. With the situation in Yemen deteriorating even further, and the inability of the airstrikes to put an end to the Houthi rebellion, Saudi Arabia and their Gulf State allies may be forced to send ground troops into Yemen.

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Published on Apr 2, 2015 by Wrath0fKhan

Al-Qaeda fighters attacked a prison in the coastal Yemeni city of al-Mukallah, freeing nearly 200 prisoners. CNN’s Ian Lee reports.

Also see:

Andrew Bostom: Maimonides, the Houthi “Motto”, & My Limited Sympathy For War-Torn Yemen

“Death to Israel. Curse upon the Jews. Victory to Islam”—Houth motto http://www.voanews.com/content/analysts-see-possibility-us-houthi-cooperation/2622553.html

“Death to Israel. Curse upon the Jews. Victory to Islam”—Houth motto http://www.voanews.com/content/analysts-see-possibility-us-houthi-cooperation/2622553.html

By Andrew Bostom, April 2, 2015:

KEY EXTRACTS, BELOW; FULL PJ MEDIA ESSAY HERE

“And humiliation and wretchedness were stamped upon them [the Jews] and they were visited with wrath from Allah. That was because they disbelieved in Allah’s revelations and slew the prophets wrongfully. That was for their disobedience and transgression.”—Koran 2:61

“The nation of Ishmael…persecute us severely and devise ways to harm us and to debase us…None has matched it in debasing and humiliating us. None has been able to reduce us as they have. We have done as our sages of blessed memory instructed us, bearing the lies and absurdities of Ishmael. We listen, but remain silent…In spite of all this, we are not spared from the ferocity of their wickedness, and their outbursts at any time. On the contrary, the more we suffer and choose to conciliate them, the more they choose to act belligerently toward us.” —Maimonides, Epistle to the Jews of Yemen (1172) [Stillman translation]

“Death to Israel. Curse upon the Jews. Victory to Islam”Houthi motto

Even my eye, jaundiced as it is from studying the chronic plight of Yemenite Jewry under Islam, is not blind, or fully inured to the daily, ongoing Sunni-Shiite sectarian carnage in Yemen. This is a human tragedy, amongst many similar examples within Islamdom, daily unfolding before our collective eyes.

Yet, animated by Islam’s Jew-hating canon, the ugly historical context that I have chronicled—Yemen’s Jews being subjected to a millennium of continuous, grinding Islamic persecution, interspersed with paroxysmal acts of mass Muslim violence—compelled me to recall two very recent, bitter reminders of this specific, living doctrinal, and historical legacy.

Shiite worshippers from Iran’s surrogate minions at the Houthi Al-Hashoush Mosque in Sanaa, Yemen, on March 20, 2015, were engaged in the following exchange just as they were immolated by an ISIS homicide bombing:

Preacher: “Our belief in Allah will increase after today. We will triumph over their deceit and their arrogance. Allah is with us…” Worshippers: “Death to America. Death to Israel. Curse upon the Jews. Victory to Islam. Allah Akbar.”

Six days after that ghoulish scene of depraved Islamic Jew-hatred, literally in the midst of internecine Muslim sectarian slaughter, Houthi official Khaled Al-Madani, of the Supreme Revolutionary Council, addressed thousands of supporters assembled outside Sanaa’s old city. Al-Madani’s Thursday, March 26, 2015 invective was directed principally against Saudi Arabia. He intoned, “The horn of Satan [i.e., Saudi Arabia] has hired mercenaries to attack Yemeni soil, but Yemen will become their graveyard.” And once again, these comments drew the same response from the gathered Shiite Muslim masses previously uttered by the Al-Hashoush Mosque attendees immediately before their immolation:

Allah Akbar. Death to America. Death to Israel. Curse upon the Jews. Victory to Islam.

A pathognomonic New York Times story from February 18, 2015, entitled,“Persecution Defines Life for Yemen’s Remaining Jews,” noted the ubiquity of this Shiite Muslim motto (i.e., Death to America. Death to Israel. Curse upon the Jews. Victory to Islam), which

is chanted at all Houthi rallies, broadcast on television and painted on what seems like every blank wall space in areas they control.

Previous Houthi violence—death threats and Houthi jihadists burning down Jewish homes—was directed at the then 200, or fewer, Jews in Saada province, during 2006 to 2007. According to Yemenite Jew Salem Mousa, in 2006, he and his family fled because,

Houthis pursued us everywhere we went. Attacks and even forced conversions were common at that time

More than eight centuries before Salem Mousa’s account of the 2006 Muslim depredations against the Jews of Yemen, including “attacks and even forced conversions,” Maimonides’ The Epistle to the Jews of Yemen was written in approximately 1172, as a response to inquiries by Jacob ben Netan’el al-Fayyumi, then leader  of the Jewish community in Yemen. The Jews of Yemen wereexperiencing a crisis, as they were being forced to convert to Islam, an effort launched in about 1165 by Abd-al-Nabi ibn Mahdi. Maimonides offered al-Fayyumi and his flock what encouragement and guidance he could. The Epistle to the Jews of Yemen elucidates Maimonides’ views of Islam’s prophet Muhammad, whom he dubbed “the Madman,” and of Islam in general

…October 8, 1983, Bat Ye’or interviewed Yemenite Jews Hannah [Lolou] and Sa’adya b. Shelomo Akiva [Aqua], born respectively at Dhamar and Menakha (Yemen). They left Yemen in 1949, became citizens of Israel, and lived in Nes Ziyyona. Their recorded testimony affirms the additional chronic humiliations and oppressions experienced by Yemen’s Jews, resulting from the application of the sharia, right up until the community was effectively liquidated after the creation of Israel.

