Defying Odds, Yemen’s Revolutionary Forces Score Stunning Victories

Developing Just Leadership

Brecht Jonkers

Jumada' al-Ula' 17, 1442 2021-01-01

News & Analysis

by Brecht Jonkers (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 11, Jumada' al-Ula', 1442)

The people of Yemen, led by the National Salvation Government and the ideals of the September 21, 2014 Revolution continue to stun the world with their tenacity, steadfast resistance and resilience in the face of the combined might of some of the world’s foremost imperialist powers.

Since March 2015, an unholy alliance ostensibly led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has caused unimaginable destruction and devastation in what was already the Arab world’s poorest country. The United Nations Humanitarian Office estimated in a report released last month that almost a quarter of a million people have lost their lives as a result of the invasion, occupation and nearly six years of war. The majority of casualties are caused by famine, destruction of the country’s healthcare infrastructure and the spread of epidemic diseases such as cholera and diptheria that are the result of a Saudi blockade specifically aimed at bringing Yemen to its knees.

However, against all odds, Yemen has succeeded in putting up a resistance that could perhaps be best compared to the tenacious defiance of Vietnam against the US invasion in the 1960s and 1970s. The Saudis and their mercenaries have been completely exposed. They are incapable of capturing any of the most populated areas of Yemen during the entirety of the war.

The aggressors have failed to take Yemen’s principal Red Sea port of Hodeidah, forcing the invaders to sign a UN-mediated local truce in 2018. The Saudis have also faced humiliating retaliatory strikes by Yemeni forces inside their own territory, both by land and in the form of successful drone and missile attacks. To cap it all, the Saudi-Emirati invaders are also rapidly losing ground in the areas of Yemen they had occupied since the start of the war.

The situation for the US-backed occupation forces is getting particularly dire in the city of Ma’rib. This ancient city is an indispensable part of Yemeni history, and is generally accepted as the location of the biblical land of Sheba.

In a more contemporary setting, the surrounding Ma’rib province is the location of some of Yemen’s richest petroleum fields. The main oil pipeline of Yemen, the Ma’rib-Ra’s Isa line starts in this area, transporting approximately 200,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The city and province have been used as a propaganda campaign by the Saudi-puppet Hadi-led regime flaunting the so-called successes of the regional administration to the international community. Ma’rib, under the rule of Saudi-backed “governor” Sultan al-Arada, thus went the story, had “ascended” above the conflict. Except that it hadn’t.

In November, Yemen’s revolutionary forces scored a series of major victories in the battles around Ma’rib, securing strategic mountain ranges as well as the key military encampment of Mas. According to Yemeni officer and military expert Brigadier General Abed Al-Thawr, this victory meant that Yemen “effectively controls Ma’rib already”.

On November 24, al-Arada himself turned tail and ran, fleeing to the occupied province of Hadhramaut in the east of Yemen, far away from the frontlines. Yemeni sources indicate that numerous military checkpoints have sprung up all over town, manned by mercenary units whose job is as much trying to prevent the mass desertion of Saudi-backed forces as it is to actually try and hold ground against the forces of the National Salvation Government.

Even Western mainstream media has been waking up to the importance of Ma’rib in the Yemeni conflict. In a report in October, Reuters called the oil-rich province the “last stronghold of the internationally recognised government”, using a common euphemism for the Saudi-led puppet rulers.

Regarding the self-proclaimed “president of Yemen” Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and his followers, new developments have taken place on the political front as well. After months of negotiations that at times felt more like a hostage situation than a series of political talks, a new “power-sharing government” was announced on December 18. Note that power is only being shared between two forces that are already backing the invaders: Saudi-backed Hadi loyalists in the General People’s Congress (GPC) on one side, and the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) with backing from the United Arab Emirates on the other. This new precarious balance is unlikely to change the fact that STC militias have basically set up their own Emirati puppet state across Yemen’s south, particularly on the island of Socotra, and have even engaged in open hostilities against Hadi’s supporters.

The new agreement, not coincidentally coined in Riyadh, has been immediately met with fierce criticism, one of the reasons being that for the first time in 20 years, it does not include any women. The Islah Party, the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, has also denounced the deal, particularly for its mandated rapprochement with the southern Yemeni separatists.

Across the south of Yemen, for the past couple of years a second civil war of sorts has been raging, pitting the STC against the Islah Party militias in particular. While Islah was a key ally of the Saudi-led invaders from the beginning, tensions have been steadily growing between the Yemeni Ikhwanis and the Saudi monarchy. Recent Saudi crackdowns on Muslim Brotherhood activity both within the kingdom and beyond have only worsened matters, causing Islah to seek closer relations with up-and-coming regional power Turkey instead.

Reports from Yemeni media even include warnings that former Minister of the Interior Ahmed al-Maisari and Transport Minister Saleh al-Jabwani are plotting to form a “new military force” to overthrow the government entirely. The two ministers, both Hadi loyalists who have been targets of assassination attempts before, are reportedly upset with the influence the Emiratis have on the new government, and particularly aim their anger at Hadi’s prime minister, Moeen Abdul-Malik Saeed. While details on this possible future uprising remain elusive, reports state that the two are already in the process of building up armed support in the occupied southern provinces of Hadhramaut, Mahrah and Shabwah.

The influence of al-Shabwani and al-Maisari should not be underestimated. Both are senior politicians who made a name for themselves by opposing the Riyadh Agreement from the beginning. As representatives of what The Arab Weekly called “the Doha Current”, they have fought tooth and nail to oppose the growing influence of Abu Dhabi in Yemen, and approached Turkey and Qatar for help. It is unlikely that they will relent now.

In short, essentially the conflict in Yemen has evolved into a multilateral war, in which various foreign-backed militias and mercenary groups fight against the revolutionary National Salvation Government as well as against one another.

While the Saudi-backed Hadi regime remains the “recognised” government according to major Western powers, its outreach is extremely limited and may collapse entirely following the liberation of Ma’rib. UAE-backed separatists may have signed the Riyadh Agreement and officially moved to collaborate with Hadi, but the relationship between the two remains tenuous at best. And the Islah Party, once a mainstay of the Saudi-backed mercenary units, is trying to find new backers, especially in Turkey and Qatar.

Against all the myriad groups and elements, the National Salvation Government of Yemen has held fast. Loyal to the ideals of the September 21 Revolution, the revolutionary forces in Sana‘a have defied all odds and beaten back the imperialists time and again. By continuously defeating the Saudis both in Yemen and on their own turf, developing their own missile program and drone aircraft, and even producing a fully domestically designed and manufactured series of armoured personnel carriers called the Baas-1, the revolutionary forces of Yemen have made it clear to the world that they are nowhere near giving up.

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