Momentum shifts in Yemen war

Friday 07/08/2015
Fighters loyal to exiled President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi

LONDON - In what many are calling a turn­ing point in the war in Yemen, forces loyal to president-in-exile Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition retook the strategic Al-An­ad airbase, north of Aden.
Anti-Houthi forces took control of the base and also captured ten southern villages, including the pro­vincial capital of Huta, from Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Anti-Houthi forces are working to secure the port city of Aden by retaking areas in La­hej and Abyan provinces.
According to reports, fighting erupted in Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan, which is under rebel con­trol, and in the southern town of Loder. A spokesman for pro- Hadi forces said August 5th that "the liberation of Zinjibar is now close".
The reversal of fortunes for the Houthi rebels came as a result of a military drive prepared and funded by Gulf states, which trained and supplied Yemeni recruits especially for the task. Gulf Cooperation Coun­cil (GCC) countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emir­ates, have deployed special forces and backed the campaign with hun­dreds of air strikes, which resulted in the capturing of Aden in July.
In a televised address after losing Aden, Houthi leader Abdelmalik al- Houthi said a political settlement with the UN-recognised Yemeni government was still possible, de­scribing the loss of Aden as a "limit­ed" setback brought on by Ramadan. "We would welcome any [media­tion] effort by a neutral party, Arab or international," al-Houthi said.
A military source in Sana'a told pro-Saudi newspaper, Asharq Al- Awsat, that members of the Republi­can Guards loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh are defecting, al­legedly refusing to take orders from Houthi commanders. The news­paper reported dissent within the ranks between Saleh and the Hou­this regarding who has jurisdiction in parts of the country under their control.
In a related development, ground troops from the United Arab Emir­ates joined anti-Houthi fighters, ac­cording to Yemeni and US officials. The Emirati military brigade landed in Aden on August 3rd, according to a report in the New York Times. However, a BBC report said the Emi­rati military presence was in an ad­visory capacity only.
After the failure of the UN-spon­sored peace talks in June, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, on a vis­it to Cairo, met with representatives of the General People's Congress (GPC) party, which supports Saleh, and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby. Ould Cheikh Ahmed now reportedly believes that both sides of the conflict are more open to a peaceful resolution.
"He feels his plan is gaining more and more acceptance among the parties. Riyadh has indicated a posi­tive reaction towards the plan, the GPC is considering it positively," UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said.
Fawzi said Ould Cheikh Ahmed would go to Oman, where he has previously met with Houthi rep­resentatives, and to Riyadh, home to Hadi's government in exile, and then to New York to brief the UN Se­curity Council.
Doctors without Borders, mean­while, said the strain on the Yem­eni health care system meant it was "nearing collapse". Shortages of medicine, food, health workers and a lack of transport contribute greatly to the strife of the Yemeni people. Sources from the exiled government said aid ships are required to dock at Aden, in an attempt to promote the importation of much needed hu­manitarian supplies.