Yemen: The Grind


April 11, 2018: Since 2015 the Shia rebels have fired 108 ballistic missiles, nearly 90 percent at targets in Saudi Arabia. Most of the ballistic missiles are shorter range models aimed at targets in Asir and Jazan provinces, which border Yemen. Few, if any, have hit their intended target either because they were intercepted by Patriot missiles or were headed for an uninhabited area and ignored by the air defense system.

Iran denies any involvement with providing ballistic missiles to the Shia rebels but has, again, offered to assist the UN in persuading the Shia rebels to discuss peace terms. Iran has done this before and no one expects anything to come of it. For Iran, the Shia rebels are a low-risk/high payoff investment because it keeps their Arab enemies busy and looking bad in the media.

In the south (Aden and surrounding areas) many (at least fifty) clergy have fled the country because of the growing number of Mosque imams and preachers being murdered. Most of the dead were conservatives who supported an independent south ruled by Islamic law in cooperation with tribal leaders. There have been 25 such killings since 2016 but fifteen have taken place in the last six months. The tribes blame the Arab Coalition, especially the UAE, for the murders but there is no evidence of UAE involvement. The tribes point out that these killings benefit the UAE backed government in the south and that the dead (or fled) clerics are usually replaced (by the government) with more moderate ones.

April 10, 2018: In the northwest (Hajjah province) Arab coalition and Yemeni troops have spent the last four days advancing into coastal parts of this province which also borders Saudi Arabia. The fighting has been around the coastal town of Midi. The Shia rebels lost Midi in by June 2017 and have been trying to get it back ever since. This most recent battle has inflicted heavy casualties on the rebels because the coalition can apply lots of artillery and airstrikes.

April 9, 2018: In the southwest (Taiz province) government and Arab coalition forces continue more than a month of pushing rebels out of areas the rebels have held since 2015. The most heavily fought over area continues to be Taiz city, near the Red Sea and the current fighting concentrates on taking all the high ground surrounding the city. This is part of an operation to clear Shia rebels from most of Taiz province, especially along the Red Sea coast. Currently, the main purpose of the coastal drive is to find and eliminate rebel bases where missiles, naval mines or remotely controlled bomb boats are being stored and prepared for use against ships in the Red Sea. This is an Iranian idea, to make life more difficult for Saudi Arabia, Egypt and nations that depend on the Suez Canal to avoid taking the longer route around Africa. Hasn’t worked yet but could if Iran supplied anti-ship weapons sink a tanker or large freighter.

April 8, 2018: In the northwest Shia rebels fired a short-range ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia (Asir province) at a military radar.

April 7, 2018: In the north, the Shia rebels launched a ballistic missile from Saada province towards the Saudi city of Narjan near the border. The missile was intercepted.

In the past 48 hours airstrikes on rebel bases in central Yemen (Baida province) and the north (Saada province) have killed three rebel leaders as well as destroying large quantities of weapons and ammo stored at those bases.

April 6, 2018: In the northwest (Hajjah province) Arab coalition troops from Sudan were ambushed by rebels who opened fire on several trucks carrying soldiers, killing over 30 of them. These were the heaviest losses suffered by the Sudanese troops since they arrived in 2o15. The Sudanese government said it would keep its forces in Yemen. The Sudanese troops were part of the reinforcements being sent north, from quieter areas in the south, to push the rebels away from the Red Sea.

April 5, 2018: The UN agreed to increase the inspection of ships carrying relief aid to Yemen, especially those delivering it via the Red Sea port of Hodeida. This won’t stop the smuggling, which is able to get ballistic missile components and other Iranian weapons into rebel controlled areas. Enough of this stuff is intercepted to make it clear that Iran is sending weapons meant to hit targets inside Saudi Arabia or take down Saudi warplanes operating over Yemen. This stuff is getting through in large part because Yemen has always been “smuggler friendly.” With Iranian help (cash and diplomacy) the smuggled weapons kept the war going. This was also helped by the fact that Qatar and Oman had always been active in using Yemeni smuggling networks. But the main conduit for smuggled goods was via aid shipments. For most of 2017, the UN has been pressing the Shia rebels to peacefully give up control of the Red Sea port of Hodeida but the rebels have refused to consider this. Even proposals that Hodeida be turned over to a neutral third party are turned down. This is not a matter of trust, it’s a matter of survival for the rebels. In part, this is because of the smuggling. The rebels have prevented UN personnel from inspecting aid shipments (for weapons and other contraband) and the government claims the rebels have been seizing aid shipments and preventing UN personnel from verifying that the aid is going to civilians. As long as the rebels hold onto Hodeida and Iran still has powerful allies in the UN (mainly Russia and China, who can veto some measures) the smuggling can continue as can the use of food to control civilian populations that are hostile to the rebels. The government and coalition forces are now concentrating on taking Hodeida and other Red Sea coast areas held by the Shia rebels. This is working but it is slow going and has increased casualties among government and coalition forces. Some weapons are smuggled in via government controlled ports, like Aden. This involves more risk, and more bribes, to get trucks carrying aid or commercial goods, along with illegal weapons, to rebel controlled territory.

