EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Arab Coalition in Yemen is facing three internal challenges: differences between Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, Qatari meddling, and recent tensions between Saudi Arabia and Morocco. Despite these complications, new developments show that over the long run there is a likelihood of a strategic response to the stalemate in Yemen and to other Iran-related problems in the form of an upgrading of the scattered and divided Arab Coalition into a formal and organized infrastructure similar to NATO.
The Arab Coalition, which consists of Yemeni government forces, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Morocco, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Sudan, Jordan, and Academi (formerly Blackwater) mercenaries, is on the verge of a potentially decisive battle to liberate the port city of Hodeida from Houthi control. The offensive, dubbed “Golden Victory,” had been temporarily paused to allow the UN to negotiate a political resolution to the stalemate, including a Houthi withdrawal from the city. This resolution would avoid mass civilian casualties while clearing a path for the Coalition, backed by American, British, and French intelligence and logistical support, to secure the airport, which had served as the main entry point for humanitarian aid into the country as well as for Iranian missiles and other advanced weaponry. Having refocused on gaining ground on the outskirts of Hodeida and other parts of the country, the forces are bracing for what could be a long and grueling task ahead.
The war in Yemen has dragged on for three years. The Saudi-led coalition has faced numerous obstacles: untrained ground forces, rough terrain that has challenged the effectiveness of their air campaign, flawed or fluid intelligence provided by Western allies, a merciless enemy that has recruited child soldiers, tortured prisoners, and used civilian targets and entire towns as hostages and human shields, an influx of sophisticated weaponry and training from Iran and Hezbollah (as even the UN now admits), as well as assorted terrorist organizations seeking to destabilize the situation. Communicating this complicated set of facts to Western states used to quick, decisive victories, while at the same time countering Iran-backed propaganda machinery and resolving internal disputes, has also been challenging.