On 26 March 2015, Saudi Arabia led an intervention in the Yemeni Civil War in response to calls from Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi for military support after he was ousted by the Houthi rebel movement. Following a socio-political collapse, the government and Houthi forces the Saudi named mission, code named Operation Decisive Storm, began to combat the antigovernmental forces backed by Iran.
Saudi Arabia, back by several Western countries including the United States, has fought the rebel forces to a veritable stalemate. In addition, a massive humanitarian crisis has unfolded as fighting continues. One former aid worker shares his experiences along the front line and his work under fire.
Members of the UAE armed forces secure an area while searching for landmines in Al Mokha, Yemen, March 6, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)
How would you describe your family connection to the conflict?
First of all, I wanna say that it isn't just a "Saudi-Houthi conflict". It is more of a Yemeni conflict with Houthi terrorists - with Yemen's Arab allies supporting it - to stop Yemen from becoming a base for Iran and its proxies like Iran did with Syria and Lebanon. The whole coalition effort was to stop Yemen from falling into Iran's hands and it was a request by the Yemeni government and now former president Hadi who was held hostage by the Houthis until (probably) rescued by Saudi troops.
Anyways, I think I went off topic. My family members who are living in the country have struggled in the war, although it took years for the conflict to reach where they lived. I'm not very close to them but it pained me to find out some were killed by random Houthi mortar strikes in cities and villages in which they have always did in the beginning of the Arab coalition intervention and then claimed it's "Saudi airstrike" and then sadly western journalists believe their lies and they do not understand who Houthis are and how long they have been trying to cause chaos in the country for decades.
They are basically separatists just like the Ukrainian DPR and LPR funded by Russia but in this case they are funded by Iran, to cause chaos and destruction and terrorism. Some of my relatives in the military were KIA during clashes with Houthis and some relatives joined the armed resistance in early months of the war but I do not know their fate to this day.
What experience on the ground do you have in the conflict zone?
Well, I moved to the southern borders between Yemen and Saudi Arabia in 2016 because I had a job there. I was living in a house and unfortunately it was in an area where Houthi missiles would hit everyday. Thankfully the air defenses were always protecting the sky but they can only intercept so many and the house I lived in was damaged as well. A few missiles, artillery shells and mortars would actually hit the cities and villages along the borders that are far away from any military zone or the conflict itself.
Their main goal of attacking civilians, both Saudis and non-Saudis, living in those regions was to terrorize the population and kill as many people as they can in an effort to bring down morale in which they failed to do so. It only strengthened relationships between people to help and work closely with each other. I had connections in the media who gave me the opportunity to be close to the troops defending the borders at that time.
I was sort of working as a "war Correspondent" but not really a correspondent, just a dumb hot headed young guy wanting to see the action upfront and bring reports to a media outlet. Then I thought of doing more, so I utilized my connections to participate in the humanitarian aid in Yemen. It was definitely not a good time in there, war is hell.
Not even aid workers were safe from the Houthis targeting them to disrupt any help from going to the people in every way they can. UN workers and convoys were hit by Houthis but the UN remained on the Houthi side because of their hidden agenda - "Saudi bad" but not doing the same to China and what they did to Uyghurs, and they won't dare to do so.
The famine and humanitarian crisis was caused by the war, yes. But the main factor of who caused it were no one but the Houthis themselves. They always attacked and disrupted humanitarian aid to the people who needed it the most. What I'm about to say might come as a shocker, but not all of Yemen was affected by the war, the many regions that were not affected by the war still resumed their daily lives. Weddings, concerts, events, fares, people going to work unbothered, they had no food shortages or anything, cinemas and malls were always filled with people as if the country is not in a civil war and I wish I could say that to the other regions I witnessed.
My experience on the ground was both good and bad. I, personally like to think that I helped people there with supplies and food but it wasn't just me, many other civilian volunteers from Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries took part. However, most of the aid convoys were disrupted by Houthi attacks and them seizing the supplies heading to locals for their personal gain and nothing else while the civilians in the areas they controlled starved to death, especially during the pandemic of 2020.
Yemen stayed for about half of the pandemic without any covid-19 cases but when it hit the country, the areas where the Houthis had controlled by then, were badly affected due to them never helping civilians as they claim that they are "defending" from American and Israeli "invasion". Unfortunately, most of the Yemeni population are uneducated who never went to school. The older generations that is, the current generation is different but by a small fraction and do not know what is actually happening in the country. Many of their fighters were recruited by force by threatening their families, or those uneducated individuals who blindly believed the Houthi lies that they are fighting America and Israel who "invaded" Yemen.
Some of the fighters who became POWs were crying and weeping when they found out they are not fighting American or Israeli "invaders" but they are fighting Arabs like them, Muslims like them and they said they were fools for believing their lies. Unfortunately, and this is a very underreported topic, their fighters, many of them are children, some are orphans who were exploited to become just another pawn in their game.
Civilians were always their shield, they force civilians to walk among them in their patrols, they use civilian homes as HQs, they force themselves on people in their homes and live among them to avoid being targeted by airstrikes or Yemeni military artillery. They committed many war crimes in which western media ignored like rape, molesting children, execution of civilians for standing up to them or refusing to help them. They are mostly always under the influence of drugs and the plant called "Qat" that is sorta like weed but chewed, however it remains bad to human body and they are high on it most of the time.
Unfortunately, the plant is legal in the country and is one of the reasons why the country, most of the population and the condition of life are so backwards and most of the population remain uneducated as I have mentioned before. This plant in my opinion has also ruined Somalia, Ethiopia, and others.
