The end of Saudi-led coalition’s combat operations associated with Operation Decisive Strom led many Western observers to conclude that the war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels was winding down. Even though the Saudis insisted that the succeeding combat mission, Operation Renewed Hope, would be characterized by sustained airstrikes on Houthi positions, Western observers held out hope that the worst was over.
That hasn’t proven to be the case.
For the first time since the war in Yemen began, the rebel faction supported by Tehran mounted a coordinated counterattack against a Saudi position on the border. “Three Saudi troops and ‘dozens’ of Houthi rebels were killed as Saudi forces repelled a major attack from inside Yemen, Saudi officials say,” the BBC reported on Friday.
“There have been deadly skirmishes before but this is the first time the Saudi military has reported a full-scale Huthi attack on its borders,” an AFP dispatch confirmed.
What was supposed to distinguish Renewed Hope from Decisive Storm was that the Saudi-led military offensive would also include a diplomatic component aimed at ending the conflict. But the diplomatic offensive is failing to yield much progress.
The United Nations is trying to bring an end to the weeks-long air campaign and return to peace talks.
After a meeting in Riyadh, the Gulf ministers insisted that talks between Yemen’s political factions be held in Saudi Arabia, which leads an Arab coalition that has been bombing the Shiite rebels since late March.
Iran has proposed holding UN talks on ending the war in Yemen in a neutral country, one not represented in the coalition.
While Iran has sought to present itself as only peripherally involved in the conflict in Yemen, documents uncovered by AFP investigators reveal that Tehran has played an active role in supporting the Shiite insurgency in Yemen since at least 2009.
“Although the UN report lends official weight to Riyadh’s claims, examples of Iranian meddling in the country have been clear since at least December 2014,” Business Insider’s Jeremy Bender observed.
In December, a senior Iranian official told Reuters that the Revolutionary Guard “had a ‘few hundred’ military personnel in Yemen who train Houthi fighters.”
In addition, the official said that nearly 100 Houthi rebels traveled to Iran for training, while Tehran sent money and weaponry back to Yemen for the rebels to use.
The injudicious few who substituted hope for judgment when they declared the war in Yemen to have concluded last month should perhaps learn to take a longer view on affairs in the Middle East. This conflict will be raging for some time.