Al Arabiya TV runs a piece reporting on how the sudden announcement of the end of “Operation Decisive Storm” and the start of “Operation Renewal of Hope” caught all analysts off guard. Everyone was left trying to figure out just what happened.
Now, it seems, something like clarity is arising. While the goals of Decisive Storm have been mostly achieved — degrading the Houthi ability to conduct attacks on Saudi Arabia, shipping, and coalition aircraft, as well as destroying arms depots — direct attacks on troop concentrations will continue. The coalition will now seek to embargo any arms resupply from Iran and are counting on a UN resolution to encourage other UN members to take part. Left unstated is exactly how the Houthis will be forced out of cities they have seized, including the capital Sana’a.
Understanding ‘Operation Renewal of Hope’ in Yemen
David Andrew Weinberg | Special to Al Arabiya News
The Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen declared the end of Operation Decisive Storm yesterday, to be replaced with Operation Renewal of Hope effective midnight. Although coalition spokesperson General Ahmed Asiri suggested on Sunday that a “next phase” of activities was imminent, yesterday’s developments still caught commentators surprised and scrambling to explain what the multilateral forces would now be seeking to achieve.
Emphasizing how the news caught so many observers off-guard, Yemen’s press attaché in Washington Mohammed Albasha noted soon afterwards on his personal Twitter account: “I will be honest, I have no idea what’s going on.” The editor of the Middle East Journal, Michael Collins Dunn, gave voice to further puzzlement on his blog: “Wait, What? They won? … Something just happened, but I’m not sure what.”
Part of the confusion was fed by an announcement earlier on Tuesday by Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian that a “halt” to military operations would likely be reached “in the coming hours,” along with reports that former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s faction among the rebels was pushing hard for a ceasefire. Yet General Asiri insisted to the press that “we are not talking about a cease-fire,” pledging that Operation Renewal of Hope would still involve military action to prevent the Houthis “from moving or carrying out any operations inside Yemen.”
Saudi Arabia announced the end of Operation Decisive Storm, to White House approval, and the start of Operation Restoring Hope. While air attacks will continue on Houthi strongholds, emphasis will be put on finding a political solution to the Yemen crisis. Al Arabiya TV has this report.
The White house said on Tuesday it welcomed Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it would end air strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen and back political peace talks.
“The United States welcomes today’s announcement by the government of Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners of the conclusion of Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen,” said Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council.
“We continue to support the resumption of a U.N.-facilitated political process and the facilitation of humanitarian assistance,” Baskey said in a statement.
The Saudi Ministry of Defense announced on Tuesday the end of Operation Decisive Storm, a military campaign led by the kingdom in Yemen to combat the Houthi advance in the embattled country, Al Arabiya reported.
The operation will continue to target Houthi militias as it enters a political phase, Saudi state television reported.
Asharq Alawsat likens the goals of Operation Restoring Hope to those of the Marshall Plan following WWII in Europe. There’s a will do do this and there’s money, but exactly how it will be done is yet to be determined.
If Saudi Arabia’s opinions and policies can be garnered from its media, then the Saudis have all but abandoned Pres. Obama and his Middle Easter policies. Asharq Alawsat — sometimes known as “The Green Truth” as a nod to its line to Saudi policy makers — runs editorials from two former Editors-in-Chief that lambaste the President for his errant views brought forth in an interview with The New York Times‘s columnist Thomas Friedman.
From Tariq Alhomayed:
Obama is always wrong on the Middle East
In his interview with journalist Thomas Friedman this week, US President Barack Obama said that the threat to regional states, including Saudi Arabia, is not Iranian intervention, but rather “internal threats.” Can this be true?
The reality is that Obama has an incorrect view of the region, and this is something that has become increasingly clear since he took office. He is always wrong on our region, and has made the biggest mistakes here, and these mistakes have had major consequences.
Obama rushed to withdraw from Iraq, and now here we see him returning once again. He played down the Syrian revolution and Assad’s crimes. He talked about “red lines” but Assad has crossed each and every one of these, while Obama has done nothing. He played down the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) only to subsequently be forced to acknowledge the reality of the situation, although he still had enough time to blame his country’s intelligence services for failing to realize this earlier.