They randomly attacked and killed civilians and then blame it on Saudi and Arab coalition and that's just what Western media and propaganda needed to begin their hate and misinformation campaign because to them "Saudi bad" "Arabs bad". Now, I'm not gonna say that civilians weren't killed during airstrikes or fighting between coalition troops and Houthis, because it happened just like every war in history. The coordinates for the air strikes were given to coalition pilots by Yemeni army officials. What happens next to where the bombs hit, the blame should also be extended to those who gave coordinates for the airstrikes in the first place.
Houthi rebels at a rally in Yemen (Photo by AP/H. Mohammed)
Why do you think most of the Western world isn’t concerned about this?
It is probably due to the fact that the western world has always been ignorant to issues involving the Middle East, and to them "Oh well, it's another war." Another factor is that their military is not directly involved in the war as it was in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, etc. The western media believe that Houthis are "freedom fighters" when in reality they are bombing and killing innocent people without any discrimination.
They are Shiite Muslims and the west thinks it's like the Iraqi Shiites who were oppressed by Saddam Hussein. The case with Yemen is different as all they want and have always wanted was to bring destruction to the country even before the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was their ally. He went into multiple wars with them, especially in early 2000s when they worked with Al-Qaeda terrorists that targeted western interests, especially American. For example the attacks on USS Cole and USS Mason and kidnapping Western aid workers and American citizens.
All that and yet still, most of the west still view them as legitimate combatants when they are not. Some western media outlets view them as the military of Yemen and ignore the real Yemeni military who are fighting alongside the Arab Coalition forces, gave the ultimate sacrifice in the fight against the Houthis that are terrorists whether the Western media believe it or not. The double standards of the west is that they call the DPR and LPR in Ukraine "separatists" or "Russian backed separatists" but not the same case with Houthis who are not only supported by Iran, but also by Russia.
Many Russian and Iranian weapons were seized by US Navy and Arab coalition navies as well, but somehow they are not separatists or terrorists. To understand the whole gist of the situation in Yemen is to leave their agenda on a side and go to the country and try to understand the struggle that the people affected by Houthis have went through.
To what extent have you seen Iranian involvement in the conflict?
Ever since Rohullah Khomeini took over Iran and dethroned the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in his so called "Islamic revolution", he wanted to be the Vladimir Lenin of the Middle East and Muslim world (then succeeded by Ali Khamenei). Iran has been denying their support to Houthis and supplying them with weapons, ammunition, missiles and all kinds of equipment in early war but they admitted their support later and still to this day smuggling and supplying weapons to them. This was done with Russian help of course and another Iranian proxy Lebanese "Hezbollah."
The Iranian government also sent Ambassadors to the former Yemeni capital Sana'a which is controlled by their Shiite proxies. The main cause of instability in the Middle East was because of the whole Israel-Palestine debacle. Then Iran continued to contribute in the instability by arming Shiites in Sunni majority countries and to cause uprisings so they can expand and annex neighbor countries as they have tried with Bahrain and failed.
So they instigated an uprising in 2011 and another one that is very very unknown to many people was the uprising in Qatif region in Saudi Arabia in 1979 and again in 2017. They tried to expand in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Kuwait and Oman. They succeeded in some places. All these attempts was because of their hatred towards the Gulf countries. The threat to the entire Middle East is not Israel or ISIL, but Iran and only Iran. Similar to how Russia is a threat to Europe and the West and China is a threat to all of Asia. These 3 countries are allies, and the World should be concerned about this, considering the current situation in the world right now, for example Ukraine and Europe with Russia, Taiwan and Asia with China, and Syria and neighbor countries with Iran.
A fighter loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed government mans a position near the frontline facing Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the northeastern province of Marib, Yemen, on Oct. 17, 2021. (AFP Photo)
Is this going to be another ‘forever war’ for the Middle East?
It could be and it could not be. This is not the first time where the Houthis has started a conflict or a war in the region. They have been the rivals of the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh since the unification of Yemen and it became a united republic rather than two separate countries like North and South Korea. Ironically though, in 2014 he allied with the Houthis until they assassinated him in 2017. A shot to the head when he tried to switch sides after all of millions of his assets were frozen.
Ali has also played a role in the collapse of the Yemeni economy and currency by siding with Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War of 1990-1991. The Houthis tried many times to takeover the country but failed and they were successful because they had the help of the former president who probably told them where and when to attack.
The current war in Yemen could have ended long time ago if it wasn't for the U.N interfering whenever the coalition was making progress, proposing ceasefires that were violated over hundreds of times, giving the Houthis time to regroup, rearm, reinforce and make new plans. Currently, there is a ceasefire that has been going for few months, but the Houthis violated it by assassinating and bombing Yemeni soldiers dozens of times.
Do you think Saudi Arabia can achieve their goals, or will the Houthis hold out?
Again, like I said before. If it wasn't for the U.N. interfering many times, the coalition could have achieved the goal of eliminating the Houthis long time ago. The Houthis have suffered badly recently and lost a lot of territory but I personally think they are recovering in the course of this so called cease fire in which they violated countless times so far.
What do you see for the future of the region and for both sides?
Yemen could prosper again if they eliminate the Houthis once and for all and fight the long time corruption that has infested the government since the collapse of the currency and economy.
Politicians stole the people's money. For example, the former president who stole millions from the people into his own pockets. Before the takeover in 2014, the government was planning to modify and modernize the country and education. Unfortunately, the Houthi terrorists funded by Iran attacked the country and took over the capital city Sana'a at that time, robbed the banks and imprisoned Yemeni officials and military officers, causing the nation to go through a political, economic, ethical and humanitarian crisis.
AUTHORS NOTE: The opinions expressed by the interviewee are not the expressed opinions of MikeReports and are solely those of the individual. Their name has been withheld per the request of the individual being interviewed, as well as media organization names and some locations.
Cover Image from EPA via BBC News