Until our departure from Yemen in 1949, it was forbidden for a Jew to write in Arabic, to possess arms, or to ride on a horse or camel. The Jews could only ride on donkeys, both legs on one side [sidesaddle] and were obliged to jump to the ground when passing a Muslim, and had to make detours. Pedestrians went on the left of Muslims. It was forbidden for Jews to enter mosques…The Arabs forbade us to wear shoes, so that we hid them when, as children, we went searching for wood for cooking. When we were far enough away, we put on our shoes; on returning, we took them off and hid them in the branches. The Arabs frequently searched us, and if they found them, they punished us and forbade us to collect wood. We had to lower our head, accepting insults and humiliations. The Arabs called us “stinking dogs.

Jewish children who became orphans before they were fifteen were forcibly converted to Islam. The families tried to save them by hiding them in bundles of hay. Afterward, the children were sent to other villages where they hid with another family and were given other names. Sometimes the children were put into coffins and the Arabs were told that they had died with their parents. Then they were helped to escape.

Georges Vajda’s comprehensive 1937 analysis of the portrayal of the Jews in the hadith remains the definitive treatment of this subject matter…These archetypes, Vajda concluded, in turn justify Muslim animus toward the Jews, and the admonition to at best “subject [the Jews] to Muslim domination,” as dhimmis, treated “with contempt,” under certain “humiliating arrangements.”

Vajda (d. 1981) also made these sadly prescient observations in 1968 regarding Islamic doctrines that continue to shape the behaviors of Muslim governments and societies toward any Jewish communities remaining in their midst, no matter how small or unobtrusive, present day Yemen offering a striking illustration:

[I]t seems clear that, unless it changes its principles, goes against the deepest feelings of its coreligionists and calls in question its own raison d’être, no Muslim power, however “liberal” it may like to think itself…could depart from the line of conduct followed in the past and continued de facto in the present [emphasis added], in conferring on Jews anything but the historic status of “protection,” patched up with ill-digested and unassimilated Western phraseology

Saudis Bolster Yemeni Border Attempt to Downplay Likelihood of Ground Invasion

3950970906CSP, by Sean MacCormac, April 1, 2015:

Saudi Arabia’s incursion into Yemen via air strikes may portend a change in the kingdom’s foreign policy. With Washington unwilling to get directly involved further in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia may take it into their own hands to quell the Houthi uprising in the Middle East in order to prevent Iran, the key supporter of the Houthis, from gaining a foothold close to Saudi soil. Previously, Saudi Arabia has been content and dependent on the United States to provide defense, despite a well funded (albeit of dubious competence) military. But with a more confident Iran getting involved in Yemen and Iraq, and the United States more and more on board with Iran concerning the balance of power in the Middle East, the Saudis feel that they cannot count on direct assistance in these harsh times.

With the Houthis capturing a naval base overlooking the strategic Bab el-Mandeb strait on the Red Sea, the Saudis have good reason to be worried. 3.8 million barrels of petroleum and other refined petroleum products pass through the Bab el-Mandeb strait each day, making it the fourth busiest chokepoint in the world.

There has already been significant shelling and exchanged fire over the border by Houthi fighters and Saudi military as of Tuesday. Locals have stated that the combat was the heaviest seen since the beginning of hostilities between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis last week. Saudi Arabia has stated that ground troops will only be used if necessary in Yemen, restricting their current military actions to airstrikes and a blockade of Yemeni ports.Spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri stated that “limited ground operations” in specific areas were a possibility, but were by no means guaranteed or a first choice of action. Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yaseen, currently seeking asylum in Saudi Arabia, has however called for an immediate ground intervention in Yemen.

Despite what the official line is over the current Saudi forces on the border being sufficient to hold off the Houthi threat, the Saudis have been moving heavy military equipment down near the Yemeni border, undoubtedly to support these “limited ground operations.” Saudi Arabia can ill afford the conflict in Yemen and its attendant Iranian influence spilling over into its oil-rich, and heavily Shia, Eastern province.

Also see:

Why Yemen Matters

by Daniel Pipes
Washington Times
March 28, 2015

The Middle East witnessed something radically new two days ago, when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia responded to a plea by Yemen’s president and led a 10-country coalition to intervene in the air and on the ground in the country. “Operation Decisive Storm” prompts many reflections:

Saudi and Egypt in alliance: Half a century ago, Riyadh and Cairo were active in a Yemen war, but then they supported opposing sides, respectively the status-quo forces and the revolutionaries. Their now being allies points to continuity in Saudia along with profound changes in Egypt.

Arabic-speakers getting their act together: Through Israel’s early decades, Arabs dreamt of uniting militarily against it but the realities of infighting and rivalries smashed every such hope. Even on the three occasions (1948-49, 1967, 1973) when they did join forces, they did so at cross purposes and ineffectively. How striking, then that finally they should coalesce not against Israel but against Iran. This implicitly points to their understanding that the Islamic Republic of Iran poses a real threat, whereas anti-Zionism amounts to mere indulgence. It also points to panic and the need to take action resulting from a stark American retreat.

Arab leaders have a long history of meeting but not cooperating. From the right: King Hussein of Jordan, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Yasir Arafat of the PLO, and Muammar Qaddafi of Libya in September 1970.

Yemen at the center of attention: Yemen played a peripheral role in the Bible, in the rise of Islam, and in modern times; it’s never been the focus of world concern – until suddenly now. Yemen resembles other once-marginal countries – the Koreas, Cuba, the Vietnams, Afghanistan – which out of nowhere became the focus of global concern.

The Middle East cold war went hot: The Iranian and Saudi regimes have headed dueling blocs for about a decade. They did combat as the U.S. and Soviet governments once did – via contending ideologies, espionage, aid, trade, and covert action. On March 26, that cold war went hot, where it’s likely long to remain.

Can the Saudi-led coalition win? Highly unlikely, as these are rookies taking on Iran’s battle-hardened allies in a forbidding terrain.

