Al-Islah’s bid to dismantle Sa’dah fronts poses threat to Saudi Arabia

The Yemeni military defeat at Kitaf and Wadi Jbara was reportedly caused by the failure to engage by a battalion of mostly Muslim Brotherhood members.
Saturday 07/09/2019
Pro-government soldiers patrol an area during clashes west of Ataq, capital of the Shabwa province, August 26. (Reuters)
Suspicious movements. Pro-government soldiers patrol an area during clashes west of Ataq, capital of the Shabwa province, August 26. (Reuters)

ADEN - There are indications that the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen is implementing a plan, funded by Qatar and Oman, to unsettle battle fronts in the country home, political sources said.

This was happening while voices within al-Islah called for an alliance, which would include Qatar and Turkey, to open direct channels of communication with Iran.

The escalation and suspicious ground movements in areas liberated from Houthi rebels, especially near the Saudi border, came after the failure of a Muslim Brotherhood project aimed at controlling Yemen’s southern provinces under the guise of the so-called legitimacy camp.

The Arab Coalition, which is backing the internationally recognised government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi against the Houthis, reportedly intercepted communication between tribal chiefs and field commanders from al-Islah in Jawf. The communications allegedly advocated a bilateral agreement with the Houthis that would hand over liberated areas to Iran-backed militias. Experts said the endgame is to create a new threat to the Saudis on their border.

Al-Islah members are apparently trying to dismantle five fronts in Sa’dah province through public demands by party leaders that Yemenis fighting on the fronts withdraw.

Hamoud al-Mikhlafi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader residing in Muscat, called on “the sons of Jund province” (Taiz and Ibb governorates) to return immediately from the Sa’dah fronts and join camps funded by Doha and Muscat.

Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood activist Tawakkol Karman renewed her demands along such lines and al-Islah members started a hashtag in Turkish calling for the expulsion of UAE forces, which are part of the Arab Coalition, from Yemen.

Kuwaiti Brotherhood member Nasser al-Duwailah, a former member of parliament, said on Twitter: “I call on President Hadi to introduce Turkey and bring back Qatar to the group of countries supporting the legitimacy camp and to form another group supporting the legitimacy from Aden, a group that will enhance the authority of the Yemeni state over its entire territory.”

There is suspicion of Doha-funded attempts at dismantling the Sa’dah fronts on the Saudi border to move confrontations inside Saudi territory by including Brotherhood elements. Events have proven the existence of a direct link between these elements and the state of confusion affecting the Kitaf front.

The Yemeni military defeat at Kitaf and Wadi Jbara was reportedly caused by the failure to engage by a battalion of mostly Muslim Brotherhood members.

This was accompanied by a media campaign aimed at pulling Yemeni fighters out of Sa’dah and depicting the conflict as a Yemeni-Saudi one, while ignoring that Saudi Arabia was in Yemen primarily to support Yemenis and stop the Houthi-Iranian incursion.

The military pressure in Sa’dah and Yemeni west coast, which is not controlled by al-Islah, was attributed to the party’s decision to freeze confrontations with the Houthis on most fronts, in addition to withdrawing its fighters from Bayda, Jawf and Marib, and sending them to Shabwa, Abyan and Aden.

Sources said the manoeuvres enabled the Houthis to withdraw troops from inactive fronts and transfer them to Sa’dah and the west coast.

Events in southern Yemen have shown the ability of al-Islah militia fighters to mobilise in record time, placing dozens of battalions and military equipment along fronts in Aden, Shabwa and Abyan.

The military buildup in southern Yemen highlighted fears the Southern Transitional Council (STC) has been expressing that military operations under the banner of the national army in Marib and Jawf were not meant to liberate Sana’a but to regain control of southern Yemen.

Media reports pointed to signs of Brotherhood-Houthi coordination in Taiz and of targeting government forces that are not loyal to al-Islah, such as the attacks on the 35th Armoured Brigade and the Abu al-Abbas Brigades.

Reports following the announcement of the fall of Aden revealed the Brotherhood’s project to target resistance forces in the west coast, as suggested by public statements by army commanders. Islamist Brotherhood spokesman for the Taiz axis Abdul Basit al-Bahr suggested that, after finishing with the STC, it would turn its attention to the Tariq Saleh’s forces and the Giants Brigades.

Observers said they were surprised at seeing the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen summoning its pressure and bargaining chips against the STC, something they haven’t done during the confrontation with the Houthis.

One of the propaganda tools is the so-called Council of Yemeni Scholars, headed by Abdul Majid al-Zindani, which is included on the US list of terrorist organisations.

(The Arab Weekly staff contributed to this report.)

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