Search

 

Cablegate: Sitrep On Saudi Military Operations Against The

VZCZCXRO8254
OO RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDIR
DE RUEHRH #1687/01 3641524
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 301524Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY RIYADH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2154
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO IMMEDIATE 2801
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS IMMEDIATE 5360
RUEHDH/AMCONSUL DHAHRAN IMMEDIATE 0415
RUEHJI/AMCONSUL JEDDAH IMMEDIATE 0525
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUMICEA/USCINCCENT INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 RIYADH 001687

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/30/2019
TAGS: MASS MOPS PREL SA YM
SUBJECT: SITREP ON SAUDI MILITARY OPERATIONS AGAINST THE
HOUTHIS, DECEMBER 30, 2009

REF: A. SANAA 2117
B. SANAA 2279
C. RIYADH 1558
D. RIYADH 1570
E. RIYADH 1547
F. RIYADH 1621
G. RIYADH 1633

RIYADH 00001687 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Amb. James B. Smith for reasons 1.4 (A), (B) AND (D)

SUMMARY
-------

1. (C) While there is no open diplomacy being conducted, it
appears the Saudis and the Houthis may be seeking to
disengage from their fighting. Prince Khalid's announcement
on December 23 that major military operations had ended was
followed by a Houthi statement that offered withdrawal from
all positions on the border in return for a cessation of
Saudi attacks. Saudi Land Forces have reportedly ceased
offensive activities, although significant Saudi air strikes
and artillery shelling have continued. It may be that the
Saudis are now starting to turn the fight over to Yemeni
government forces; Yemeni military sources reported today
that they launched several attacks on Houthi positions on
December 28 (Reuters, 12/29). End summary.

SHRINKING MEDIA COVERAGE
------------------------

2. (C) Reporting in national Saudi media about the Houthi
fighting has decreased substantially in recent days, with
news about Yemen focusing mostly on the attacks against
Al-Qaida targets. Saudi media reports from the battlefront
say that the Saudi military continues "clearing operations"
and air strikes while insisting that these operations have
not and will not cross into Yemeni territory. Houthi-sourced
reports claim daily air attacks by Saudi and U.S. aircraft.

3. (C) After Prince Khalid's 12/23 announcement of Saudi
casualties and his 48-hour ultimatum for the Houthis to
withdraw from Al-Jabri, the Houthis released an official
statement to Al-Quds Al-Arabi. Muhammad Abd-al-Salam,
official spokesman for the Houthis, said: "There is no
objection to our withdrawal from the positions in Saudi
Arabia on the condition that the Saudis stop the aggression
and not allow the use of their territories against us. ...
The crux of the problem with the Saudi regime is not the
territory or the border but because we faced Yemeni
aggression from its territories."

4. (C) This possible olive branch offered by the Houthis was
apparently not accepted by the Saudis, as the next day the
Saudi newspaper Al-Yawm reported that Saudi tanks, heavy
artillery and planes "pounded the stronghold of the
infiltrators fortified in Al-Jabri inflicting heavy losses
including the deaths of 340 infiltrators and the destruction
of the deserted houses where the enemies were taking refuge."
The actual number of Houthi deaths has not been confirmed,
but both Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan reported on 12/28 that the
village of Al-Jabri was recaptured by Saudi forces. For
their part, the Houthis say there were 31 air strikes on
Al-Jabri.

PRINCE KHALID'S REPUTATION:
ANOTHER CASUALTY OF THE WAR?
----------------------------

5. (C) Embassy contacts in the Saudi Ministry of Defense
suggest that the Saudi Land Forces have largely ended
offensive actions since Dec, 23 when Prince Khalid declared
victory and an end to the main Saudi military campaign.
Prince Khalid's decision to stop ground operations probably
means that the Saudi military has been able to clear the
border area of Houthi insurgents.

6. (S/NF) We have also heard that Prince Khalid was pressed
to stand down the ground forces because of King Abdullah's
growing ire over three particular issues: 1) why it has taken
so long to expel the ragtag Houthi fighters, 2) how there

RIYADH 00001687 002.2 OF 002


could be so many Saudi casualties, and 3) why the Saudi
military has not proven more capable, given the billions
invested in modernization over recent decades. Some military
officers have speculated that Prince Khalid may have been
removed from his position by the King if not for the return
and protection of his father Prince Sultan. At minimum,
within the Saudi leadership Prince Khalid's reputation as a
military leader appears to have been damaged, perhaps ruling
him out as an eventual successor to his father as Defense
Minister.

COMMENT - FINGER-POINTING TIME APPROACHES
-----------------------------------------

7. (C) For the last two months, the Saudi military has
employed massively disproportionate force in its effort to
repel and clear the lightly armed Houthi guerillas from the
border area. Day and night aerial bombardment and artillery
shelling have been the main instruments of what is
increasingly regarded within the Saudi military as an
embarrassingly long campaign that was poorly planned and
executed that brought unexpectedly high Saudi casualties
(exact number not known - officially 73 deaths), many
apparently from friendly fire. Nonetheless, the conflict has
been carefully spun as a heroic and successful struggle to
protect Saudi sovereignty.

8. (C) During the campaign, the Saudi military turned to the
U.S. for emergency provision of munitions, imagery and
intelligence to assist them to operate with greater
precision. The U.S. military responded with alacrity to the
extent possible, primarily by flying in stocks of ammunition
for small weapons and artillery. However, the great majority
of Saudi requests remain bogged down in the FMS contacting
process or in interagency reviews. Prince Khalid and several
senior Saudi Air Force officers have complained that the U.S.
has not rallied to support Saudi Arabia during its hour of
greatest need. As the Saudi military services seek to divert
blame for the poor management of the Houthi operations in the
weeks ahead, it can be expected that such criticism of U.S.
support will continue, if not sharpen.
SMITH

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

UN: Decades Of Health Gains At Risk In Brazil Due To COVID-19

Although COVID-19 cases are declining in Brazil, the pandemic is putting decades of public health gains there at risk, the head of the World Health Organization ( WHO ) said on Friday. With global attention and support focused this week ... More>>

UN Report: Myanmar Approaching Point Of Economic Collapse

The turmoil following the military coup in Myanmar, coupled with the impact of COVID-19 could result in up to 25 million people – nearly half of the country’s population, living in poverty by early next year, a United Nations report said on Friday. That ... More>>

World Vision: India’s Second Wave Shows The Global Fight Against COVID-19 Is Far From Won

As India’s COVID-19 daily infection rates reach devastating levels, international aid agency World Vision has warned that the world is nowhere near defeating this virus and some nations are yet to face their worst days. Andrew Morley, World Vision ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

UN: Learning From COVID-19, Forum To Highlight Critical Role Of Science, Technology And Innovation In Global Challenges

New York, 4 May —To build on the bold innovations in science, technology and innovations that produced life-saving solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN will bring together experts to highlight measures that can broaden the development and deployment ... More>>

What COVID-19 Has Taught Us: “Healthcare Can No Longer Exist Without Technology”

A grandmother in a village in the Gambia should have the same quality of life and access to healthcare they deserve as in New York or London. Photo: InnovaRx Global Health Start-up Works To Bridge Healthcare Gap In The Gambia By: Pavithra Rao As ... More>>

UN News: Motherhood On The Brink In Yemen

War, a humanitarian crisis, a looming famine, a health system close to collapse and the deepening impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a “catastrophic situation” in which a woman dies in childbirth every two hours in Yemen, according to the UN ... More>>