Islamists dominate: The leaders of both blocs share much: both aspire universally to apply the sacred law of Islam (the Shari’a), both despise infidels, and both turned faith into ideology. Their falling out confirms Islamism as the Middle East’s only game, permitting its proponents the luxury to fight each other.

The Turkey-Qatar-Muslim Brotherhood alliance in decline: A third alliance of Sunni revisionists somewhere between the Shi’i revolutionaries and the Sunni status-quotians has been active during recent years in many countries – Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya. But now, in part thanks to diplomacy initiated by the brand-new King Salman of Saudi Arabia, its members are gravitating toward their Sunni co-religionists.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has done something unprecedented in putting together a military coalition.

Isolated Iran: Yes, a belligerent Tehran now boasts of dominating four Arab capitals (Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Sana’a) but that’s also its problem: abrupt Iranian gains have many in the region (including such previously friendly states as Pakistan and Sudan) fearing Iran.

Sidelining the Arab-Israeli conflict: If the Obama administration and European leaders remain obsessed with Palestinians, seeing them as key to the region, regional players have far more urgent priorities. Not only does Israel hardly concern them but the Jewish state serves as a tacit auxiliary of the Saudi-led bloc. Does this change mark a long-term shift in Arab attitudes toward Israel? Probably not; when the Iran crisis fades, expect attention to return to the Palestinians and Israel, as it always does.

American policy in disarray: Middle East hands rightly scoffed in 2009 when Barack Obama and his fellow naïfs expected that by leaving Iraq, smiling at Tehran, and trying harder at Arab-Israeli negotiations they would fix the region, permitting a “pivot” to East Asia. Instead, the incompetents squatting atop the U.S. government cannot keep up with fast-moving, adverse events, many of its own creation (anarchy in Libya, tensions with traditional allies, a more bellicose Iran).

Impact on a deal with Iran: Although Washington has folded on many positions in negotiations with Iran and done the mullah’s regime many favors (for example, not listing it or its Hizbullah ally as terrorist), it drew a line in Yemen, offering the anti-Iran coalition some support. Will Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i now stomp out of the talks? Highly unlikely, for the deal offered him is too sweet to turn down.

American diplomats meet again with their Iranian counterparts to capitulate on yet another difference.

In sum, Salman’s skilled diplomacy and his readiness to use force in Yemen responds to the deadly combination of Arab anarchy, Iranian aggression, and Obama weakness in a way that will shape the region for years.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2015 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Also see:

Egypt seizes Bab el Mandeb ahead of Iran. Saudis bomb Iran-backed Yemeni Houthis. US launches air strikes over Tikrit

Yemen3_1DEBKAfile Special Report March 26, 2015:

In a surprise step, Egyptian marine naval and marine forces Thursday morning, March 26, seized control of the strategic Bab El-Mandeb Straits to foil Tehran’s plans to grab this important energy shipping gateway between the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal, DEBKAfile’s military sources report from the Gulf. Egypt disguised the raid as a counter-piracy operation. It rounded off the Saudi-led air strikes launched the same morning against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. These operations signaled the start of a major Sunni Arab revolt against Iran’s approaching takeover of Yemen, through its Houthi proxy, and advances in other strategic positions in the Middle East, with Washington’s support.
Thursday morning too, the US launched the US launched its first air strikes against Islamic State positions in the Iraqi city of Tikrit, rallying to the aid of the Iranian-commanded Iraqi operation, which had failed to dislodge the jihadis in two weeks of fighting.

The separate operations in Yemen and Iraq attested to the widening breach between the Sunni Arab camp and the Obama administration and the former’s resolve to thwart US strategy for buying a nuclear deal with Tehran by empowering Iran to attain the rank of leading Middle East power.
DEBKAfile reported earlier Thursday morning:

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) are now leading war action in four Mid East arenas: Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon,while building Shiite “popular” armies deferring to Tehran in three: Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

The formal announcements coming from Riyadh and Washington attempted to gloss over the open breach. The Saudis Wednesday indicated that their military buildup on the Yemeni was “purely defensive,” while Washington subsequently declared support for the Saudi-Gulf-Egyptian air strikes after they began.

According to our Washington sources, President Obama decided Wednesday to accede to the Iraqi premier Haider al-Abadi’s request for air support to de-stall the Tikrit operation against ISIS. Iran’s Al Qods Brigades chief, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who commanded the operation from the start has departed the scene.

Nothing has been said to indicate whether the Iranian forces, including Revolutionary Guards officers, remain in the area. It appears that the Obama administration prefers as little as possible to be mentioned about US-Iranian battlefield coordination in Iraq versus the Islamists, especially since it was not exactly a big success. At the same time, US air strikes launched to support ground forces are bound to be coordinated with their commanders, who in this case happen to be mostly Iranian. In the last two weeks of the Tikrit operation, liaison between the US and Iranian military in Iraq was routed through the office of the Iraqi Prime Minister in Baghdad.

Early Thursday, Riyadh reported that the Saudi Royal Air Force had taken out Houthi air defenses, destroyed numerous Houthi fighter planes and were imposing a wide no-fly zone over Yemen.

Egypt is providing political and military support for Saudi-GCC operation against Houthi fighters in Yemen, the Egyptian state news agency said Thursday. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying this support could involve Egyptian air, naval and ground forces, if necessary.

DEBKAfile’s military sources add: The Saudis declared Yemeni air space a no-fly zone to achieve to goals: (1) To deny the Yemeni forces advancing on the key port city of Aden access to air cover which would undoubtedly have been forthcoming from mutinous elements of the Yemeni air force. Without it, the rebel advance would be severely hobbled, and, (2) to prevent Iranian warplanes from landing at Yemeni air bases with deliveries of military equipment and ammunition  their Houthi proxies.
Gulf sources disclose that Saudi Arabia has placed 100 warplanes and 150,000 troops with heavy weapons at the disposal of the operation against Iran’s Yemeni proxy, the Zaydi Houthis, as well as pressing into service Pakistani, Moroccan and Jordanian military units. This force is a sign that Riyadh intends of following up its air action with a ground invasion across the border into Yemen to crush the revolt in its backyard.

