Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Iran and Saudi Arabia conflict over Yemen, amid fears of regional war

By Nasser Arrabyee/10/11/2009

The five-year old sporadic war between the Al Houthi Shiite rebels and the Yemeni government has entered a new stage with the neighboring Saudi Arabia direct involvement in this war against the rebels.

The Saudi Arabia says it will continue the war with the legitimate Yemeni government to finish off Al Houthi rebels who attacked and occupied Saudi territories on November 5th.

"We are not going to stop the bombing until the rebels retreat tens of kilometres inside border," Deputy Defence Minister Prince Khaled Bin Sultan said told reporters Tuesday.

The Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki warned Tuesday Saudi Arabia from bad consequences if it continues war against Al Houthi rebels.

"We strongly warn the regional countries to be careful, to be vigilant," he told reporters.

"Monetary aid, providing arms to extremist and terrorist groups or actually taking action against them and crushing those groups or the people and embarking on military operations - these all will have negative consequences."

"Those people should be assured that the smoke and the fire they have ignited will entangle them themselves," he added in obvious reference to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi forces killed and injured dozens of the rebels and arrested more than 250 of them in the fiercest battles the rebels have ever seen since the beginning of the current round of war in August 10th, 2009.

Despite the fact that Saudi forces drove back the rebels and regained its seized territories in four days especially from the strategic 2000 meters high Jabal Al Dukahn Jaizan area south of the Kingdom, the Saudi military officials say need longer time to comb the border areas and cleanse them from the rebels.

On November 5th, Al Houthi rebels attacked and occupied the Saudi Jabal Al Dukhan in Jaizan area killing one soldier and injuring 11 others.

About 40 Al Houthi rebels were arrested while infiltrating into the Saudi territories in women's clothes and some of them were members of Al Qaeda, which tries to use Yemen as launch pad to attack the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials said at the end of their liberation operations, only three soldiers were killed and 15 others injured in addition to four women from one family were killed when rebels pounded their houses in Jaizan area. The Saudi officials said four soldiers went missing. Al Houthi rebels, who claim they are still controlling the Saudi territories, said they arrested a number of Saudi soldiers.

"We are waiting for the ground attack from the Saudis and we will confront them with a guerilla war," said Al Houthi rebels in a statement sent to media through emails Monday 10th. Al Houthi rebels are estimated at 10,000 fighters.

About 50,000 Saudi people from about 240 villages in the border areas were evacuated to safer places inside the Kingdom, before the Saudis launched their air strikes and artillery bombardments on Al Houthi rebels.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh confirmed the war will never stop except by crushing the "group of the traitors and agents" referring to Al Houthi rebels. Saleh said on Saturday November 8th, the real war started only two days ago, and his army was only training during the past 90 days of war with the rebels.

The Yemeni government accuses Shiite scholars in Iran, Kuwait and Bahrain, of supporting Al Houthi rebels. The Yemeni officials are investigating now with five Iranians sailors who were arrested late last October on board of an Iranian ship laden with weapons including anti-armour missiles, in the western Yemeni harbour of Midi which is only few kilo metres from Al Malahaid in far west of Sa'ada where the rebels fight against the two armies of Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

"The Iranian crew of the ship destroyed the SIMs of the mobiles and all documents in their lab tops and some of the ship's devices so that nobody can understand where the ship came from and where it was going," The state-run media quoted an unidentified investigator say saying this week. The Iranian embassy denied at the time the ship was carrying any weapons.

On Tuesday November 10th, the Saudi naval forces imposed a blockade on the Red Sea coast of the to tighten the noose on the rebels and prevent any possible support to them. The Saudi officials said they ordered their warships to search any suspected ships sailing near the harbour of Midi.

According to military sources, the Yemeni army is preparing for decisive battles with the rebels who seemed to be exhausted from the tight blockade and cut of the supplies from all directions. The Saudi Arabia publicly says it will stand with the legitimate state against the rebels. On Tuesday November10th, the army said in a statement it controlled the most important roads through which the rebels receive their supply materials. A total of seven cars laden with supply material were destroyed in these roads.

Amid these developments, there are internal and external fears that the current war may turn to a regional one.

Ali Saif Hassan, chairman of the political development forum, a local NGO, said Al Houthi rebels created new justifications for more regional interventions by their attacking on territories of Saudi Arabia.

"Although Al Houthi rebels action was political and media more than a military action, but it has created new justifications for regional interventions," Hassan said.

"Before Al Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, the calls for stopping the war were based on humanitarian and moral factors, but now the calls will be based on the regional and international interests."

Despite the Saudi official say, they finished military operations after regaining their seized lands on November 8th, Al Houthi rebels said Tuesday Novmber10th, Saudi air strikes continued using phosphoric bombs on his strongholds inside the Yemeni territories .

Al Houthi said Tuesday in a statement sent through emails that the Saudi air strikes targeted government buildings in Shada area west of Sa'ada killing two women and a child.

On his part, the Saudi scholar Shiekh Abdul Azeez Al Shiekh, the Mufti of the Kingdom, said in press statements that fighting Al Houthi rebels is a must and those soldiers, whither Yemeni or Saudis, who fight them are Mujahideen.

"Al Houthis are making an additional mistake to their big mistakes, by trying to impose their corrupt faith on the whole Muslim society," Al Sheikh was quoted by Saudi media as saying.

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