Country Risk

Saudi prince says time is on coalition's side in Yemen war

04 May 2017

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's deputy crown prince and defence minister, indicated on 2 May that the Saudi-led coalition will not launch a major ground offensive against Yemen's rebel alliance.

Saudi naval special forces soldiers come ashore during Exercise 'Gulf Shield 1' in October 2016. (Saudi Press Agency)Saudi naval special forces soldiers come ashore during Exercise 'Gulf Shield 1' in October 2016. (Saudi Press Agency)

In a 50-minute Saudi television interview, he said the kingdom could mobilise its forces and capture the remaining rebel-held territory in a few days, "but the result will be thousands of casualties in our forces [and] very high Yemeni civilian casualties".

Describing a situation where the rebels were politically divided, cut off from external supplies, short of money, and opposed by many tribes, Prince Mohammed said: "Time is on our side and we will take advantage."

The prince's statement came after the Saudi-led coalition fuelled concerns about an impending offensive against Red Sea port city of Al-Hudaydah by dropping leaflets on the city calling on residents to support the government that was overthrown by the rebels in 2014.

By capturing Al-Hudaydah, the only port still under rebel control, the coalition would put the rebels under more pressure to negotiate a peace settlement.

Aid organisations have repeatedly warned that a military operation to take Al-Hudaydah would cause a humanitarian disaster because Yemen is heavily reliant on food imported through its port.

Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour, the commander of the ground forces of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), also dismissed the possibility that the Saudi-led coalition will launch a major operation. "They know that if they decide to take the war to ground battles, they will sustain an ignominious defeat," he told the Fars News Agency on 2 May.

Brig Gen Pakpour denied the IRGC has any direct contact with the Yemeni rebels, although there is mounting evidence that Iran has provided them with weapons and equipment, including anti-tank missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.

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