Developing…

Also see:

1a98a643-0240-4cf6-8929-fa817e6736ea

Yemen isn’t on Verge of Civil War, It Already is – And Saudi Arabia Will Get Involved

March 21, 2015: Members of a militia group loyal to Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen. (AP)

March 21, 2015: Members of a militia group loyal to Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen. (AP)

March 25, 2015 / /

Once again the American media is a day late and a dollar short in covering foreign policy matters. Now every major media outlet in the country is openly asking the question of whether or not Yemen is “on the edge of a civil war.” The problem with that is they’re still behind the power curve. Why? Because Yemen already is in a civil war and it has been going on for the last several months, only you wouldn’t guess from American media outlets since they were focused on more important things like Bruce Jenner’s transition into “womanhood” – but we digress. Follow-on forces continue to be flown into Taiz for the main Houthi push to take Aden, which we assess can begin within days. This will be a multi-pronged offensive, as we’re already seeing with forces elsewhere moving to isolate pro-Hadi forces in other areas. Hadi’s forces were able to temporarily halt the Houthi advance – although this will change as Hadi’s forces continue to get worn down. Those areas weren’t even one of the major objectives. If anything the forces currently advancing have the port of al-Mukha as one of their primary objectives prior to the main push for Aden being initiated.

What Yemen’s Coming Apart at the Seams Means to Arabian Peninsula

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5737

Forces Loyal to President Hadi Halt Houthi Push Towards Yemen’s Aden

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/mideast/hadi-forces-check-houthi-push-towards-yemens-aden-n329681

hadi faction

Pro-Hadi forces manning a checkpoint in Aden
Source: al-Jazeera

The Gulf nations led by Saudi Arabia are reported to have agreed to a possible deployment of ground troops to support Hadi’s faction and confront the growing Iranian influence on the Arabian Peninsula. The Gulf nations had previously sent a multi-nation ground force to support the Bahraini government against Iranian proxies a few years ago, so there’s a precedence for this sort of thing. Also, Saudi Arabia has waged limited air campaigns along the Yemeni border off and on in the past for lesser reasons. The current buildup of Saudi ground forces suggests that they may be planning a proactive defense of the border region to keep the Houthis on their side of the border, but will likely initiate a ground campaign if Aden is perceived to be on the verge of falling – which might happen in the coming days. We assess that the violence will exceed anything the Saudis dealt with in previous operations that they conducted against the Houthis in 2009 and 2010. If it comes to that (and let’s be honest, does anybody truly think “negotiations” with Iran and its proxies will succeed?), we expect the initial ground deployments to consist of SOF personnel to perform an advise and assist role. That ground presence will likely grow in both role and numbers as the violence continues to escalate. Currently, the Saudis are providing financial support to Hadi’s faction and may be looking to provide lethal aid to keep the loyal military units in Aden propped up.

Saudis Vow “Necessary Measures” in Yemen if Peace Talks Fail

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/8b9fa25a-d17f-11e4-86c8-00144feab7de.html#axzz3VMsKd8Ml

Exclusive: Saudi Arabia building up military near Yemen border – U.S. officials

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/24/us-yemen-security-usa-saudi-idUSKBN0MK2S120150324

Gulf states send forces to Bahrain following protests

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-12729786

Analysis: What is behind Saudi offensive in Yemen

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/saudi-arabia/091114/saudi-arabia-offensive-yemen-houthis

Saudi Forces Bomb Yemeni Rebels on Southern Border

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB125746088928732009

KSA capable of deterring attackers: Saudi King

http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2009/11/08/90588.html

Saudi jets bomb Yemeni Houthis

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2009/11/20091151323886933.html

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 6.28.06 PM

The Saudi Army: Ready to rock and roll
Source: thefewgoodmen.com

Saudi Arabia’s actions are hardly surprising given the clear and present threat the Iranian regime and its proxies pose to the region. Houthi fighters are reportedly serving in the ranks of the Iranian regime’s “Foreign Legion” known as the Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA) in Syria against anti-Assad forces. Those Houthi fighters reportedly received pre-deployment training at Hezbollah camps in Lebanon much like Iraqi proxies such as Kitab Hezbollah (KH) and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS). Should the Saudis get involved militarily, and we think its only a matter of time before they do, we could very well see the Houthis applying what they learned from that Hezbollah training. We’ll also likely see more from the IRGC-Qods Force and its proxies like what we saw in 2009 with Hezbollah operatives shot down a Yemeni fighter jet in 2009. Its been a few years since that incident and the Iranian regime now has firm control of Sanaa’s international airport with regular flights coming and going between there and Tehran – meaning more weapons (and Qods Force personnel) are being brought into the fight.

Iranian Regime Consolidates Houthi Gains, Begins Work Forming Houthi Intel Proxy

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5580

Yemen’s Houthi Rebels: The Hand of Iran?

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1992

Shia Proxy Threat to US ISIS Strategy in Saudi Arabia

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1837

Yemeni Fighter Planes Shot down by Hezbollah’s Elements

http://www.yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=1391

Syrian Army Takes Advantage of US Airstrikes in Counter-Offensive

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=2788

hezbollah_24 mar

Hezbollah has been operating in Yemen for several years now – and their OP-Tempo is steadily increasing
Source: al-akhbar.com

As of this writing Hadi has the support of roughly 5,000 Yemeni Army personnel against a Houthi force numbering from 13,000-15,000 men. Those pro-Hadi Army personnel suffer from a lack of ammo, equipment and poor morale, so its debatable just how long they can hold out with no external support – which is a big reason why we assess the Saudis will become more involved. Here, air support will be key for both sides and the Saudis and UAE will be the most likely participants of any Gulf-led air campaign. However, the Saudis are not as capable as their UAE counterparts in terms of conducting sustained external operations.