It is also interesting to note a recent Washington Post report that revealed the extent of ISIS’s connection with the former ruling Ba’athist regime in Iraq, and that many members of the group are ex-members of Saddam Hussein’s military. This is the same military that was controversially disbanded following the Iraq invasion. Washington has made many mistakes in Iraq, and Obama must bear some share of the responsibility for this.
From Abdulrahman Al-Rashed:
Contradictions in Obama’s Doctrine
I tried to ignore US President Barack Obama’s interview with the New York Times because I was sure it would be part of his propaganda campaign for the framework nuclear deal with Iran. Still, the interview’s impact cannot be ignored. Rather than calming the fears of those in the Gulf region, Obama has provoked many here.
Thomas Friedman, one of the Times’ most prominent writers who is extremely knowledgeable about the region’s affairs, interviewed the president. Perhaps this was why the nation’s leader was dragged into arguing his points, instead of justifying them.
What’s strange about the conversation was that Obama commended the Iranian regime, justifying its actions and implying a sense of guilt over what the US had done against Iran.
I don’t know what books the American president reads before he goes to bed or how he understands the events of the past three decades. Tehran’s mentality and practices are close to those of Al-Qaeda: religious, fascist and hostile towards anyone who opposes their ideology. Tehran’s understanding of the world considers others as either believers or infidels. It is Iran that was responsible for much of the violence in the region under the banner of religion—and this was around 15 years before Al-Qaeda even emerged.
Writing at The National Interest, Saudi analyst Fahad Nazer argues that a new, more assertive Saudi Arabia is developing under the leadership of the new King, Salman. While continuing to share many goals with the US, there are differences about how to achieve them and Saudi Arabia is willing and able to go in the manners it seems most likely to achieve those goals.
Almost immediately after the death of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia on January 22 and the ascension of his half-brother, Salman, to the throne, Saudis and Saudi-watchers in the West began speculating about the contours of Saudi domestic and foreign policy under the new king. While the first speech delivered by Salman within hours of becoming monarch stressed continuity, some seemed convinced that Saudi foreign policy in particular might experience an important shift under his watch. A mere two months after assuming the crown, it is becoming clear that King Salman has a different vision than did his predecessor Abdullah, and perhaps all those who came before him. Between restructuring some of the country’s most important political and economic institutions and launching an unprecedented, large-scale military operation in a neighboring country on the verge of a civil war, we could be witnessing the beginning of a completely new Saudi way of thinking. We could be on the verge of a Saudi perestroika.
The notion that Salman intends to forge his own unique legacy, gained credence a week into his reign, when he not only orchestrated one of the more significant cabinet reshuffles in recent history but also engineered a major overhaul of some of the kingdom’s advisory bodies. Royal decrees he issued eliminated twelve different political and economic advisory bodies. In their stead, he created two new bodies, one overseeing the Economy and Development, the other Political and Security Affairs. While some described the move as Salman’s attempt to consolidate power, others saw it as needed “streamlining” of an inflated bureaucracy.
While the cabinet reshuffle and bureaucratic restructuring was the talk of Saudi Arabia for days, the international community was more interested in gleaning clues about the direction Saudi foreign policy might take under Salman, especially at a time of widening violence in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
Saudi media are pushing forward examples of international support and cooperation for their Decisive Storm operation in Yemen. Al Arabiya TV reports on US support, both from Washington and from a visiting delegation of congressmen from the Armed Services Committee in the Senate.
Saudi defense minister Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz met on Monday with Senator Jim Inhofe, member of the armed services committee at the U.S. Senate, and his accompanying delegation, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.
The meeting addressed means of cooperation between the kingdom and the U.S. during the “Decisive Storm” campaign led by the Saudi kingdom upon the request of Yemeni President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi to halt Houthi militia advances and and restore stability and support legitimacy to the country.
On Friday, President Barack Obama offered U.S. support for air strikes led by Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies on Houthi militia camps in Yemen during a phone call with King Salman.
“The President and King Salman agreed that our collective goal is to achieve lasting stability in Yemen through a negotiated political solution facilitated by the United Nations and involving all parties as envisioned in the GCC Initiative,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement.
Saudi analyst Nawaf Obaid has an opinion piece in The Washington Post arguing that in the absence of a strong US policy toward the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is stepping in to fill the void. It will, of course, act in what it sees as its interests, but in forming alliances of like-minded countries, it is not acting solely in its own interests.
