Cablegate: Sa’Ada Solution Requires More Thought, Fewer

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P 110900Z NOV 09

S E C R E T SANAA 002052
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/10/2019
B. RIYADH 1502
C. TDX-315/075037-09
1. (S/NF) SUMMARY. Ongoing, direct Saudi involvement in
the Sa’ada war, which in and of itself risks expanding the
regional and sectarian dimensions of the conflict, also seems
to be encouraging other Sunni neighbors to provide material
support to President Saleh’s ill-conceived campaign to
eradicate the Houthi rebellion through purely military means.
The SAG itself apparently has agreed to provide USD 62M in
weapons, ammunition and other supplies from its own stock to
the ROYG, and to finance additional deals with third parties.
We urge direct and immediate engagement with governments in
Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and other regional capitals (Cairo and
Amman come to mind) to convey clearly our view that their
interest in promoting a stable and secure Yemen is being
fundamentally undermined by the infusion of large amounts of
weapons to the ROYG, a substantial quantity of which can be
expected to be diverted into Yemen’s bustling grey arms
market and from there to points unknown. As important, the
message sent to Saleh through the provision of large amounts
of money and military assistance is that his neighbors
endorse his expressed intention to eliminate the Houthi
rebellion though purely military means, an effort that
already has resulted in enormous damage to the infrastructure
and civilian population of Sa’ada governorate with no end to
the war in sight. END SUMMARY.
2. (S/NF) The initiation one week ago of Saudi air strikes
against Houthi fighters who attacked Saudi security forces
from positions on the border-straddling Jebel (Mount) Dukhan
opened a new chapter in the five-year old conflict, one that
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh appears eager to ensure
will be the last. "The war just started two days ago," he
declared on November 7, alluding to the initiation of the
Saudi airstrikes, adding that "the war will never stop, no
matter how much money or martyrs it costs." Since that
time, despite public statements by SAG officials that the
Saudi posture is purely defensive and that operations will
cease once Houthi fighters are driven from its territory,
open source and other reporting, including from Embassy
Riyadh (RefA), indicates that Saudi air strikes have
continued, and that the potential for the introduction of
ground forces cannot be dismissed.
3. (S/NF) Ref B, meanwhile, cites Saudi Arabia’s National
Guard (SANG) Asst Deputy Commander as telling A/S Shapiro in
Riyadh that "the sooner that Yemen finishes the Houthi, the
better it will be for them." This line of thinking, that
the Houthi rebellion can be "finished" militarily is both
dangerous and delusional. It ignores willfully the fact
that, after five military iterations (2004-09) and three
solid months of Yemeni air strikes (commencing August 12) and
ground operations, well-armed and -entrenched Houthi forces
continue to bedevil ROYG armed forces, which have suffered
substantial losses, both from battlefield casualties and
desertions. While the level of Houthi resilience, weapons
proficiency and tactical expertise can and should force us to
examine carefully claims of external support, the fact
remains that the ROYG has failed repeatedly to corroborate
its charges that the Houthi rebellion is the tip of the
Iranian/Hizballah spear in Yemen. Most recently, the ROYG has
failed to substantiate its extravagant, public claims that an
Iranian ship seized in the Red Sea off its coast on Oct 25
was carrying Iranian military trainers, weapons and
explosives destined for the Houthis. In fact, sensitive
reporting (RefC) suggests that the ship was carrying no
weapons at all.
4. (S/NF) It is, in fact, the amount of weapons the SAG and
at least one other neighboring state, the UAE, seem intent on
throwing at the Yemeni government that strikes us as a cause
for serious concern. We know that the Saudis have agreed to
provide the ROYG with APCs, weapons and ammunition and to
assist in the purchase of helicopters for the YAF. In
addition, we understand KSA is offering to purchase weapons
and ammo from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and that the
UAE has agreed to broker a similar deal with Bulgaria. We
believe this tidal wave of arms into Yemen, a nation already
awash in weapons, will encourage President Saleh to continue
to reject any suggestion that he attempt to find a negotiated
solution to his government,s conflict with the Houthis, and
prolong a clumsy military effort that has destroyed much of
Sa’ada’s infrastructure and created an IDP population in
excess of 150,000 people with no evidence that he is any
closer to dominating the Houthis than he was five years ago.
In addition, it is almost certain that a large amount of the
weapons now on offer will find their way into Yemen’s
thriving grey arms market, or be re-exported, a traditional
revenue stream for the Saleh government. From there, it is
anyone’s guess as to where the weapons will surface,
potentially even in the hands of extremist groups bent on
attacking Western interests in Yemen - and ironically,
Saudia Arabia and neighboring countries in the Gulf.
5. (S/NF). Comment. We can all agree that the Houthis are
a destabilizing element in Yemen, and that the ROYG has a
responsibility to defend its national territory against armed
insurgents. How the ROYG chooses to do so is a reasonable
subject for discussion, however. Furthermore, whether the
Houthis are (as the ROYG and its Sunni neighbors claim)
the instrument Iran has chosen to establish a beachhead in
the Arabian Peninsula remains unclear, although the fact that
after five years of conflict there is still no compelling
evidence of that link must force us to view this claim with
some skepticism. That said, we can think of few ways to
more effectively encourage Iranian meddling in the Houthi
rebellion than to have all of Yemen’s Sunni neighbors line
up to finance and outfit Ali Abdullah Saleh’s self-described
"Operation Scorched Earth" against his country’s Shia
minority. We urge the Department to engage in Washington and
in relevant capitals to convey to these "friends of Yemen"
that they are undermining their goal of a stable and secure
Yemen by providing large amounts of money and military
assistance to President Saleh. Not only will this infusion
of weapons contribute to Yemen’s internal instability, but
it will send a message to Saleh that his neighbors endorse
his preferred method of conflict resolution: armed force.
While there are moments when force must be employed, it
cannot be to the exclusion of other means that might spare
Yemen’s already neglected population further suffering and
deprivation. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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