Forming the bulk of Hadi’s supporters are the “Popular Committees” led by Abdul-Latif al-Sayid al-Bafqeeh. His faction had been working closely with the military in combatting AQAP in the Abyan-area when the Houthis launched their offensive to take Sanaa. Hadi didn’t order his security forces to combat the Houthis when they stormed Sanaa because he couldn’t trust his own men and didn’t know how strong his support was in the capital – which ultimately led to his and several Arab nations’ diplomatic missions being relocated to Aden. Bafqeeh is considered a local hero in the South for his opposition to AQAP and the Houthis. Although his estimated 6,700-man force adds much-needed bodies to Hadi’s beleaguered loyalist Army force, they’re not as well-trained as former President Saleh’s forces or even the Houthis. These Popular Committees were able to keep the Houthis from seizing Aden’s airport and are currently engaged in several battles north of the city – but they’re plagued by the same ammo and equipment shortage as the pro-Hadi Army units. There’s also some questions regarding Bafqeeh’s true allegiances, as he’s previously worked with AQAP when Saleh was in power. He claims to have left the group due to the leadership refusing to provide sufficient financial support. He also had this rather interesting comment when describing his reasons for his previous AQAP associations:

“when the regime was oppressive and brutal … People then joined al-Qaida to avenge themselves against the government. I and my men pulled out before we got involved with them.”

This pretty much cuts to the heart of what we’ve been saying about AQAP and the Islamic State (IS) being viewed more favorably by a local populace who feel threatened by the Iranian regime – which is every bit as bad as the two Sunni jihadist organizations. The problem with Bafqeeh is that he’s already shown that his allegiances are subject to change – so what will happen should IS offer him cash incentives to pledge allegiance to Baghdadi like they have with others? Something to think about as the Saudis ramp up their lethal aid to the Pro-Hadi crew. This will become a bigger factor later on as IS continues to gain more momentum in follow-on attacks to last week’s Sanaa Mosque bombings, especially if Hadi’s faction becomes even more weakened than it is. They have everybody’s attention now, and are fashioning themselves as the “protectors of the Sunni populace” against the Iranian regime. In the end people are people and like everybody else, the Yemeni Sunnis want to be part of a “winner.” Unfortunately, the factions they view as being the “strongest” just might be AQAP and IS.

abdul

Abdul-Latif al-Sayid al-Bafqeeh
Source: Associated Press

This great news for Iran’s strategic campaign to dominate the Middle East as it allows the Qods Force’s objective of forcing Saudi Arabia and the terror financiers residing there to divert resources from the anti-Assad war effort in Syria back closer to home. Control of key Yemeni real estate also allows the Iranian regime to have more options in disrupting international shipping if they so desire. Using Sanaa as a major support hub, the Qods Force and Hezbollah will be able to provide greater levels of material support to cells operating inside Saudi Arabia to destabilize the new King’s government while targeting IS support nodes throughout the country. With all the fighting taking place in the country, if this isn’t a civil war already, then what is it? Now think about this – President Obama’s “Yemen Success Story” being touted as the “model for future operations in the War Against Terror” has seen millions of dollars in equipment “disappearing,” Hadi being run out of the capital, parliament dissolved, US embassy evacuated and the last of our troops pulled out of the country. The cherry on top is that IS now has a foothold in the country and Iran emerged as the big winner by supporting terrorism and fomenting regional unrest. What we’re seeing in Yemen is Iran exporting their “Islamic Revolution” to the Arabian Peninsula by implementing the “Lebanon Model.” We were also told during the 2008 US Presidential election that he was going to “fundamentally transform America – and the world.” Is this the “fundamental transformation” he was talking about?

A veteran militia leader in southern Yemen emerges as key ally of president against rebels

http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2015/03/24/in-south-yemen-a-militia-leader-is-presidents-top-ally?page=2

BRIEF CLASHES IN ADEN AS POPULAR COMMITTEES SET UP CHECKPOINTS

http://www.yementimes.com/en/1861/news/4902/Brief-clashes-in-Aden-as-popular-committees-set-up-checkpoints.htm

YEMEN’S USE OF MILITIAS TO MAINTAIN STABILITY IN ABYAN PROVINCE

https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/yemens-use-of-militias-to-maintain-stability-in-abyan-province

Millions in U.S. military equipment lost as Yemen heads down Syria’s path

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2015/03/24/millions-in-u-s-military-equipment-lost-as-yemen-heads-down-syrias-path/

UPDATE – Reporting that just broke a little while ago suggests that Hadi fled his Aden-based residence. No word yet on his current whereabouts, but if he leaves the country, he could be making a mad dash for either Saudi Arabia or UAE. Should that happen, it would signal the Saudis to initiate the first phase of their military intervention. Oh, and the airfield our troops were stationed at has fallen to the Houthis now. More to follow…

Officials tell AP: Yemen president flees Aden home

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/c55bb2a7eabe4311b2eb40ba1c3f2abd/report-rebels-seize-yemen-air-base-used-al-qaida-fight

Other Related Articles:

Poised to Fill Yemen’s Power Vacuum – Iran Tightens Grip on the Peninsula

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4517

The Islamic State’s Arabian Peninsula Campaign

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4558

President Obama’s Yemen “Success” Story

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4751

IRGC-Qods Force: The Arabian Peninsula Campaign and the Failure of Obama’s Foreign Policy

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4478

US military, diplomatic personnel quit Yemen as country descends into civil war

A protest against the Houthis on Sunday in Taiz, Yemen. Credit Anees Mahyoub/Reuters

A protest against the Houthis on Sunday in Taiz, Yemen. Credit Anees Mahyoub/Reuters

LWJ, by BILL ROGGIO, March 22nd, 2015:

The US governemnt has withdrawn its military and remaining diplomatic personnel from Yemen as the security situation has spiraled out of control over the past week. Among the forces pulled from Yemen were more than 100 military advisors who were training Yemeni counterterrorism personnel to battle al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The withdrawal of US forces from Yemen takes place just six months after President Barack Obama described the US strategy of partnering with local Yemeni forces as “one that we have successfully pursued … for years.”

