Yemen’s resistance forces once again baffled the world with their tenacity and steadfastness. After nearly seven years of war, continuous bombing raids including the use of illegal cluster munitions that have killed thousands, starvation of millions because of the near-total blockade of Yemen and ongoing acts of Saudi piracy that keep even UN-monitored food and fuel shipments from reaching the port of Hodeidah, the people of Yemen have not given up.
The Yemeni defenders started the year 2022 with a clear warning to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE, which so far had tried to remain in the background of the direct conflict while concentrating on their expansionist designs in occupied Yemeni territories such as Hadhramaut and the Socotra archipelago, was dragged into the spotlight when one of its military transport ships was seized by Yemeni coastal defences.
The Emirati vessel, the Rawabi, was impounded and its crew taken into custody in early January for violating Yemeni territorial waters while carrying military equipment as cargo. Information released by the Yemeni Armed Forces media revealed that the Rawabi had been under scrutiny for months, and was being used in transporting military goods to illegal UAE bases on the Socotra archipelago.
In typical fashion, discussions at the United Nations ended up condemning Yemen for using its fundamental right to defend itself. The National Salvation Government in Sana‘a, however, was not afraid to show just what they thought of the duplicitous attitude of the so-called “international community”.
Meanwhile, the liberation of Yemeni territory has continued unabated despite unrelenting airstrikes and mercenary gangs the Saudi-UAE invaders have thrown into the fray. On January 12, the Yemeni military announced that over 500 Emirati mercenaries and terrorists were killed and 850 more injured during Yemeni advances in the province of Shabwah. No fewer than 102 military vehicles operated by UAE-backed mercenaries were destroyed, and 200 UAE-backed troops were reported missing after the battle subsided. The official spokesman of the Yemeni Armed Forces, Brigadier General Yahya Sare’e, warned that “the consequences of Emirati escalation will be great” if Abu Dhabi didn’t drastically scale down its involvement in the war. They should have listened.
On January 17, a major Yemeni military operation struck deep inside the UAE itself, hitting both Abu Dhabi and Dubai simultaneously with a variety of domestically produced missiles and drones. Footage of a massive fire rengulfing Al-Musaffah oil refinery in Abu Dhabi circulated globally, showing that for all the Emirati supposed high-tech defences and backing by some of the world’s foremost imperial powers, a well carried out Yemeni counter strike can still hit critical targets.
While details of the exact damage and casualties caused by the Yemeni retaliations remain unclear, it is important to note that this is to a certain extent unimportant in such attacks. Yemen is waging a war for its independence, territorial integrity and for fundamental justice. In such a conflict, victory is not achieved by inflicting massive casualties on the enemy, but rather by the mere fact of steadfastness. As Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh famously said: “You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and I will win.”
From the perspective of Yemen, everything hangs in the balance: their independence, freedom and even their fundamental religious identity. The other side (the aggressors) will lose far more in an extended conflict. The Yemenis know that this war, like similar anti-imperialist conflicts in the past, can be won by holding out long enough and escalate the cost of war to make it unbearable for the attackers.
The conflict against Yemen is led primarily by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both tribalistic societies and to maximize profit. They are also emulating Western hedonistic culture. For both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, the conflict against Yemen was originally perceived as a fast and profitable military venture. Further, they planned to destroy an ideological opponent (the Islamic revivalism of Ansarullah in particular) to grab Yemen’s oil wealth and increase control over strategic access to the Gulf of Aden and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
When the Saudi-led coalition went to war in the spring of 2015, the idea was to roll into Sana‘a in a matter of weeks. Nearly seven years later, the Saudis still have not gotten further than the southern coastal strip centered around Aden and a large swath of sparsely populated land in the east. Even there, imperial control is tenuous at best. Various tribal confederations exercise de facto control over their ancestral lands, while takfiri groups affiliated with al-Qaeda or Daesh have set up shop in remote areas.