Just two months after the passing of King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia’s extensive intervention in Yemen on Thursday should serve notice to the world that a major generational shift underway in the kingdom is sure to have far-reaching geopolitical ramifications.
The new Saudi leadership — centered on a cadre of youthful, dynamic royals and technocrats — is developing a foreign policy doctrine to address long-standing regional tensions. This doctrine is based on the legitimacy of the Saudi monarchy and the centrality of the kingdom to the Muslim world. As the custodian of the holy mosques of Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia is uniquely positioned to rise above the fray of the past decade and begin bridging the considerable gaps dividing the main Sunni nations. With almost 90 percent of Muslims identifying as Sunni, and the Saudis at the epicenter of the Sunni world, the Saudis believe they can meet an urgent need for a united Sunni front against Shiite Iran, as well as the terrorist movements tearing the Arab world apart.
Abdullah’s successor, King Salman, has inherited a disastrous situation in the region. With the Obama administration abandoning the United States’ historical responsibilities and, by extension, most of its prestige in the Middle East, the Saudis have no choice but to lead more forcefully, more coherently and, above all, more sustainably. This mantle is based on the kingdom’s conservative religious base and its unique Arab tribal inheritance. More tangibly, it is backed by $150 billion in spending to upgrade the Saudi military to allow it to engage enemies on two major fronts simultaneously, eliminating the need to rely on foreign assistance in defending the homeland.
Writing for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Anthony Cordesman presents a tour d’horizon of the issues that face the US and Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Definitely worth reading in its entirety.
America, Saudi Arabia, and the Strategic Importance of Yemen
Anthony H. Cordesman
Yemen is a growing reminder of just how important the strategic U.S. partnership with Saudi Arabia really is. It is one thing to talk about the war against ISIS, and quite another to realize that U.S. strategic interests require a broad level of stability in the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula and one that is dependent on Saudi Arabia as a key strategic partner.
Saudi Arabia has already taken an important lead in Yemen that will need U.S. support. Saudi Arabia and allies are now conducting air strikes in Yemen to try to halt the advance of a Houthi militia, with strong ties to Iran, which is attempting to end President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s efforts to relocate Yemen’s elected government to Aden.
… To put Yemen in a broader strategic context, the crisis in Yemen is only part of the U.S.-Saudi strategic equation. U.S.- Saudi partnership and cooperation is critical in building some form of deterrence and strategic stability to contain Iran in the Gulf. Any nuclear agreement will not affect the need for close cooperation between the United States, Saudi Arabia and other key members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in dealing with the broader and active threat Iran poses in terms of conventional forces, asymmetric warfare, missiles, and strategic influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait play a key role in stabilizing Egypt and Jordan, and U.S., Saudi, and UAE cooperation in arms transfers – along with bases and the force of the other Gulf states – are creating military capabilities and interoperability that both reduce the need for future U.S. power projection and greatly enhances the capability of any forces the United States deploys.
At the same time, Yemen is of major strategic importance to the United States, as is the broader stability of Saudi Arabia all of the Arab Gulf states. For all of the talk of U.S. energy “independence,” the reality remains very different. The increase in petroleum and alternative fuels outside the Gulf has not changed its vital strategic importance to the global and U.S. economy.
Saudi Arabia has begun air operations against the Houthi militias who have taken over much of northern Yemen, including the capital Sana’a, and are moving on the southern city of Adan. The operation, called “Determination Storm” or “Al-Hazem Storm,” has so far received support from the GCC, some of whose members may also take part, as well as from the governments of the EU, UK, France, Turkey, Belgium, Morocco, Sudan, Pakistan, Jordan, and Egypt. Several of those have said that they are also willing to take part. Iran has called for a halt to the operation, not surprisingly.
The US government has offered intelligence and logistical support.
The Saudi Press Agency is running brief reports on every bit of support or encouragement being given, including from Saudi Arabia’s Senior Scholars and the Syrian opposition.
The English translation of the operation’s name seems to be a bit up in the air at the moment. Various media are reporting it as “Firm Storm” and “Decisive Storm.”
