Alwaght – On September 23, when the Saudi government celebrated the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the kingdom, the young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an address boasted of the monarchy’s ability to confront all of the foreign threats, saying “we will not allow anybody to violate our national sovereignty and security.”
But only a couple of hours later, an attack dismissed his claims of being strong for self-protection. On Monday, the news of his half a billion superyacht having been bombed by Samaad 3 drone operated by Yemen’s Ansarullah movement hit the media news headlines. The news came while the Saudi prominent social media activist, nicknamed Mujtahid, revealed that the crown prince passes much of his time on his yacht on the Jeddah coasts for the fear of assassination by his opponents, including the rival royals. The attack, carried out by the forces of a poor country and for over three years under a full sea, air, and land blockade, very well reminded him of how his remarks were disconnected from reality.
Now it has been three years since Saudi Arabia, assisted by UAE and a couple of other allies, waged a full-scale aggression on Yemen. For a year now, Yemen’s Ansarullah and other popular groups expanded their anti-Saudi operations beyond the Yemeni borders, introducing a new balance of threat by targeting key sites inside Saudi Arabia and the UAE by missiles.
Saudi Arabia military: big but weak
The Yemen war very well exposed to the world the Saudi military weakness that for decades the Arab kingdom rulers tried to cover up through huge arms purchases from their Western allies.
Saudi Arabia is the traditional buyer of the American weapons. The Guardian newspaper has recently reported that over the past five years, the US arms sales accounted for the 34 percent of the world’s total arms sales, with half of them supplied to the West Asian allies. The report added that for the tenth time in a row, the region’s arms purchases doubled on an annual basis, continuing that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE are the top regional buyers.
The Guardian also shed light on the Saudi-British arms deals, maintaining over the half of London arms sales are to the oil-wealthy kingdom, adding that the British arms exports to Riyadh are now 225 percent more than in the past. The British daily revealed that since the war on Yemen began, Saudis sealed deals with Britain for 78 fighter jets, 72 combat helicopters, and 328 tanks.
Germany is another Western arms supplier to the Saudi government. Last week Germany’s Economy Minister Peter Altmeier approved arms sales to Saudi Arabia after the ruling coalition, on top of it Chancellor Angela Merkel, agreed to end deliveries to countries involved in the Yemen war, the local media reported. The list, seen by the Spiegel online magazine, features artillery positioning systems for armored vehicles, Russia’s Sputnik news reported. So by the new arms provision, Berlin and Riyadh officially resumed military cooperation after hiatus.
According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Saudi Arabia occupies the second place after India as the world’s largest arms purchaser, with a large part of the arms and ammunition flowed to the monarchy after the anti-Yemeni campaign. Reports suggest that of the $208 billion of current year’s budget, $56 billion, equaling 21 percent of the whole budget, went to the military spending, while the country’s budget struggles with $52 billion of the deficit.
Despite the huge military assistance by the Western allies, the Saudi rulers have failed to turn the tide to their favor in the Yemen war. A couple of months ago, they said they intended to buy the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft and missile systems in an effort to protect their skies from Ansarullah missiles.
Yemen’s wonderful rocket and drone advances while under blockade
The Saudi-led Arab alliance’s blockade on Yemen has been in place since March 2015. During the time, the Arab coalition has been unceasingly pounding the already impoverished country, killing thousands and destroying the infrastructure. But the campaign has so far failed to bring the Yemenis to their knees. In the beginning, the revolutionary committees used the army’s weapons, including the missiles, to respond to the aggression. The missiles were mainly ground-to-ground with a range of between 120 and 320 kilometers.
The military embargo and the need for missiles with longer range pushed the Yemenis to develop the rage of their missiles. The outcome was the production of missiles with a range from 500 to 1000 kilometers.
According to an official in the Yemeni defense ministry, since the beginning of the year, Yemen fired over 90 ballistic missiles on the Saudi airports and military sites in response to the ongoing hostilities. Furthermore, in July, Ansarullah attacked an oil refinery belonging to the Saudi oil giant Aramco in the capital Riyadh, displaying that Yemen missiles’ reach now goes beyond 1000 kilometers.
Though Yemen’s missile advances are far from enough to create a balance of power with the heavily armed Riyadh and Abu Dhabi armies, it can deliver a considerable deterrence factor to the Yemenis. The Saudis cannot cover up their worries of the Yemeni missiles despite their expensive Patriot air defenses
Yemen: Saudi Arabia’s political and military quagmire
Bin Salman, who, is also the defense minister, imagined seizing control of the whole of Yemen within a few weeks on the strength of modern weapons and all-out backing by the US-headed Western allies. But the Yemenis, led by Ansarullah, frustrated this dream of the Saudis who now count the costs of war and are under international pressure for heinous violations.
A recent report published by the rights groups blamed Riyadh for the critical humanitarian conditions in Yemen. The Saudi officials are concerned that the UN Security Council examines the report. So, they are lobbying to prevent UNSC investigation into the case, or at least prevent Riyadh’s condemnation.
Leonid Isayev, a professor of Asia and Africa studies at the Higher School of Economics of St Petersburg State University, citing sources from the Russian embassies in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, said that Riyadh seeks to gain Moscow favor at the UNSC, as it seeks the Russian mediation for contacts with Iran and Ansarullah.
Bin Salman’s struggle to move out of the military and diplomatic swamp of Yemen indicates the incapability to end the war with success, as its continuation can even broaden Ansarullah rocket capabilities and thus pose greater risks to the Saudi territories.