The southern governorate of Shabwah has seen particularly heavy infighting between the Saudi-backed Muslim Brotherhood militias of the so-called Islah Party and UAE-supported separatists seeking independence for South Yemen. Further north, Yemeni forces succeeded in driving out the invaders from nearly all of Jawf province, announcing the full liberation of the governorate in late December.
Of course, the brunt of the human toll of the conflict is still borne by the Yemeni people. A report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) issued in November last year estimated that no fewer than 377,000 people have died in the conflict thus far, of whom at least 70% were children. The report stated that around 60% of casualties were the result of ‘indirect’ causes, meaning due to the Saudi-imposed blockade, famine and epidemic diseases spread by it. There can be no doubt that this war is a war of annihilation, a conflict steered by Washington and Tel Aviv through their puppets in Riyadh.
But that is precisely where the inherent failure of the Saudi-UAE war plan lies: a war of annihilation has to be swift, merciless and efficient in order to be successful. If it drags into a war of attrition, in which the victims put up stiff resistance, the aggressors’ plan falls apart.
Yemen was never a real threat to the security of Saudi Arabia, let alone to that of the Emirates, even after the reolution of September 21, 2014. The Ansarullah movement had no irredentist claims towards the Greater Yemeni lands that had been stolen by the Saudis in 1934, nor were they calling for a religious war against the Wahhabi kingdom itself. Of course, this does not mean that the September 21 Revolution was not considered a potential existential threat in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
It is very likely that the Saudi monarchy feared a resurgent Islamic and republican zeal on its southern borders, if only because it could show an alternative to the Gulf monarchy model that the West had so carefully nourished for decades. There are parallels to be drawn here with the reasoning Saddam Hussein used when invading Iran in 1980: the existence of a revolutionary Islamic republic at Iraq’s borders was seen as a natural enemy to the militaristic nationalism of the Iraqi Ba‘ath, even if Tehran itself made no hostile overtures. Considering how much weaker and dependent on foreign support the Gulf monarchies are when compared to 1970s Iraq, it comes as little surprise that they saw total war as the only recourse.
The Armed Forces, Popular Committees and ancient tribes of Yemen have banded together from the beginning of the Saudi-UAE invasion, standing united in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. With nothing but their faith in God and love for their country as their armour, Yemeni defenders have achieved almost a miracle. Not only have they defended Sana‘a, Hodeidah and Saada, but they have actively pushed the Saudi attack back to the gates of Ma‘rib, a city that is on the verge of being liberated.
Yemeni forces have been operating deep inside Saudi territory for years, with reports of attacks against Saudi forces in Jizan and Najran almost weekly. Yemeni missiles and attack drones have been striking Saudi positions across the kingdom with great efficiency and precision. They have seized an Emirati ship at sea and stopped its arms smuggling dead in its tracks. And now they have hit as far as Abu Dhabi and Dubai with a highly efficient combined missile and drone attack.
The latest Yemeni retaliation strike will be one of the final nails in the coffin of the invaders. Public opinion, worldwide as well as domestically, has been turning against the continuation of this senseless war for years now, as was shown by Lebanese Minister of Information George Kordahi. Internal power struggles in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are sure to erupt in public as the military front continues to fail miserably in the face of the heroic resistance of Yemeni revolutionaries. By the mere feat of their continued defiance, Yemen has signed the death warrant of the invaders.
Back in 2015, the Saudis and Emiratis thought Yemen would be easily occupied but Yemen has shown its resiliance, and has not just resisted but absolutely mauled the attackers. It is difficult to predict how long this conflict will drag on. More blood will be spilled, and more innocent lives lost before the Saudi and Emirati invaders will officially turn tail and run. By mercilessly bombing civilian residences as well as a detention center and several telecommunication towers, thus cutting off all internet across Yemen, the Saudi-Emirati invaders have once again exposed their barbarous nature.
Ultimately, howver, the viciousness of the invaders matters little, and does nothing to change one fundamental fact: the victory of Yemen and of the September 21 Revolution is inevitable. It has been ever since Sayyid Abdul-Malik al-Houthi spoke these words several years ago: “Our surrender is impossible.”