Peace talks between the Saudis and Iran are having no more success than those going between Iran and the Western nations over lifting sanctions on Iran. Efforts to negotiate a settlement of the issues in Yemen and end the seven-year civil war are still stalled because of two “non-negotiable” issues. First, there is the Iranian refusal to give up their presence and support of the Yemen Shia. This is unacceptable to Saudi Arabia and most other Arab states because they can see what happened in Lebanon when the Iranian presence and support of the Hezbollah militia was allowed to persist. The second difficult issue is calls for partitioning Yemen again. This has been the case in the past and most Yemenis came to believe unity was preferable. With Iran refusing to give up their control of the Shia north, partition is even less acceptable. No one has come up with a viable solution yet.
The new Iranian government has also adopted negotiating tactics that demand concessions before any serious bargaining begins. This is even more difficult when the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) is in charge, as is the case in Yemen. The Iranian 2020 elections were rigged (as they traditionally are) so the new president would be Ibrahim Raisi, an infamous mass-murderer and recognized war-criminal. Putting Raisi into such a public position is another example of how desperate Iran is to make clear to opponents in Iran, Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere what they are up against. Raisi took office on August 3rd and quickly addressed the sanctions situation. He insisted that Iran would not negotiate with the West until the 2017 sanctions were first lifted. Nations seeking to negotiate a new peace deal with Iran discovered that Raisi had the support of the religious dictatorship in Iran as well as the IRGC. In Yemen the Iranians demand that any peace deal include continued Iranian access to Yemen and autonomy for the Shia rebels in their home province on the Saudi border. This would mean continued use of Iranian cruise and ballistic missiles against Saudi targets. The Iranians would deny any responsibility, as they currently do for similar cruise missile and UAV attacks launched from Iran on Saudi Arabian targets and Persian Gulf shipping. Iran blames it on local rebel groups and so far gets away with it. These are called “false flag” operations in which you make an attack that is disguised as by someone else. Iranians have been false flagging for centuries, as have many other nations in the region. Iran is considered one of the more adept and habitual users of false flag operations.
Despite those peace talks, or perhaps because of them, over the last month, the Saudi Air Force has increased its airstrikes in and around the Shia occupied capital Sanaa and elsewhere. The airstrikes were much heavier in central Yemen (Marib Province), where a year-long Shia offensive continues. More airstrikes were carried out in the northwest (Hodeida province) where a government offensive has been pushing back Shia forces, especially those near the Red Sea port of Hodeida. In the southwest (Taiz province) Shia rebels continue losing ground as a government offensive to reach the coast and disrupt rebel access to Hodeida has succeeded.
The rebels have made some progress in Marib in the last few months, but November was not a good month, with rebel attackers stalled or in retreat and taking heavy casualties all over Yemen.
December 8, 2021: In the south (Aden) the newly appointed governor of the Central Bank and his governor are trying to come up with a way to halt the decline in the value of the local currency. These two men were called in to replace their predecessors who were fired two days ago because of an unexpected collapse in the value of the Yemeni rial, which hit a record low against the dollar. It now costs 1,700 rials to purchase an American dollar, which is used to purchase many exports and it used to cope with inflation. Since early 2020 the Yemeni economy has suffered accelerating decline and the best measure of that has been the falling value of the Yemeni rial. A year ago, it cost 840 rials to buy a dollar. This was down from 720 rials per dollar in July 2020. That’s what it was in late 2018 and a lot of foreign exchange was spent to get it back under 700 rials per dollar. In early 2020 it was 623 rials per dollar but has been rising ever since. The currency collapse accelerated in early 2020 when the rebels banned the use of new rials issued by the government based in Aden. Enforcing the ban is seen as another money raising opportunity for the rebels. The distinctive new southern rials can be seized in the north and used by the rebels to buy things from the south.
At the start of the civil war (early 2015) it cost 250 rials to buy a dollar. By early 2018 it was 425 rials and six months later it was 650 rials. This was not unexpected. In early 2018 Saudi Arabia transferred $2 billion to the Yemen Central Bank to support the exchange rate of the Yemeni currency and keep food (and other) prices down in Yemen. This worked at first and the value of the Yemeni currency immediately rose ten percent (against the dollar). That did not continue because the Shia rebels had looted the Central Bank of at least four billion dollars in rials in 2015 and that contributed to a rapid decline in the purchasing power of the rial as the rebels spent more of this loot. Then there were the counterfeit rials.
