World: Yemen Has Been a Saudi Prince’s War. Now It’s His Quagmire. - PressFrom - US
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WorldYemen Has Been a Saudi Prince’s War. Now It’s His Quagmire.

02:45  19 july  2019
02:45  19 july  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

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Prince Mohammed is almost unknown to the American public and his tiny country has fewer citizens than Rhode Island. For decades, the prince has been a key American ally, following Washington’ s lead, but now he is going his own way. His special forces are active in Yemen , Libya, Somalia and

Few people outside Saudi Arabia had heard of the prince before his father became king in 2015. But he has also been heavily criticised for pursuing a war in neighbouring Yemen that has caused a The campaign has made limited progress over the past three and a half years. It has also seen Saudi

Yemen Has Been a Saudi Prince’s War. Now It’s His Quagmire.© Adam Schreck/Associated Press A gunner on a United Arab Emirates Chinook helicopter over Yemen in 2017. The pullout by the Emiratis leaves the Saudis with difficult choices.

From the beginning of Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen, it was Prince Mohammed’s war.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, then 29 and in his third month as defense minister, was shown in official photographs surrounded by generals, poring over maps, inspecting a helicopter and even wearing a pilot’s headset while riding in the back of a military transport plane.

Four years later, the war is lodged in a stalemate and Prince Mohammed’s signature fight has become a quagmire, diplomats and analysts say. A steep pullout by his key ally, the United Arab Emirates, they say, raises questions about Saudi Arabia’s ability to lead the war on its own.

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Yemen has been devastated by a war between Saudi -backed pro-government forces and the rebel Houthi movement. The conflict has its roots in the failure of a political transition supposed to bring stability to Yemen following an Arab Spring uprising that forced its longtime authoritarian president

The Saudi -led war in Yemen has pushed millions to the brink of starvation. Under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi -led coalition and its Yemeni allies have imposed “But in Yemen it ’ s about a war on the economy.” Ali al-Hajaji and his wife, Mohamediah Mohammed

Emboldened by the hawkish comments of Trump administration officials, Prince Mohammed is now hoping Washington will help make up the difference with new American military support, according to diplomats with knowledge of the conversations.

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But congressional opposition to the war makes that highly unlikely, leaving the prince with some potentially humbling choices.

“It hurts him because it injures his credibility as a successful leader,” said Kristin Smith Diwan, an analyst at the Arab Gulf States Institute. His personal investment, she said, could motivate him to search for some partial accommodation he could label a victory.

Yemen Has Been a Saudi Prince’s War. Now It’s His Quagmire.© Erin Schaff/The New York Times President Trump with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Osaka, Japan, last month. The Saudis are asking for more military support from Washington for the war in Yemen.

“Not many people in Saudi Arabia feel this is a wise investment for the future,” she added.

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The crown prince also spoke about the war in Yemen , where a Saudi -led coalition continues to launch a bombing campaign The interview with the crown prince was initially held off the record. However, the Saudi embassy later agreed to led the Washington Post publish specific portions of the meeting.

The Saudis launched the campaign in 2015 to try to roll back a takeover by the Houthis, a Yemeni faction backed by Iran. The war has killed thousands of civilians and put more than 12 million people at risk of starvation but has failed to dislodge the Houthis from control of the capital and much of the country.

While the Saudis have fought almost entirely from the air, the Emiratis, seasoned by years of combat alongside the American military in Afghanistan and elsewhere, led virtually every successful ground advance. Behind the scenes, Emirati officers, weapons and money played an equally critical role in holding together a fractious alliance of mutually hostile Yemeni militias, which have already begun jostling to fill the power vacuum left by the Emiratis.

Yemen Has Been a Saudi Prince’s War. Now It’s His Quagmire.© Mohamed Al-Sayaghi/Reuters The site of an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa in May. The Saudi-led war has killed thousands of civilians, mostly by airstrikes.

As a result, analysts said, the Emirati exit makes the prospect of a Saudi military victory even more remote.

