For almost two and a half years, Saudi Arabia and its allies, equipped with US-made aircraft and precision guided missiles, have launched one of the most advanced air force campaigns against one of the world’s poorest countries.
But the military supremacy of the Saudi-led coalition has brought no victory in Yemen. Instead, it has strengthened Yemen’s political disintegration and deepened a humanitarian crisis that has plunged the country to the brink of famine and fueled widespread public discontent in response to major human losses, according to a confidential UN report.
“The impact of the Saudi-led and tactical air campaign is minimal on the ground and only increases and intensifies civilian resistance,” the UN Security Council panel said. It also helps to “consolidate” the military alliance between the Houthis and former Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, who controls 13 of the country’s provinces, including the capital, Sanaa.
The chaos has created fertile ground for extremists, including the organization of the Islamic state and al Qaeda, and the Security Council’s panel of experts believes it “looks forward to terrorist attacks against targets in the West.”
The report notes that al-Qaeda has enhanced its capability and has been able to launch attacks on navalships. The Commission noted the seizure by al Qaeda of explosive devices and a radar survey from the port of Mukalla last year. Al Qaeda’s local leader Qasem al-Rimi recently released a video encouraging his supporters to launch “individual wolves” attacks against targets in the West.
As Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, his authority has become at stake. Its power has been undermined by militias financed and controlled by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the countries fighting to bring him back to power.
Many of Hadi’s senior ministers split and formed a separate transitional council with a vision of southern Yemen. According to the UN Council of Experts, the council has enough support within the Yemeni army (pro-coalition) “to pose a major threat to President Hadi’s ability to govern in the south.”
“The authority of the legitimate government, weak or absent in many parts of the country, has already eroded significantly this year,” the report said. “The ability of the legitimate government to effectively manage the eight provinces it controls is in question,” the UN report said.
In an interview with former US diplomats in Riyadh last month, Saudi officials claimed the alliance was “continuing modest progress in several areas” and claimed that Sanaa was within the range of artillery and that they would launch an attack to seize the city and port of Hodeidah.
However, UN experts seem concerned that if the alliance and its supporters launch a military offensive against Hodeidah and Sanaa, it could destroy the international effort to provide humanitarian aid and lead to a bloodbath in Yemen’s largest city.
The experts’ report also said that the influence of the Houthis and Saleh coalition is gradually diminishing. But they expected the coalition to remain intact in the absence of a major shift in the balance of power in Yemen.
Despite Saudi Arabia’s takeover of the Mukhaba, the Houthi-Saleh alliance still retains its pre-eminence a year ago and controls 80% of the Yemeni population.
The Houthis and their allies have also intensified their attacks on coalition naval vessels, including the March attack on a Saudi Royal Navy frigate by a rocket full of explosives. They may have attacked an Emirati naval vessel with an anti-tank missile in June.
According to the UN report, a strong example of the rupture of Hadi’s power is the failure of his military commander to take control of Aden airport. On April 27, Brig. Gen. Mahran al-Qubati, commander of the fourth presidential brigade, failed to deploy his roster at the airport in order to ensure the security of the Mahdi and his disunity from Emiratis.
Another example was Abu al-Abbas, a Salafist militia leader in Taiz who received direct financial and financial support from the United Arab Emirates, and his forces under the command of the army’s chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Muhammad Ali al-Maqdisi, loyal to Hadi. Other Salafist leaders have established their own armed militia groups and are financially and militarily supported by members of the Saudi alliance.
At the same time, the United Arab Emirates has funded and trained many local security forces, including the elite al-Hadramiya forces, which were established to counter al-Qaeda in Yemen.
“The authority of the legitimate government is challenged by the proliferation of militia groups, many of which receive direct funding and assistance from Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates,” the UN panel said.
“The use of proxy forces, operating outside a government hierarchy, creates a gap in accountability for gross violations that could constitute war crimes,” the commission said.
The committee also confirmed press reports and Human Rights Watch that the UAE and its agents in Yemen, according to the committee, had set up a network of secret prisons in Yemen. The UN committee says it has “credible information that the United Arab Emirates has forcibly hid two people in Aden for eight months” and mistreated detainees in Mukalla.
“The team has launched investigations into a civilian site used as a detention facility where a group of civilians, including an activist and a doctor, are being detained,” the UN report said.