At the end of 2016 the U.S. and Germany revealed that they had detected and disrupted an Iranian currency counterfeiting operation that had already produced several hundred million dollars’ worth of Yemeni currency. This was apparently used to bolster the Shia rebels while at the same time weakening the Yemeni government and their Arab allies. The Iranian currency counterfeiting was carried out by the IRGC Quds Force. Laws were broken in Germany to obtain the special materials needed to make the counterfeit bills. The remaining stocks of the counterfeit rials were apparently dumped into the Yemeni economy before everyone got to know how to detect the fakes and refuse to use them. The Shia rebels had always planned to use currency manipulation as a last-ditch weapon. By late 2016 the Shia rebels made financial preparations to abandon the capital (Sanaa) and that included withdrawing over a billion dollars’ worth of Yemeni currency from the economy and moving the cash north to the rebel homeland Saada province. At the same time a lot of portable assets (computers, electronics of all sorts, some machinery) are being bought or “seized in lieu of revolutionary taxes” and moved north.
December 7, 2021: The Shia rebels claim to have today sent “several” ballistic missiles 25 cruise missiles against the Saudi capital. These were meant to hit the defense ministry and oil facilities in Riyadh. There were no reports from Riyadh about explosions or damage on the ground.
Saudi airstrikes in Sanaa, the rebel occupied capital, hit a ballistic missile launch site for one of the ballistic missiles fired at the Saudi capital the day before as well as several other targets where Iranian missiles and UAVs are stored or assembled.
The Americans revealed that one of its warships in the Arabian Sea (northwestern Indian Ocean between India and Arabia) halted and searched two small transports because of information indicating smuggling. A search of the cargo in each ship revealed a large quantity of Iranian weapons including 171 of the new Iranian Type 358 loitering munition plus eight ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles). The Type 358s captured appear to be a copy of the one the Hero loitering munitions produced by an Israeli firm. The Type 358 most closely resembles the Hero-120 is one of many similar loitering munitions that Israeli firm Uvision has been developing and selling since 2011. A Hero-120 weighs 12.5 kg (27.5 pounds) including a 4.6 kg warhead. Max endurance is 60 minutes and max range of the control signal is 40 kilometers. The smallest Hero system is the Hero 20, which weighs 1.8 kg (four pounds) including a 200-gram (7 ounce) warhead, Endurance is 20 minutes and operator range is 10 kilometers. Hero 30 weighs 3 kg (6.6 pounds) with a .5 kg (1.1 pound) warhead, and 30 minutes endurance. Hero 70 weighs 7 kg (14.4 pounds) with a 1.2 kg (2.6 pound) warhead and 45 minutes endurance. All these weapons are stored and fired from a canister and the smaller three are designed to be carried by infantry. All use the same controller and digital camera. All use fold-out wings and an electric motor with the propeller in the rear that provides speeds of up to three kilometers a minute. Cruising speed, to obtain max endurance, is about half that. Hero has been exported to many foreign customers, including the U.S. Marine Corps. The Hero-120 could be used to attack air defense systems, helicopters or large UAVs used by the Saudi forces in Yemen. Hero-120 is not capable of going after jet fighters. Israeli firms have pioneered the development of loitering munitions since the 1980s and is considered the leading developer and manufacturer of these systems.
The captured missiles were apparently headed for Yemen, where final delivery would probably be made by fishing boats carrying cargoes of weapons rather than recently caught fish. There are so many of these fishing boats off the Red Sea coast of Yemen that not all can be searched and the smuggler boats seek to appear less suspicious than the actual fishing boats. Iran pays what it takes to get this smuggling done and there are plenty of skilled smugglers in Yemen looking for work, no questions asked.
December 6, 2021: In the north, the Saudis detected and destroyed two Shia cruise missiles (bomb equipped UAVs) headed for the Saudi border and shot them down.
In Sanaa, the rebel-controlled capital, Shia rebels fired two ballistic missiles towards the Saudi capital Riyadh, which is a thousand kilometers away in central Saudi Arabia. One was intercepted before it got near Riyadh while the second one was intercepted over Riyadh. There are many foreigners in Riyadh so you cannot conceal missiles being intercepted or hitting targets. All that was reported overnight was two explosions in the night sky, indicating a Pac-3 missile intercepting a ballistic missile. Not a common sight over the capital but not unknown either since Iran started supplying the Yemeni rebels with longer range ballistic missiles.
In the south (Aden) police revealed they had identified and arrested several men responsible for several October bombings, one at the airport that left five dead airport and another against the city governor that killed five. The arrested Shia terrorists also killed the wife of a journalist in a November bombing. It took the police and military intelligence several weeks to identify the Shia men responsible and find that they were still in the city planning more attacks.
December 5, 2021: In the north, the Saudis detected and destroyed four Shia cruise missiles (bomb equipped UAVs) headed for the Saudi border and shot them down.
December 4, 2021: In Sanaa, a Saudi airstrike destroyed a workshop for assembling landmines and explosives equipped UAVs. Also hit was a weapons and ammunition warehouse and a nearby ballistic missile launch site.