The US yanked its military forces Al Anad Air Base after AQAP forces and allied tribes briefly took control of the nearby city of Houta, the capital of Lahj province, on March 20. Al Anad is located just 20 miles north of Houta. Yemeni military forces loyal to ousted President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is based in the nearby city of Aden, regained control of Houta after AQAP fighters withdrew without a fight.

The US military has not commented on the withdrawal of its forces from Al Anad, which was a key node in the US and Yemeni governments’ fight against AQAP. But the US State Department confirmed in a press release that the US government “has temporarily relocated its remaining personnel out of Yemen.”

“We also continue to actively monitor terrorist threats emanating from Yemen and have capabilities postured in the area to address them,” State claimed. “As we have in the past, we will take action to disrupt continuing, imminent threats to the United States and our citizens.”

The US Embassy in Sana’a was evacuated at the end of February. US Marines stationed at the embassy had to disable and abandon their weapons prior to boarding a civilian flight out of the country.

AQAP’s foray into Houta was preceded by attacks from the rival Islamic State, Shia Houthi rebels, and infighting between forces loyal to President Hadi. Additionally, today Houthi forces have taken control of the city of Taiz, Yemen’s third largest and are now just 120 miles from Aden, The New York Times reported.

On March 20, the Islamic State deployed four suicide bombers at two Houthi mosques in the capital of Sana’a’, killing more than 100 worshiper. The Islamic State threatened to carry out more such attacks.

On the previous day, forces loyal to Hadi battled a rival military commander at Aden’s international airport. Thirteen people were killed before Hadi’s troops took control of the airport, Reuters reported. During the fighting, an aircraft thought to have been flown by the Houthi-led government based in Sana’a struck the presidential palace in Aden.

Hadi fled to Aden in late February after escaping house arrest in Sana’a. He was forced to resign his presidency in January after intense pressure from the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels, who took control of much of northern and western Yemen late last summer. Hadi has been the US’ biggest supporter in the fight against al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. He was a vocal supporter of the unpopular drone strikes, which have targeted al Qaeda’s leaders and operatives in Yemen.

Yemen is one of several key bases for al Qaeda’s global network. Some of al Qaeda’s top leaders operate from Yemen, including Nasir al Wuhayshi, who serves as general manager in addition to AQAP’s emir. While the US has killed several key AQAP leaders since ramping up drone and air strikes in Yemen at the end of 2009, Wuhayshi and much of AQAP’s leadership cadre continue to operate. In addition to seeking to take control of Yemen, AQAP has been has been at the forefront of plotting attacks against the US and the West.

The withdrawal of US forces is a major blow to President Obama’s hands-off approach in the Middle East. On Sept. 11, 2014, Obama touted the counterterrorism strategy of US airpower working with “partner forces on the ground” in both Yemen and Somalia as “one that we have successfully pursued … for years.” [See LWJreports, US strategy against Islamic State to mirror counterterrorism efforts in Yemen, Somalia, and President Obama’s ‘successful’ counterterrorism strategy in Yemen in limbo.]

Today, the US has few Yemeni forces left to partner with and a limited ability to do so. Whatever friendly forces that do remain are confined to limited geographical area and over the next several weeks and months will be focusing on survival.

***

Also see:

Analysis: Why AQAP quickly denied any connection to mosque attacks

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LWJ, by Thomas Joscelyn, March 21, 2015:

Almost as quickly as the Islamic State’s branch in Yemen claimed responsibility for suicide attacks at mosques attended by Houthis in Sana’a earlier today, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) denied any connection to the coordinated bombings. There is a simple reason why: Such attacks are inconsistent with al Qaeda’s guidelines for waging jihad.

In its statement denying any ties to the bombings, AQAP stressed that it remains “committed to the guidelines” issued by Sheikh Ayman al Zawahiri. Those guidelines advise against “targeting mosques, markets, and public places out of concern for the lives of innocent Muslims, and to prioritize the paramount interests,” AQAP’s message reads, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group.

The Islamic State and its followers have rejected Zawahiri’s approach, carrying on with indiscriminate attacks against civilians. Indeed, today’s bombings in Yemen are further evidence of the divide within the jihadist world. The disagreements between the al Qaeda axis and the Islamic State are not just about who is the jihadists’ rightful ruler. They have very different approaches to combating their enemies and building support for their efforts.

Today’s statement from AQAP did not reflect a sudden change in course. The group has long advocated in favor of Zawahiri’s guidelines, and has even apologized when its fighters violated them.

In an interview that was released in January, an AQAP official named Nasser bin Ali al Ansi explained his organization’s approach to fighting the Houthis. Al Ansi is not only one of AQAP’s most senior figures, he also serves in the upper echelon of al Qaeda’s global network. Based on documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound and other evidence, The Long War Journal has previously identified al Ansi as one of al Qaeda’s deputy general managers. [See LWJ report, Osama bin Laden’s Files: Al Qaeda’s deputy general manager in Yemen.]

Several of the questions addressed to al Ansi during the AQAP interview dealt with the Houthis. Al Ansi was asked about a “recent martyrdom-seeking operation in Sana’a that specifically targeted” the “rejectionists,” a derogatory term used for Shiites. The interviewer wanted to know why AQAP went through with the attack as it appeared to violate Zawahiri’s “instructions,” meaning the aforementioned guidelines.

