Hudaydah Battle: Saudi Arabia’s last push to escape big loss

Alwaght– On Wednesday morning, Yemen’s strategic Hudaydah port was attacked from air and sea by the Saudi-led Arab coalition. Hudaydah is a northern Yemeni city lying on the Red Sea coast. The port city is of significance due to its extension to the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait in the south and bordering Saudi Arabia in the north. War-torn Yemen imports 90 percent of its food, mainly through Hudaydah where UN inspectors check ships.

Over the past four years of the devastating war, the strategic position made Hudaydah come under the focus of the Saudi and the allied Emirati military strategists. In the war, the port city became a significant center for training army and popular forces to defend against the foreign aggressors, making the western coasts a risky operation area for the alliance’s military ships. The Yemeni forces, in fact, view Hudaydah the front where they can fight to preserve their strategic depth. They do their best to maximally protect the city’s port, infrastructure, and airport.

Hudaydah is the second largest port of the country, with the capacity to accept up to 31,000-ton merchant vessels. Its key features are its closeness to the global shipping routes, the absence of monsoons, and suitable natural conditions. The port’s customs income plays a big role in funding the Yemeni forces’ resistance to the Arab coalition’s aggression. That is why Riyadh and Abu Dhabi seek to seize the port under the ruse of being the main arming lifeline for the Ansarullah, the revolutionary movement which has been leading the country for nearly four years. Over the past few days, the coalition has amassed its troops and armored vehicles in preparation for a campaign of seizure with a help from the local mercenaries and separatists.

In Riyadh’s viewpoint, the capture of the port can take away the Yemen war from its attrition stage and turn the tide in the coalition’s advantage. Hudaydah is the gate to an easy penetration to the resistant forces’ strategic depth, and once it falls to the alliance, taking the central provinces, particularly Sana’a the capital, will be an easy job. So, the Hudaydah battle is the fiercest one since Saudi Arabia waged a war against its neighbor in 2015.

At the end of a three-day deadline to the Yemeni forces, Saudi and Emirati troops launched their push to capture the port city. According to assessments by the United Nations, the coastal city is home to 600,000 Yemenis. So, many experts warn that Saudi Arabia’s extensive air raids and missile barrages endanger lives of a large number of Yemenis living there. The UNICEF, the UN’s children body, has warned that the underway operation could put at risk 300,000 children in the area.

Another issue is the impacts of Hudaydah battle on the lives of the Yemenis who are already suffering from food and medicine shortage. Therefore, a decision by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, with a backing from Washington, to occupy Hudaydah directly targets lives of thousands of Yemen’s civilians.

Despite the imbalance between the coalition and Yemeni forces in terms of military and logistical equipment, the head of Supreme Revolutionary Committee Ali al-Houthi told of targeting two UAE warships only two hours after the fight began. According to him, one caught fire after the attack near the Hudaydah coasts but the other managed to survive and sail away from the coastal waters.

On Tuesday, Yemeni forces hit with missiles the King Faisal military base in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern region of Jizan as well as a military base run by Saudi-led mercenaries in Yemen’s southwestern province of Lahij. So, just contrary to the alliance assessments, the battle is not only not easy but also can become a showcase of the Saudis and Emiratis and their American allies’ losses.

The offensive on Hudaydah began when the US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met in Singapore at a historic summit. But this did not hide the US complicity in the anti-Yemeni operation, as the evidence makes it clear. The French website has recently published a report on the US role and function in the battle, saying the UAE uses American officers to improve its ground forces’ performance in the clashes.

Citing US and European officials, The New York Times reported Thursday that about a dozen commandos with the US Army Special Forces, known as the Green Berets, had been deployed in December 2017 to Saudi Arabia’s southern border regions. The secretive mission, according to the report, is aimed at helping Saudi forces locate Yemeni missile launch sites and destroy the missile supplies of Yemeni resistance forces.

Scot Pool, the Yemeni affairs expert at Oxfam, has commented on the White House reaction to the beginning of the Hudaydah offensive, maintaining that the only thing happens in this relation is a warning against the consequences of the operation, like the one issued by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

But other US officials strongly defended the air operations. Chris Murphy, the US senator from Connecticut, defended a Saudi airstrike hitting cholera treatment center in the coastal Abs District run by the voluntary organization Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres. He said Washington will keep supporting the coalition forces in Yemen.

The US support for the violation of Yemen’s sovereignty and the efforts to cut off the only lifeline to the Yemeni civilians beside the major intelligence and logistical backing to the Saudi campaign is indicative of Washington’s complicity to the anti-Yemeni crimes.

Over three years of war has only massively devastated Yemen, killed thousands of civilians, and caused the largest humanitarian crisis, without any achievements for the Riyadh-led alliance. Financial costs of the war are rising day by day, beside a growing invalidity of the coalition’s justifications for waging the war against Sana’a. The global demands for ending the barbarous aggression are increasing, on the other side. The Saudi failure to conclude the war has driven the behind-the-scene actors to unmask and come to back Riyadh to get rid of a highly scandalous defeat.

But the Saudi Arabian desire to seize control of the whole Yemeni sea borders and enter Hudaydah as a gate to Ansarullah strategic depth sets the stage for a long battle in the port city that could lead to a humanitarian tragedy in the shadow of international organizations’ negligence.