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Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Arabic: محمد بن سلمان بن عبدالعزيز آل سعود‎, romanized: Muḥammad bin Salmān bin ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Āl Sa‘ūd; born 31 August 1985)

The Saudi war in Yemen , which the prince launched in March 2015, is more of a quagmire than It ’ s a recurrent cycle that has held true for a remarkable number of Muslim dynasties from the The big question now is whether the pattern will hold true for the Saudis . The answer so far is that it will.

“Saudi Arabia can prevent peace from breaking out and can bleed the Houthis on a never-ending northern front,” Michael Knights, a researcher at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argued in a report this week. “But only the U.A.E. had the military potency and local allied forces to credibly threaten defeat for the Houthis.”

But the Saudis cannot easily withdraw either, partly because of the kingdom’s 1,100-mile border with Yemen.

Yemen Has Been a Saudi Prince’s War. Now It’s His Quagmire.© Tyler Hicks/The New York Times A malnourished girl, lying on the bed, at a clinic in Hajjah last year. The war in Yemen has put more than 12 million people at risk of starvation.

Since the Saudi intervention began, the Houthis have fired more than 500 missiles and sent more than 150 explosive-laden drones into the kingdom, Saudi researchers say. Although only a few have hit targets and the damage has been minimal, the escalating pace of the attacks makes it difficult for the Saudis to walk away.

Even if the Houthis suspended the attacks, the Saudis argue, they could pose an even greater threat if they were allowed to consolidate their hold on the country.

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Yemen ’ s infrastructure has been laid waste to, as has some of its most productive farmland. The result has been the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet. Because it has a slightly more competent mercenary army, the UAE has the lead over Saudi Arabia in this regard.

It ’ s been a long, long time, though, since any Arab leader wore me out with a fire hose of new ideas And was this his power play to eliminate his family and private sector rivals before his ailing father He insisted that the Saudi -backed war in Yemen , which has been a humanitarian nightmare, was

“The Saudis don’t have the luxury of walking out of Yemen,” said Farea al-Muslimi, chairman of the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies, a research institute in the Yemeni capital. “There is no way to flee.”

Some Western and United Nations diplomats hope that the Emirati withdrawal will push Prince Mohammed to negotiate a deal with the Houthis, potentially trading an end to the Saudi-led air campaign for some measure of security on the long border. He already faces mounting criticism in Congress and across the West for the war’s devastating impact on civilians.

Yemen Has Been a Saudi Prince’s War. Now It’s His Quagmire.© Hani Mohammed/Associated Press New Houthi fighters at a recruiting drive in Sanaa in 2017. The Saudis began a campaign to try to roll back a Houthi advance in 2015, but they have failed to dislodge the Houthis from control of much of the country.

But Prince Mohammed has now consolidated power as the crown prince and de facto ruler under his aging father, King Salman, and faces little domestic pressure to end the war, diplomats and analysts say.

The crown prince appears to have suppressed any opposition from within the royal family. The royal court controls the news media, and with Saudi forces largely in the air there have been few reports of Saudi casualties.

Prince Mohammed “never seemed to me to see this as the most important thing in his life,” said Joseph W. Westphal, the former United States ambassador who served in Riyadh from the beginning of the intervention through early 2017.

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For Saudi Arabia’ s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the architect of this campaign, Yemen has become an increasingly lonely quagmire . So far, the U. S . response correctly has been : No! Read more from David Ignatius’ s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’ s two sides: progressive leader and ruthless ruler. MBS is alsolargely to blame for the horrific humanitarian disaster in Yemen , foreign affairs experts say. Khashoggi may have been a victim of those methods, and the crown prince could now be sidelined

One reason the war has not generated more domestic opposition, he said, is that the fear of Iranian influence that motivated the intervention “is not just limited to the royal family — the Saudis just have an intense, passionate feeling that they are under threat.”

Yet the Emirati drawdown has also severely weakened the Saudis’ bargaining power, raising the potential cost to Prince Mohammed of any negotiations to end the Houthi attacks.

