Analysis - Ansarullah’s long step to East coast: scenarios of cheaper win

Analysis - Ansarullah’s long step to East coast: scenarios of cheaper win

While the eyes in Yemen are on the Ma’arib battle, in recent days new developments have been taking place in the port city of Hudaydah, increasingly changing the battleground circumstances in favor of Sana’a forces.

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): While the eyes in Yemen are on the Ma’arib battle, in recent days new developments have been taking place in the port city of Hudaydah, increasingly changing the battleground circumstances in favor of Sana’a forces.

After a sudden retreat of the UAE-backed forces from Hudaydah in western Yemen, Ansarullah movement took control of major parts of the strategic province, reported Aljazeera news network. Local forces also said that the revolutionary movement took new areas near Hudaydah city and reopened a road linking Hudaydah to Sana’a, the capital in the north.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people in the city of Hudaydah expressed their happiness over the withdrawal of the UAE-aligned “joint forces” and the reopening of the "Kilo 16" road as the city has been under siege for almost 3 years.

Joint forces are a militant structure in the west coast founded in mid-2019 by an Emirati officer called Abu Omar, before he handed over the command to Brigadier General Haithan Qassemm Taher. Recently, Tariq Saleh, the nephew of the slain Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the leader of the National Resistance group, appeared as its operational commander.

The west coast of Yemen in al-Hudaydah province, especially the port of Hudaydah, is of strategic and vital importance to Sana’a in the war, as more than 80 percent of Yemen's imports come from the port alone amid sanctions and a severe siege. On the other hand, overlooking the Red Sea and the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, west coast is of strategic importance in the war to put more pressure on the aggression front, whose major part of oil trade goes through this sea route. For these reasons, over the past years, the Arab coalition and its local allies have formed a heavy front in the west coast region, especially Hudaydah, in order to continue to prevent Ansarullah from reaching this province. Thus, the liberation of important parts of the province in recent days is another great victory for the Yemeni forces in the 7-year war, which promises to bring complete victory.

Retreat scenario

With the announcement of Ansarullah victory in Hudaydah, the division among the already fallen-apart Saudi-led Arab coalition went even more obvious, with the allies accusing each other of a preplanned “treason.”

The UAE-backed forces who retreated from the west coast in a statement said that they had evacuated the battleground in the province in accordance with the Stockholm agreement, a deal signed in 2019 with Ansarullah to pave the wave for peace.  According to Aljazeera report, the group stated that this decision was taken in accordance with the resettlement plan set out in the agreement which the so-called “legitimate government” is committed to implement.

Samir al-Yusefi, the director of a media group associated with National Resistance group, suggesting that what happened in Hudaydah was not a retreat but a relocation, told Aljazeera that the move was in implementation of Stockholm agreement.

The government of fugitive president Arabrabbuh Mansour Hadi fueled the suspicion by stating that it was unaware of the reason for the withdrawal of the forces under the command of Tariq Saleh. The government’s team in the Committee for Coordination of Resettlement, a body founded after Stockholm agreement, in a statement held that what is going on in west coast is without knowledge and coordination of the government.

Abdullah al-Ajam, a commander in Zaraniq Brigades, told Aljazeera about a “large-scale conspiracy” under which the cities and districts of west coast were handed over, adding that the joint forces’ remarks about resettlement was an “obvious lie and deception” of the fighters that led to death and capture of many of them.

According to al-Ajam, Ansarullah took control of Kilo 16 and Al-Darayhami. The regions of Al-Darayhami, Al-Tahtya, Al-Fazah, Al-Jabalya, and Al-Jah fully went under Ansarullah control after the retreat. Al-Ajam insisted that the decision to handover west coast to Ansarullah was UAE’s and that negotiations were underway to hand over Al-Hayth and Al-Khokha to the movement.

Similar Saudi move: what are the motivations?