“There is really no difference in our views,” al Ansi explained, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. The operation “did not target the demonstrators, but rather the security belt that surrounded them, composed of a large number of Houthis,” al Ansi claimed.

Al Ansi continued by explaining that Nasir al Wuhayshi, AQAP’s emir and al Qaeda’s general manager, “gave clear instructions to the operating cells to avoid attacking mixed gatherings and to focus on armed Houthis.” AQAP’s fighters are “abiding by this rule as far as we know.” According to al Ansi, AQAP has asked its “brothers” to “be careful” when targeting Houthi gatherings and to focus on “the ones where their military armed forces exist, their headquarters, and their other posts.” AQAP fighters are supposed to avoid “areas where common Muslims are found,” such as mosques.

The al Qaeda official warned Muslims to “stay away from Houthi gatherings and locations,” but his directions were clear. AQAP avoids attacks on Houthi civilians when possible.

And today’s attacks by the Islamic State’s fighters were the complete opposite of what al Qaeda wants.

When Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State, announced his organization’s expansion into Yemen and elsewhere last November, he deliberately sought to undermine AQAP’s legitimacy. If the Houthis had encountered real mujahideen, Baghdadi claimed, then their “their evil would not have festered.” In other words, the Islamic State would have stopped the Houthis’ advances.

Baghdadi’s words were carefully chosen, and part of propaganda campaign that portrays al Qaeda as being soft on the Houthis and other Shiites. The Islamic State’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al Adnani, has even gone so far as to argue that “Iran owes al Qaeda invaluably,” because the jihadists heeded Zawahiri’s directive to avoid attacks inside the mullahs’ country.

Baghdadi’s criticism was so pronounced that another AQAP official, Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari (who was subsequently killed in a US drone strike), was forced to responded. Less than two weeks after Baghdadi’s message, Nadhari said that he and others “were hurt by what Sheikh Abu Bakr al Baghdadi said, and it hurt the Muslims in the trench of Yemen, when he said that the Houthis found no monotheists to fight them.” This is false, Nadhari argued, and AQAP cannot believe “the likes of the Sheikh” would “say such a thing.”

But AQAP should believe that Baghdadi would make such a claim. Today’s attacks in Sana’a are part of the Islamic State’s strategy.

There is dissent within the jihadist community regarding al Qaeda’s policy regarding Shiites. And the Islamic State knows this. Many Sunni jihadists want to let the Shiites’ blood flow, and they do not want calibrate their attacks to avoid Shiite civilians. Al Qaeda believes that such attacks alienate much of the Muslim population in the long run. The Islamic State sees such operations as not only legitimate, but also as a tool for inciting further violence, thereby radicalizing more of the population for its cause.

AQAP’s interview with al Ansi in January highlighted this key difference. One questioner wanted to know why Zawahiri and al Qaeda “attribute only ignorance” to the Shiites instead of general disbelief. If Shiites were deemed infidels, of course, it would pave the way for unbridled violence against Houthi civilians.

Al Ansi responded by arguing that al Qaeda’s approach “has been the view of many elders and scholars,” including the medieval ideologue Ibn Taymiyyah, who remains a popular thinker among jihadists. Al Ansi cited “current jihadist scholars” such as Osama bin Laden, Zawahiri, Atiyah Abd al Rahman, and Abu Yahya al Libi as all being of the same view. (Rahman and al Libi served in al Qaeda’s management before being killed in US drone strikes.)

However, al Ansi conceded this “has been a controversial issue for years and all interpretation efforts are appreciated.” Thus, even AQAP’s man couldn’t say that his jihadist opponents were definitely wrong.

Still other questions during al Ansi’s interview implied that AQAP wasn’t doing enough to combat the Houthis. When asked why AQAP didn’t stop the Houthis from overtaking Sana’a, al Ansi responded by pointing out his group didn’t control the city at the time. Al Ansi also had to explain that AQAP couldn’t shell all of the Houthis’ positions as they often operate in areas whether other Muslims live. Thought the Houthis’ “headquarters” were fair game.

All of this is likely part of the reason that the Islamic State’s first major operation in Yemen focused on mosques visited by Houthis. AQAP attacks the Houthis frequently, but tries to keep its violence focused on military and security targets.

The Islamic State’s followers have no such bound on their terror.

Massacred as they prayed at two mosques: Suicide bombers kill at least 142 after blowing themselves up in Yemen

A suicide bomb attack on two mosques in Sanaa, Yemen, has killed 142 people. Worshippers rushed to carry injured men covered in blood from the building

A suicide bomb attack on two mosques in Sanaa, Yemen, has killed 142 people. Worshippers rushed to carry injured men covered in blood from the building

  • WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT: Four bombers launch two attacks
  • Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques in Sanaa targeted during midday prayers
  • A further 351 people have been wounded, medical officials reported
  • Islamic State claimed responsibility and said it was a ‘blessed operation’

Daily Mail, By LYDIA WILLGRESS, March 20, 2015:

Multiple suicide bombings on two mosques in Yemen’s capital today have left hundreds killed or injured.

Four bombers wearing explosive belts targeted the Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques in Sanaa during midday prayers in what was one of the country’s deadliest ever jihadist attacks.

At least 142 are dead and a further 351 people are thought to have been wounded in the devastating blasts, described by eyewitnesses as being like earthquakes.

A group claiming to be the Yemeni branch of Islamic State immediately said they were responsible for the bombings.

Charred bodies and pools of blood were seen at the scene of the explosions while footage from the al-Hashoosh mosque, showed screaming volunteers using bloodied blankets to carry away victims.

The mosques are mainly used by supporters of the Shi’ite Muslim Houthi group as well as Sunni worshippers.

The group posted an online statement saying that five suicide bombers carried out what it described as a ‘blessed operation’ against the ‘dens of the Shiites’. It also warned of an ‘upcoming flood’ of attacks against the rebels.