Boxed in, he has asked for more aid from the United States. The Americans already provide logistical support and sell weapons to the Saudis. The Saudis are hoping for at least greater sharing of American intelligence and possibly the deployment of special forces teams or military advisers, diplomats said.

But Washington, the Saudis complain, has sent mixed messages about its support for the war. To the surprise of the Saudi leaders, outrage over the Saudi killing and dismemberment last fall of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who lived in Virginia and wrote for The Washington Post, prompted American lawmakers to look more skeptically at the war in Yemen.

Congress passed legislation this year demanding an end to United States military support for the war, including arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Pentagon officials, meanwhile, have concluded on their own that the war has degenerated into an unwinnable quagmire and have urged the Saudis for months to try to negotiate an end to the fighting.

But President Trump has repeatedly vetoed legislation cutting off American support for the war. As tensions with Iran have heated up, other administration officials — like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser — have sounded almost as hawkish as the Saudis about the danger posed by the Iranian alliance with the Houthis.

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The crown prince cheered on the Saudi team from a luxury box with his host, President Vladimir V. Putin It was not clear what advances, if any, the ground troops backed by the coalition had made in Al Prince Mohammed has been sharply criticized for the decision to embark on the war, which has

The prince has presented himself as a reformer intent on opening up the kingdom’ s economy and culture, and has used that image to try to influence White House policy in the region and to woo Western investors to help diversify the Saudi economy. But the international revulsion at the reported

At an American-sponsored conference in Warsaw in February, Mr. Pompeo bluntly told the Saudis and others that the coalition fighting in Yemen should kick the stuffing out of the Houthis, one diplomat present said, although he said Mr. Pompeo used an earthier noun than stuffing. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private meeting.

The State Department declined to comment.

The Saudis say statements like Mr. Pompeo’s remind them that Washington shares an interest in containing Iranian influence by rolling back the Houthis.

“Why haven’t the Americans carried out a single operation to help?” asked Mustafa Alani, a scholar at the Saudi-backed Gulf Research Center who is close to the royal court.

He recommended that the Saudis take a blunter approach to convincing Washington that the Houthis were an American problem: withdraw completely and let the United States deal with the anti-Western militants and Iranian surrogates he says would overrun Yemen.

“I would do what the Americans did in Somalia,” Mr. Alani said. “Turn off the light, shut the door, and say, ‘to hell with it.’”

Asked about Saudi plans to fill the void left by the Emirati drawdown, an official of the Saudi Embassy in Washington said last week that the kingdom would rely more on Yemeni allies.

“The coalition has implemented training programs that have enabled local partners to develop the capability to defend their country,” the official said in a written statement, issued on condition of anonymity under standard Saudi practices.

But the Yemeni militias have already started disagreeing about who will take charge in the Emiratis’ absence, underscoring the fragility of the alliance.

Last week, allies of Tareq Saleh, a maverick nephew of the former Yemeni strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, floated the idea that the Saudi-led coalition had tapped him to be the new leader of the Yemeni forces previously under the Emiratis.

That did not last long. A powerful ultraconservative Islamist militia known as the Giants Brigade, also backed by the Emiratis, quickly issued a statement saying that it would never accept Mr. Saleh because he was from northern Yemen, not the south.

Then another powerful militia, composed of southern Yemeni separatists paid and armed by the Emiratis, began promoting itself as the favorite successor to Emirati leadership. A separatist television network broadcast video of a top Emirati general touring its bases.

The separatists are the sworn enemies of the Yemeni president sponsored by the Saudis, Abdu Rabbu Monsur Hadi.

“The problem for the Saudis today is that in contrast to the Emiratis, their main client is quite weak and ineffective,” said Emile Hokayem, a scholar at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, referring to Mr. Hadi.

Whatever happens now, Mr. Hokayem added, “whether they like it or not, the Saudis own that.”

Reporting was contributed by Saeed al-Batati, Eric Schmitt, Declan Walsh and Edward Wong.

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