From Al Arabiya TV:
From Asharq Alawsat:
From Saudi Gazette:
From Arab News:
The American Embassy and Consulates are back to work following their closure on security concerns over the past week. Arab News reports:
US missions resume consular services
RIYADH: GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN
The US diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia will resume full consular services on Sunday, following a weeklong closure amid reports of “heightened security concerns” against Western targets.
The opening of the US Embassy and its consulates in Jeddah and Dhahran was confirmed by Stewart Wight, a spokesman of the US Embassy, on Saturday.
Speaking to Arab News, Wight said: “The US Embassy and its consulates will offer regular consular services as of March 22.”
The embassy has announced that the consular section will resume services for American citizens and will be functioning as usual for both Americans and non-Americans.
Saudi Arabia repeats its warning that if Iran moves toward the acquisition of nuclear arms, Saudi Arabia will as well. Former head of Saudi Intelligence and ambassador to the US and UK, Turki Al-Faisal says that any “deal” that the P5+1 nations offer to Iran will be assumed to apply to Saudi Arabia and its GCC partners.
RIYADH (Reuters): Any terms that world powers grant Iran under a nuclear deal will be sought by Saudi Arabia and other countries, risking wider proliferation of atomic technology, Prince Turki Al-Faisal warned on Monday in a BBC interview.
“I’ve always said whatever comes out of these talks, we will want the same,” said Prince Turki, who has previously served as head of Saudi intelligence and Riyadh’s ambassador to Washington and London.
Saudi Arabia, its Gulf neighbors and other Mideastern countries fear an atomic deal would leave the door open to Tehran gaining a nuclear weapon, or would ease political pressure on it, giving it more space to interfere in regional affairs.
Iran and six world powers known as the P5+1 group are holding talks to reach a deal aimed at assuaging their fears that Tehran is using the fuel enrichment process of its atomic power program to secretly develop a nuclear weapon.
International and Saudi media report that the US government is seeing an increased threat to its personnel in Saudi Arabia and, in consequence, is closing its embassy and consulates for most activities. Earlier, it issued warnings to American citizens working in the oil industry in the Eastern Province.
There are no reports on exactly what threat was perceived, nor who was seen to be threatening.
(Reuters) – U.S. citizens are urged to take precautions in Saudia Arabaia and U.S. consular services in the country have been canceled for Sunday and Monday due to heightened security concerns, the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh said on Saturday.
In a statement on its website, the embassy said consular services in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran would be canceled and it urged all U.S. citizens to take extra precautions when traveling in Saudi Arabia. The statement did not indicate the nature of the threat.
Fox News, citing an intelligence source, said the threat is serious enough that the facilities will have only essential staff over the next two days.
In an op-ed for Al-Arabiya TV, Hisham Melhem, the station’s Washington bureau chief, offers a critique of Pres. Obama’s penchant for vague language when it comes to dealing with terrorism committed in the name of Islam. In seeking to avoid any possible offense with his language, the President and his administration end up using wishy-washy terms devoid of any actual meaning.
Arab and Muslim societies, Melhem writes, do have a problem and it’s one that’s largely self-created. Too many leaders have used religion as a tool of manipulation. Too many have created shadows on the wall to demonize the West. Too many have allowed absurd “religious” inspirations to deflect attention from very real problems created by those leaders.
Failing to acknowledge what the problem is — and it’s not a “lack of jobs,” contrary to what a State Dept. spokeswoman claimed from her pulpit — cannot lead to a solution to the problem. The main burden is on Arab and Muslim society and those who govern them. Pretending it is not will not and cannot lead to a solution.
Violent extremism vs Islamist extremism
“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”
President Obama is a wordsmith. His relatively short political life has been chiseled and shaped by the possibilities and the limits of his language. He bursts on the national stage when he delivered a memorable keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. In fact, he defined his campaigns and his presidency by few pivotal speeches that tried to explain his vision of America, domestic decisions, and how he sees the world. Obama the wordsmith struggled with his language the way Obama the president struggled with his decisions. And just as his leadership style and some of his decisions were characterized by tentativeness, excessive caution and deliberation, his language can also oscillate between that which is inspirational and that which is deliberately ambiguous, deceptive and downright Orwellian. His framing of the Syrian conflict and his claims that his options were the extremes of doing nothing or invade Syria are a case in point.