Iran’s media has a message about Yemen: Saudi Arabia is withdrawing. That is what Fars News said this weekend. “Yemeni sources added that the Saudi coalition had withdrawn all its forces from the western coast of Yemen, including Tariq Saleh (an ally of the UAE) and Oluwiya al-Amalqa [who went to to Aden]. Yemen has won.” What the Iranians mean is that the Houthi rebels they back have won. 

Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as other countries they work with, intervened in Yemen in 2015. Iran increased its backing for the Houthis to bog the Saudis down. The Houthis now use advanced Iranian drones and missiles against Riyadh. The UAE and Riyadh no longer agree on Yemen policy. The Houthis have been on the march. The US had opposed the Houthis during the Obama and Trump years but now the Biden administration has sought to dial back the conflict. Yet even the Biden administration is now angry that the Houthis for kidnapping staff of the US embassy in Sana’a. The UN has blacklisted more Houthi leaders. 
Iran’s media says that the Houthis have recently advanced hundreds of kilometers along the coast. “The report comes as Yemeni media reported that a countdown to the liberation of Ma’rib province had begun after the Yemeni army and popular committees made significant progress,” says Fars. Meanwhile Iran is also signaling an opening to discussions with Saudi Arabia. Those talks could involve Yemen. In 2019 Iran launched a drone and cruise missile attack on Saudi Arabia. This was a warning that Iran could do worse in the future. 

The Houthis are clearly pushing their luck, hoping to make gains in Hodeidah and Marib. The Saudi-led Coalition has denied reports of a withdrawal. However conflicting reports say there was a withdrawal around the port city of Hodeidah. According to Arab News “Yemen’s Joint Forces on the country’s western coast announced on Friday a withdrawal from several liberated districts in the province of Hodeidah, including areas in Hodeidah city.” This means that there appears to have been a collapse around the key city. A truce has taken place that enables these forces to withdraw. 

“Our religious and patriotic duty prompts us into defending more important fronts where we can exploit insufficient defenses,” the forces said in a statement, claiming that the Stockholm agreement constrained the forces and prevented them from taking control of the city of Hodeidah. 
Meanwhile Tim Lenderking, the US envoy for Yemen; and Cathy Westley, the charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Yemen, have met Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Saeed, Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak and Aden Governor Ahmed Lamlas. “Now is the time for all Yemenis to come together to end this war and enact bold reforms to revive the economy, counter corruption and alleviate suffering”, State Department spokesman Ned Price said. 
Yemen is now in the spotlight. Once again Iran believes to think it is winning. A setback for Saudi Arabia on any of the frontlines in Yemen will not be welcome news in Riyadh and it will appear as if Iran is empowered. If Saudi Arabia can open discussions with Iran it will face an uphill struggle because Iran thinks it is winning.
Meanwhile the UAE has been increasing an opening with the Assad regime in Damascus. It’s not clear how that might tie in to Iran seeking gain in Yemen, but the whole region generally is connected in terms of how these policies play out.  

Yemen in the spotlight as US, Iran, Saudi maneuver - analysis

Josh Toupos

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