By Mohammad Mazhari

Saudis no longer have impunity to strike Yemen: Yemeni expert

November 27, 2021 - 12:8
‘Now Yemenis have the ability to retaliate’

TEHRAN – A Yemeni political activist says that the Saudis no longer have a free hand to strike civil targets as Yemen retaliates.

“At the beginning of this war Yemen didn’t have the retaliatory capability and so the Saudis and their allies had a free hand to hit with impunity schools, hospitals, and even funerals gatherings and markets. Now impunity has ended,” Munir A. Saeed tells the Tehran Times.

“But the reality is that a big number penetrate and hit the intended Saudi target,” the former president of TAWQ, a nonpartisan democratic movement that includes members of various Yemeni political groups, adds.

American officials reiterate at all occasions that Washington is committed to supporting Riyadh against Yemeni missiles and drones. But it seems that Saudi’s heavy investment to buy American weapons has proven futile when it comes to intercepting Yemeni low-cost missiles and drones.

Emphasizing that the only viable option for the Saudis is to end the war on Yemen, Saeed notes, “This is why I say that Saudi investment in expensive foreign weapons having not brought desired results for the Saudis.’ 

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: What are the latest developments in Maarib? Do you expect Houthi forces to take over the reins of Maarib?

A: Maarib is the make or break for all the warring factions. While it might bring an end to the shooting war, it will still have to be followed by intense negotiations to find a workable lasting solution. And that is not going to be easy. Ansarallah (erroneously called Houthi) have an upper hand, not just in Maarib, but in the entire northern part of the country. The only thing that is preventing their complete takeover of Maarib is the Saudi airstrikes in support of the Islah-controlled Hadi group.

Q: Are you optimistic about the possibility of any compromise between the two sides of the war?

A: There are more than two sides to this fighting. Internally alone you have 4 sides, Islah, Ansarallah, Hadi group (aka “legitimate government”, but controlled by Islah), and Southern Transitional Council; each with their own militias. Add to that the Saudi-led military intervention and their Western arms suppliers. If the foreign players seriously detach themselves then I am cautiously optimistic about Yemen’s prospects. We may not find the perfect solution but some acceptance of new realities on the ground can lead to pragmatic compromises. 

“Yemenis are defending their families and their land. The Saudi army is attacking with no clear purpose.”Remember that all of Yemen’s civil wars lasted a few weeks only. The only wars that lasted years are 1962-1970 with the Saudi-Egyptian military intervention and the current war continuing more than 6 years with the Saudi-led military intervention. The common denominator in both these long wars is foreign involvement. 

I believe there are two regional players best positioned to play a leading regional role to bring all Yemeni parties to the table; Iran and the UAE. 

Let’s face the reality: as matters stand today Hadi and his so-called “legitimate” government have not only become redundant in the lives of Yemenis but are in fact spoilers for any possible negotiated solution. They have no role in Yemen’s political future and continuing engagement with them only delays serious solutions. 

In the end, Yemenis must negotiate a new formula for their country's political structure that takes into account the needs of all Yemeni regions within a newly devised nation. The old idea of a full merger failed and brought us to this pass. We must think of a new structure.
The reality is that Iran and the UAE have strong relations with and influence on both South and North Yemen and they can play a major role is calling for a roundtable and helping Yemen recover.  

Q: Do you think Saudis can counter Yemeni missiles? 

A: A small cost-benefit calculation will show you that Saudi investment in expensive foreign weapons has not brought desired results. 

Think about this: it cost Yemen 500 to 3,000 dollars to make and deploy a drone or missile against Saudis. It cost 3 million dollars for the Saudis to defend against an incoming Yemeni drone or missile.

At this rate, even if every Yemeni device is destroyed by Saudis American-made Patriot missiles, it’s still a bargain for Yemen. 

But the reality is that a big number penetrate and hit the intended Saudi target. At the beginning of this war, Yemen didn’t have the retaliatory capability and so the Saudis and their allies had a free hand to hit with impunity schools, hospitals and even funeral gatherings and markets. Now impunity has ended. 

This is why I say that Saudi investment in expensive foreign weapons has not brought desired results for the Saudis. The only viable option for the Saudis is to end the war on Yemen and allow Yemenis to resolve their own problems. 

Q: What are the main advantages of Yemeni forces over the Saudi army?

A: Yemenis are defending their families and their land. The Saudi army is attacking with no clear purpose. The mindset, commitment, and dedication are incomparable. The results so far prove that. 

Besides, Yemenis on the battlefield are used to very little to sustain them. The country is being attacked and it has very limited resources. Its soldiers must rely on booty from the defeated enemy. So, winning one battle is a matter of survival for them to fight the next battle. The amount of American and other Western-made weapons sold in the Yemeni market today are proof of how many Yemeni fighters are captured from the Saudis. Also, the ground battles are fought in Yemeni territory or in territory although controlled by Saudis in fact is Yemeni and in which Yemen has a lot of popular support, like Najran and Jizan. 

Moreover, throughout their history of having defeated many foreign invaders and Yemenis’ obstinate militant tradition, they have become not just battle-tested but also soldiers armed and ready. 

Q: How do you see the role of the U.S. and Israel in the Saudi-led war on Yemen?

A: I don’t think we can find solutions by looking at parts of the region isolated or separate from the remaining. 

Even if we are able to find a workable formula in Yemen, it is highly unlikely that we will be allowed to exercise full sovereignty over Yemeni territory. And those who will prevent us are players regionally and internationally. Clearly, we all need to rethink the meaning and perimeters of sovereignty in post-Arab wars. 

Our regional goal, of course, must be to control our own regional security arrangements. We have three native major powers at play regionally; the Arab world, Iran and Turkey. However, the weak link that incapacitates the regional security arrangement is the Arab side which lacks cohesiveness and the ability to stand up to foreign interference. This is what causes our regional problems and weakness. 

Yemen is part of that weak structure. On the one hand, we need stability in our bottleneck waterways; both in the Strait of Hormuz and Bab Al Mandab. 

And on the other side, we have the question: who should provide this security? The logical answer is: we must provide it. However, given the weakness of one party to regional security, are we able to be secured and give security? We do not want the U.S. and the Zionist regime to interfere with our region or its security arrangements. But, are we able to stop them from imposing a fait accompli on us?

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