The Saudi sponsored mine clearing effort had a record week, eliminating a record 1,500 explosive devices in one week. The landmines have become a major problem and the Arab coalition mine clearing troops have already cleared or disposed of over 40,000 mines. This includes mines the rebels have not had a chance to use yet. Because the rebels keep poor records of where they plant them and have no plans to remove them, the orphaned landmines are going to be a problem for a long time. The rebel held capital is defended by at least 60,000 mines and many of these will still be in the ground long after the war is over. The Arab coalition also trains and pays Yemenis to do some of this work and eventually the local mine clearing teams will carry on by themselves.
November 30, 2021: In Sanaa a Saudi airstrike hit an Iranian IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) facility. The IRGC is the separate military force formed in the 1980s to protect the religious dictatorship that has ruled Iran since the 1980s. The Quds Force is a component of the IRGC that instigates, supervises, and sustains foreign rebellions and terror campaigns that might expand Iranian power and keep potential enemies on the defensive. The IRGC is also the main component of the radical faction in the Iranian government. The radicals, who put the expansion of Iranian power above everything else, are at war with the “nationalists” in the Iranian leadership that want to emphasize improving the economy and living standards for Iranians. Most of the religious rulers of Iran see the nationalists as a threat and have given radicals, including the Quds Force, more authority, and resources in 2021. Yemen is seen as the cheapest and most successful of Iran’s overseas wars. Since late 2020 a new Iranian ambassador in Yemen has been a former Quds Force general who is in Yemen more as a Quds Force commander than a diplomat. This ambassador doesn’t make many requests, but he does issue a lot of orders and today’s Saudi airstrike hit one the IRGC facilities in Sanaa the “ambassador” uses to control military operations in Yemen.
November 29, 2021:
In southeast Yemen (Mahra province) border security has apparently improved to the point where the Saudis could withdraw the border security forces they have there. Mahra province includes the entire border with Oman. The ancient Oman smuggling route is controlled by the local Mahra tribe, which lies astride the Yemen/Oman border. Marah province borders Saudi Arabia in the north and Oman in the east. Earlier in 2021 the Saudis and Omanis agreed to lock down their mutual border. The Yemen/Oman border has received help from Saudi troops who have been in Mahra province since 2017. The Saudis were only concerned about the Iranian arms smuggled to the Shia rebels via nearby ports in Mahra and Oman. Most of the Mahra smugglers cooperated, if only because long-term it is better to do business with the Saudi government than be at war with them. The new border controls also checked visitors for Iranians or Shia rebels trying to cross with a valid ID. The Iranians paid well for moving arms across the border but the Saudi troops operated checkpoints and patrols that made it difficult to get the smuggled weapons to rebel-controlled territory 300 kilometers to the west. The Oman government helped by arranging talks between the Saudis and Mahra tribal leaders from Oman and Yemen. Eventually a deal was worked out and Iran lost regular use of the Oman land route to the Yemen rebels. Iran was not completely shut out because Yemen remains one of the most corrupt nations in the world and with large enough bribes you can buy the access you need. While it is suffering a cash flow crisis because of sanctions, Yemen is still the cheapest Quds operation and getting the additional cash for larger bribes is not a major problem.
While Oman maintains good relations with Iran, it also maintains even better relations with the United States and Britain. The Saudis are an ally, so Oman does not take orders from the Saudis but does get along with them. Iran is another matter. The Omanis try to maintain good relations with the Iranians, but not at the expense of antagonizing the Saudis.
November 28, 2021: In the southwest (Taiz province) Shia rebels lost over 200 dead trying to halt an offensive by government forces (southern militias with Saudi air support). The rebels withdrew, blowing up six bridges and leaving behind hundreds of newly planted landmines and other explosive traps in buildings. The southern militias contain a lot of Yemeni Sunnis who suffered under brief rebel occupation of southern areas and many have been fighting for several years. The Saudis provided basic training and advanced training for militia leaders. The Saudis continue to provide a few military advisors for each brigade as well air controller teams who call in air and artillery strikes. The airstrikes use GPS and guided bombs and laser guided missiles. Once the militiamen and their leaders gain some experience using this air support, they keep their own casualties down while inflicting heavy losses on any rebels who try to hold a position.
November 25, 2021: In rebel-occupied Sanaa, Saudi airstrikes destroyed several military facilities near the Presidential Palace.
November 12, 2021: Responding to pressure from the EU (European Union), Turkey halted airline ticket sales to citizens of Iraq, Yemen and Syria to travel to Belarus. Middle Eastern migrants were traveling to Belarus with the intention of entering Poland, Lithuania, or Latvia, with the help of the Belarus government and military.
November 10, 2021: In Yemen, Shia rebels seized the American embassy compound, which has been inactive since 2015 but still considered embassy property and immune from seizure. Shia rebels also south out and arrested Yemenis who still worked for the Americans or used to. UN aid personnel were arrested as well.
November 9, 2021: In the south (Aden) a car bomb meant for journalist Mahmoud Otmi killed his pregnant wife instead. Otmi wrote numerous articles criticizing the Shia rebels.