Saudi Arabia Plans To Starve Yemen’s Houthis Into Submission

From Reuters:

Global food crises worsened significantly in 2016 and conditions look set to deteriorate further this year in some areas with an increasing risk of famine, a report said on Friday.

“There is a high risk of famine in some areas of north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen because of armed conflict, drought and macro-economic collapse,” the Food Security Information Network (FSIN) said.

As reported by Al-Monitor, the Saudi-led coalition hopes to conquer the Red Sea port of Hodeidah.  As written there,

Proponents of the operation, including officials in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia as well as some in the State Department and Pentagon, say it could pressure the Houthis into agreeing to return to the negotiating table, and bolster relations between Washington and Gulf allies.

In other words, Saudi Arabia and the UAE hope to use food as a weapon to crack the enemy that has thus far resisted their invasion.

When we look at the crowd-sourced wikimedia map of Yemen below, we see a desperate stalemate.  Under the Gulf Cooperation Council banner, around 10,000 GCC troops, mostly Saudis, have tried to push up from Aden into the highlands surrounding Sa’ana, the capital now held by the increasingly Iranian-aligned Houthis.  The GCC offensive has been stuck at Ma’rib since October 2015.

Yemeni campaign March 31st, 2017
Source: Wikimedia.  Original annotations

This is partially because Yemen’s wild interior keeps flaring up with al-Qaeda; it’s also because GCC troops have never fought a long war before, and are struggling to manage advances on their own.  As the Obama administration scaled back support at the end of his term, GCC forces lost critical, professional air support and supplies.

Meanwhile, the Houthis have been fighting a traditional Yemeni war: fortifying highlands, staying out of major conventional battles, and wearing down enemy forces via hit and run tactics.  The longer the war has gone on, the more the Houthis have been forced into Iran’s orbit, since Iran is the only major supplier of arms for the Houthis.

The Houthis have also become an increasingly capable military: their long-range missile strikes inside Saudi Arabia itself rattle the border.  Holding up U.S.-trained and U.S-armed GCC troops for a year and a half is testament that the Houthis, while lacking professional uniforms, are no combat slouches.

Now Saudi Arabia is gambling that a joint assault on the last major Yemeni port in Houthis hands will force them to the bargaining table.  Unable to crack Ma’rib, they will instead starve Houthi Yemen.  It’s not like Saudi Arabia is particularly bothered by human rights violations.

Will the Americans let them get away with it?  Quite possibly; Americans are fast giving up on the notion that they should be the world’s morality police.  Yemen could be a disturbing preview of what the post-human rights world will look like.

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