April 4, 2018: In the northwest Shia rebels fired a short-range ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia (Jazan province), apparently at Jazan city. This missile was intercepted before it could hit oil facility (mainly large oil storage tanks) it was apparently aimed at.

April 3, 2018: In Yemen Shia rebels used an Iranian missile to hit a Saudi tanker in the Red Sea as it passed near the port of Hodeida. Damage was slight. Over the last week, at least eight Iranian ballistic missiles were used in Yemen to attack Saudi Arabia. These continued to be unsuccessful, but one missile, fired at a Saudi base in Yemen did hit the target and there were casualties. The mass missile attack on Saudi Arabia did do some damage when debris from one shot down missile hit and damaged two homes. One Egyptian foreign worker was killed and two wounded. The U.S. warned a month ago that Iran is succeeding in building up a stock of anti-ship missiles, naval mines and remotely controlled bomb boats on rebel held areas of the Red Sea coast. These would threaten, as they already have, military ships maintaining the blockade as well as commercial shipping in the Red Sea (a vital sea lane for Saudi Arabia and, because of the Suez Canal, Egypt.)

March 29, 2018: In central Yemen (Baida province) an American UAV used a missile to kill four AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) members. This is the seventh UAV attack this month. The American UAV attacks continue in Yemen and many of the attacks are not announced. So far in 2018, there have been 23 attacks. As in 2017 (when there were 131 attacks), the ones in 2018 have been mainly against AQAP and ISIL camps and key personnel in central Yemen (especially Baida province). This greatly reduces Islamic terrorist capabilities in Baida, which had long been an Islamic terrorist stronghold. East of Baida province are Shabwa and Hadramawt provinces. The later stretches from the sea to the Saudi border and is largely desert. Along with Baida, these two provinces used to host most of AQAP personnel and base areas. But in the last year, AQAP has been under heavy attack by the Americans and the Arab coalition and responded by shifting more of their terror attacks to the government and Arab coalition forces. AQAP took credit for 273 attacks in 2017 and in the first six months of that year, some 75 percent of these attacks were against the Shia rebels. But in the second half of 2017 half, the attacks were against fellow Sunnis (government and coalition forces). In 2018 the remaining AQAP are mainly fighting for survival against the government and coalition forces.

March 28, 2018: In the southeast (Hadramawt province) an army checkpoint was attacked by AQAP and a dozen soldiers killed and beheaded.

March 25, 2018: Shia rebels commemorated the third anniversary of the civil war by firing seven ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia. All were aimed at cities, three at the Saudi capital and all but one was intercepted. This mass use of ballistic missiles also featured a very visible, and rare, failure of Patriot anti-missile missiles. One interception involved two Patriot missiles (to ensure the target was hit) but both Patriots failed with one exploding in the air and the other flying out of control and into the ground. All this was caught on cell phone video. Because of the multiple ballistic missiles launched a lot of Saudi were up, outside and had their cell phones. Saudi Arabia ordered 600 more PAC 3 (the anti-missile version) missiles in 2015 and has fired over 200 PAC 3s since then. Saudi Arabia has had to hire more foreign contractors to maintain their Patriot systems, which have never seen such high, and sustained use. It will probably be a few months before the report of why those two PAC-3 missiles failed. That information will be shared because there are many PAC-3 users in the region who want to know what happened.

March 21, 2018: In the north (Saada province) Shia rebels claim they shot down a Saudi F-15 operating overhead. The Saudis said an F-15 was damaged but returned safely. The F-15 was apparently fired on by a Russian R-27 air-to-air missile (previously owned by the Yemen Air Force) adapted to be fired from the ground.


Article Archive

Yemen: Current 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close