The claim offered no proof of their role – but it was posted on the same website that the Islamic State affiliate in Libya claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on a museum in Tunisia.

The first bomber was caught by militia guards searching worshippers at the entrance of the Badr mosque.

He detonated his device at the outside gates while a second bomber entered the mosque and blew himself up amid the crowds, according to the official news agency SABA.

One witness from the attack at al-Hashoosh said he was thrown two metres by one of the blasts.

Mohammed al-Ansi said: ‘The heads, legs and arms of the dead people were scattered on the floor of the mosque.

‘Blood was running like a river.’

Another witness added: ‘I was going to pray at the mosque then I heard the first explosion, and a second later I heard another one.’

Hospitals were urging citizens to donate blood, the Yemeni rebel-owned Al-Masirah TV channel said.

It also reported that a fifth suicide bomb attack on another mosque was foiled in the northern city of Saada, a Houthi stronghold.

A prominent Shiite cleric, al-Murtada al-Mansouri, and two senior Houthi leaders were among the dead, the TV channel reported.

Survivors compared the explosions to an earthquake and said some people were injured by shattered glass falling from the mosque’s large hanging chandeliers.

The television channel aired footage from inside the al-Hashoosh mosque, where screaming volunteers were using blankets to carry away victims.

Corpses were lined up on the mosque floor and carried away in pick-up trucks.

The attacks come just two days after 23 people were killed when gunmen opened fire on tourists at a museum in Tunisia.

See more photos at Daily Mail

Also see:

American Embassy in Saudi Arabia Closed Amid Rising ISIS Threat

March 14, 2015 / /

The US State Department (DoS) announced the cancellation of all consular services for Sunday and Monday due to “heightened security concerns” that our sources in-country say has to do with an increased threat from the Islamic State (IS) to abduct western oil workers in the eastern part of the country. Specifically, an IS cell operating in the eastern part of the country has become increasingly active since last SEP 14. Much of this is the spillover we discussed in our previous article titled, “Iranian Regime Consolidates Yemeni Gains, Forming Houthi Intel Proxy.” As the IRGC-Qods Force and its proxies increase their OP-Tempo inside Saudi Arabia, so has IS. We are aware of specific threats targeting two oil workers, a French citizen and a US citizen. There’s also a separate VBIED threat targeting either the consulate in Dharhan or the embassy itself (we’re still working to identify the target location).

US shuts down Saudi embassy amid security fears
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31893070

US Embassy Warns Oil Workers of Saudi Arabia Kidnap Threat
http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/us-embassy-warns-oil-workers-saudi-arabia-kidnap-29636051

US Embassy in Saudi Arabia halts operations amid ‘heightened security concerns
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/03/14/us-embassy-in-saudi-arabia-halts-operations-amid-heightened-security-concerns/?intcmp=latestnews&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+feedburner%2FidRmZ+%28FOXNews.com%29

Saudi Arabia Travel Warning
http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings/saudi-arabia-travel-warning.html

Iranian Regime Consolidates Yemeni Gains, Forming Houthi Intel Proxy
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5580

Shia Proxy Threat to US ISIS Strategy in Saudi Arabia
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1837

riyadh

Source: BBC

In our piece titled “The Islamic State’s Arabian Peninsula Campaign,” we discussed how IS was forced into conducting operations inside the Saudi kingdom due to increased targeting by Saudi security forces and the IRGC-Qods Force. We saw that in the early-JAN 15 attack on a Saudi border post along the Iraqi border that IS took responsibility for in a video put out by their Anbar, Iraq-based media outlet. The individuals responsible for the attack were part of the Abdullah bin Sayid al-Sarhan attack network. This same network was also responsible for the deaths of five Shia locals under suspicions of being proxies for the IRGC-Qods Force back in NOV 14. The network was also responsible for a separate attack on two US citizens and a Danish national. This is the same part of Eastern Saudi Arabia that the French and American national IS is planning to abduct are located.

The Islamic State’s Arabian Peninsula Campaign
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4558

ISIS Claims Attack On Saudi Arabia Border, Signals Strategy Change In Militant Infiltration
http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-claims-attack-saudi-arabia-border-signals-strategy-change-militant-infiltration-1773754

Masked gunmen kill five in Saudi Arabia
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/04/masked-gunmen-kill-five-saudi-arabia

saudiborder

IS fighters along the Saudi-Iraq border
Source: International Business Times

The Saudis have detained over 150 IS fighters, facilitators and financiers over the past year. IS has already established a presence along the Iraq-Saudi border despite the ongoing project to erect a wall along the border. That presence enables them to send fighters and weapons across the border to and from the country at will, although Saudi military patrols have increased in recent months to interdict these smuggling operations. There are also elements of AQAP that have defected to the new IS-affiliate in Yemen, which suggests that the areas along the Southern border may be in play as well. Also keep in mind that Baghdadi specifically threatened Saudi Arabia in a NOV 14 video on “the next battlegrounds.” The current IS effort in Yemen, like their Iranian counterparts, appears to be connected to their operations in Saudi Arabia. We expect the threat to our fellow Americans and our country’s interests will continue to be threatened as the violence escalates on the Arabian Peninsula from IS, AQAP and the Iranian regime. We will continue to monitor develops in the country and update accordingly…

Saudi Arabia arrests first ISIS-related terror cell (this article has pics in it)
http://www.aawsat.net/2014/05/article55332025

Islamic State sets sights on Saudi Arabia
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30061109

ISIS gaining ground in Yemen, competing with al Qaeda
http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/21/politics/isis-gaining-ground-in-yemen/

Links to Other Related Articles:

Filipinos Among Arrested in Saudi Terror Sweep

Large-Scale Saudi Security Sweep Detains 88

Possible Cracks to The AQ Armor.