Who’s Stopping the Hodeidah Assault?

Who’s Stopping the Hodeidah Assault?

Wednesday, 13 June, 2018 - 11:45
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.
After the forces of the Arab coalition and the Yemeni legitimacy reached the outskirts of Hodeidah’s main port two weeks ago, the UN Security Council hallways buzzed with activity and many organizations and governments warned of a horrific massacre and demanded halting the military offensive.

Newly-appointed Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani said there is a state that stands against liberating Hodeidah. But he did not name it. However, he made enough hints for the ordinary observer to know which state it is. He said it’s the same country that stood against the protection of civilians in Syria.

Not many thought that major powers in the UN Security Council will intervene in the Yemeni war after they had rejected intervening to restore the legitimate government which came into existence through decisions taken by the UN Security Council that abandoned it after the coup.

Above all, the UN Security Council failed at condemning Iran for its support of the Houthi rebels due to the use of veto power. So why is the coalition abstaining from fighting and taking into consideration the UN Security Council if it can seize Hodeidah, the Houthis’ most important city?

It is because the legitimacy wants to please the five permanent members of the Security Council to get their support in the remaining military and political measures it intends to take to end the coup.

Iran and the Houthis are planning a huge massacre in Hodeidah after their militias and reinforcements infiltrated residential areas to use civilians as human shields.

This was the same tactic used by Hezbollah during its war with Israel in 2006. After it carried out an attack on the border, it deployed its missiles in towns in southern Lebanon where they were targeted by Israeli warplanes. Most of the group’s fighters disappeared during the confrontations leaving cities and towns under the mercy of Israeli shelling and missiles. 

The Iran-backed Houthi Ansar Allah militias use the same tactic, which has compelled coalition forces to stop at the outskirts of Sanaa despite reaching there around a year ago.

These forces are still stationed there and they have not stormed the capital out of fear of inflicting human losses among civilians after the Iranian militias withdrew and stationed inside the city to hide among them.

The rush to liberate Hodeidah is due to being a lifeline for Houthis. Sanaa was profitable to them when they first occupied it up until they bankrupted the Central Bank and looted commercial banks. To the rebels, Sanaa is nothing but political symbolism.

Hodeidah, however, is their major source of money thanks to the fees on merchandises. The port is their source of weapons and support they receive from Iran by sea.

Yemeni forces have encircled the roads leading to Hodeidah, its port and airport, and they’re detecting what’s happening on the ground from the air to paralyze the Houthis’ capabilities and resources. Some hope that the “state” which opposes storming Hodeidah has alternative solutions that prevent bloodshed thus pleasing both sides. It’s unlikely but not impossible.

There are discussions that the Houthis will be allowed to re-position temporarily by getting them out of the city and putting Hodeideh and the port under international supervision. This is similar to a proposal which Saudi Arabia made three months ago and the Houthis rejected back then. The aim was to deliver international aid to residents and prevent the Houthis from stealing it.

Perhaps the Houthis can peacefully withdraw from the city; therefore saving themselves as well as citizens. However if legitimate forces manage to control the port, there will be no need to put it under UN supervision. The coalition is more competent and the Yemeni forces represent the legitimate rule approved by the Security Council.

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