Yemen has descended into a battleground for a regional conflict over the past 48 hours, according to The Washington Post, as a Saudi Arabia-led coalition launched an air campaign against Iranian-backed rebels who are seeking to overthrow the U.S-backed President of Yemen, Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The action was prompted after Hadi was forced to flee his government stronghold and take refuge in Riyadh.
The offensive – referred to as Operation Decisive Storm – saw the deployment of 100 fighter jets and 150,000 soldiers, targeting military bases, an air base and numerous rebel positions in the Yemeni Capital of Sanaa. It is estimated that 18 civilians lost their lives in the strikes, which are intended to weaken the resolve of the rebels, and bring them back to negotiations for a power-sharing agreement.
Logistical and intelligence support is being provided by the U.S, while Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan and Egypt are lending military support. The U.S has repeatedly ruled out engaging in military action within the conflict directly, while its current level of support adds further complication to the already complex political position of Washington with regard to Iran. The U.S is in the midst of negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran and, while the U.S is backing the Saudi-led coalition against Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen, the two powers are effectively working toward the same goal in Iraq, as they support that government in its fight against the Islamic State extremist group.
As the situation in Yemen escalates, the conflict is seen to be devolving into a battle between Iran and those nations concerned about its perceived expansion. As a major power in the region, Egypt is at the forefront of that conflict, as The Guardian reports the nation’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry pointed out during a meeting with his regional counterparts.
“Egypt has declared its political and military support, as well as its participation with the coalition with an aerial and naval Egyptian force, as well as a ground force if necessary, in light of Egypt’s historic and unshakeable responsibility towards Arab and Gulf national security.”
As Operation Decisive Storm continued, it was noted by observers in Washington that the action indicated a significant move toward independence from U.S influence on the part of Saudi Arabia and its regional allies – as evidenced by the fact that Saudi Arabia did not appear to keep the U.S fully apprised of its plans and decisions regarding action in Yemen. Though the Saudi government had discussed the conflict at length with President Obama over recent weeks, Reuters reports that General Lloyd Austin of U.S Central Command confirmed to a Senate hearing that communication about the Saudi-led coalition air campaign was only received “right before they took action.”
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