The retreat by the loyalists of the UAE has a similar example. Anadolu news agency of Turkey, citing a source in the provincial council of Hudaydah, reported that in early November Saudi forces evacuated Ataq airport in Shabwa province in coordination with local officials.

"Saudi forces stationed at Ataq airport were headed for the Al-Wada'a crossing on the Saudi-Yemeni border," the source said without elaborating, noting that "the withdrawal process was coordinated by local officials in the province."

According to the news agency, on 9th of the same month, Saudi forces left Aden in the south onboard a transportation plane landed in Aden airport to transfer facilities and troops.

According to media sources, Saudi forces stationed at the coalition command camp in Al-Sha’ab neighborhood of Borriqa district of western Aden had previously transferred their armored vehicles and equipment to the Dart Jeddah ship docked in oil terminal and left the city amid tight security measures that included closure of some roads.

However, the Arab coalition then stated that the news reports about withdrawal of the Saudi forces were “incorrect” and that “relocation of forces in war is common to world militaries.”

Meanwhile, there must be three motivations behind there Saudi and Emirati retreats.

First motivation: It is related to an agreement with Sana’a to make concessions to Ansarullah in exchange for retreating from the siege of Ma'rib or Taiz. The Ma'rib battle seems to be drawing to a close, and Saudi Arabia is well aware that the Ma'rib capture will be a fatal blow to what remains of the disintegrated Arab coalition in the war and the credibility of the ousted President Mansour Hadi’s government. It is also said that in recent days, Tariq Saleh traveled to the besieged city of Taiz for the first time with a UN representative. This is coming while Aljazeera, meanwhile, confirmed, quoting an official in the coalition, that it had information that Ansarullah was preparing to move to the city of Al-Khokha and then Mocha, both administratively affiliated with Taiz province and home to headquarters of joint forces.

Second motivation: The second motivation, though slim, is the gradual end of war by the aggression countries as they begin to count the political and economic costs of the war.

Third motivation: This motivation can be built on the official comments by the coalition about relocation of forces to fit the new battleground realities and help check the new Ansarullah advances to the central regions of the country.

Withdrawal without agreement: shadow of new war balance on Stockholm agreement

While some see the withdrawal motivations caused by a Sana’a agreement with the Emirates, Ansarullah rejects the claims and talks about defeat of the Arab coalition in the war.

Commenting on their control of Hudaydah, Mohammed al-Bakhiti, a member of Ansarullah's political bureau, rejected that a deal struck between UAE-backed forces and the movement, but asserted that Ansarullah was ready for agreement to reduce casualties.

Hamid Asem, a member of the Ansarullah delegation at the Stockholm talks, rejected the claim made in the joint forces’ statement, saying that the withdrawal had nothing to do with the agreement, because the agreement is clear and does not see exit of the opposite side from Al-Khokha, 110 kilometers from Hudaydah.

Asem commented on the accusations to Ansarullah about violation of Stockholm agreement, adding: “The liberated territories are Yemen’s and the Yemenis do not leave their country to foreigners.”

Undoubtedly, Ansarullah advances on the ground, creating balance in air and missile strikes with deterrence operations, deep fracture between Saudi and UAE-affiliated forces, and growing international pressures on Riyadh and its Western backers to stop the war made the battleground conditions highly different from those of 2019, the year Stockholm agreement was inked. Now Ansarullah plans for full liberation of west coast and Ma’rib that characterizes a step to break the several-year blockade and improve the economic conditions.

It should be taken into account that the claims about breach of Stockholm agreement by Ansarullah are politically-motivated and are means to support Saudi Arabia as it is the key violator of the accord. Last month and following airstrikes on Hudaydah, Ansarullah called the bombardment a "gross violation of the agreement.”

While the Saudi-headed coalition flouts not only Hudaydah agreement terms but also all international laws about the civilians, who are the main victims of the seven-year war due to the blind bombardment and blockade that prevents humanitarian aids from entering Yemen, Ansarullah is eyeing change to the current equations in Hudaydah.



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