Context and Precedence: On this blog, we’ve discussed the strategic importance of the Bab el Mandeb waterway (chokepoint) to Saudi Arabia — which is why Iran wants to take over Yemen. Yes, the Iranians are using Houthi proxies to do the work, but it doesn’t fool anyone anywhere.
Yesterday, the Saudi government also announced the closure of Saudi schools in the border region (north of Yemen). This ostensibly was in response to mortar attacks from Houthi forces in northern Yemen. What does this really mean?
Warnings and Indications: The closure of schools is a high-cost war preparation. It is high cost because of the burden it imposes on families in the war zone to protect children. Usually, it is accompanied by the evacuation of hospitals and nursing homes, when it signifies war preparations. Other associated activities include measures to protect museum assets and civil defense preparations.
The PUBLIC justification for school closures and civil defense activities almost always is to keep vulnerable populations safe. The ACTUAL justification often is to get those slow moving populations out of the way of military preparations for an escalation of ground fighting.
In this scenario, Saudi Arabian National Guards would be the forces to lead an attack to seize the Houthi capital of Sa’dah. They might also want to create a buffer zone south of the Saudi border to stop Houthi mortar fire across the border.
Distortions to civil normality are high value indicators of strategic intent. That is because the costs of civilian precautions are vastly higher than the opportunity costs of military deployments and increased readiness. Closing schools, in other words, imposes a greater penalty on the local government and society than do troop deployments.
Civil distortions always are significant. The intensified bombing of Sa’dah and the closure of schools on the Saudi side of the border suggest that a ground attack from Saudi Arabia is likely and will occur soon. Since Pakistan has refused to send troops to fight in Yemen, there is no timetable hold up while the Pakistanis embark.
You should also look for a potential amphibious operation to reinforce the Port of Aden. The Saudi Arabian National Guard is not skilled at amphibious resupply, but they can buy help from people who are. Aden is hanging on by its fingernails and control of the airport (currently used for resupply) is contested by the Iranian-backed Houthis.
Long Term Strategy: The new monarch, Saudi Arabian King Salman, and his family, have embedded themselves in all of the departments of government that matter and they removed the family of the late king, Abdullah.
Salman is less tied to American strategic interests and will follow his own course, while buying the latest and greatest military equipment from the USA. Once the Saudis seize the east coast of the Bab el Mandeb and the port of Aden, they are unlikely to ever let it go. The capital city of Sanaa is a less important strategic domino, but that will fall to the the House of Saud as well.
Anticipate a puppet government being put into place in Sanaa eventually as they consolidate their gains against the Iranians. Iran will keep a low intensity civil war going on in Yemen until the Saudis kill them all. That will eventually happen far from the prying eyes of Westerners, who are squeamish when it comes to these matters of statecraft and genocide.
I'm rooting for the Saudis in this little kerfuffle. Once they annex Yemen and then purge any and all humans not loyal to the House of Salman, the Bab el Mandeb will again be navigable by Western powers. Of course, this choke point is still wide open to U.S. aircraft carriers, battleships, destroyers and submarines, regardless of the hostilities in the region at the moment.
Funny how that works.
As before, the primary winners thus far are Al Qaida in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP). One press report suggested the Saudis are encouraging and supporting AQAP in fighting the Houthis. Saudi/Egyptian coalition aircraft seldom, if ever, attack AQAP forces or facilities.
Do we have a dog in this fight?
No. Not really.
We do need to understand that while Saudi Arabia is the home of Al Qaida (and the Wahhabist movement), AQAP, which is an organization dedicated to destroying US people and assets, is being given more legitimacy and protection "officially".
Things don't REALLY change, just the players. I was in Yemen in '67, when the British were there – and kids were taken to school in open 2 1/2 ton trucks with a Brit soldier in each on the 4 corners of the truck bed.
The situation is actually worse than that now, WoFat. At least the British enforced a form of civility that was not part of the cultural make-up of the place. When the British left, the place spiraled down and has yet to find a bottom.
I suspect that once the Saudis have completed their regimen of ethnic cleansing that the Saudi version of Sharia will insure equity…
This one is going ugly early… And John Q. has NO idea what's coming… And I'm thinking the administration is totally in the dark too!
WELL, I don't know about that. Barack may not read the daily intelligence briefing (ever) and may not care about the intelligence briefing (ever), but he is one heck of a community organizer, and that will pull the world through another crisis — in much the same way he has performed up to now.
But LL, didn't you get the news? Barack is a Prophet, he doesn't need the briefing.
Lots of people wanted the Brits out. Colonials have both pros and cone.
Barack feels that God should come to him for advice.
The bigger the mud hole, the more useful the colonizers.
It just burns me that since the end of the Iran-Iraq war no one has pummeled Iran. All the heartache and misery Iran has inflicted on the world and not a single 16" round or cruise missile lobbed from afar at them. We should slapped them all over the middle east when they declared war on us in '79 by invading our embassy.
We handed Iraq to them… with a kiss on the cheek.
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