Saudi coalition, having accomplished nothing, declares victory (?) and bugs out

The AP and Reuters have both reported in the past hour that the Saudi coalition is suspending its air campaign in Yemen and is moving its operations into a “new phase”:

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition targeting rebels in Yemen says the so-called “Decisive Storm” campaign is over, but that allies will launch a new phase aimed at preventing the rebels from operating.

Speaking at a news conference in Riyadh on Wednesday, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri says the objectives of the campaign have been met and that it would cease at midnight.

He says the rebels no longer pose a danger to civilians and that the new phase, called “Renewal of Hope” would focus on rebuilding the country while interdicting the rebels.

Of course, the biggest danger to Yemeni civilians over the past three-plus weeks has been from coalition air strikes, not the Houthis, and in strategic terms those airstrikes have accomplished precisely nothing, and oh by the way it’s not clear how the coalition can “focus on rebuilding the country” when the country is no closer to ending its civil war than it was when the bombing started. Unless there’s some much bigger announcement that’s about to come out of Sanaa or Aden (or both), this is a pretty obvious case of declaring victory and getting the hell out of there.

It’s unclear how this announcement will effect the naval confrontation that seems to be unfolding in the Gulf of Aden, where it appears that “coalition” naval forces, which may include US warships, are preparing to stop and search a convoy of Iranian freighters heading toward Yemen, under the suspicion that some or all of the Iranian ships are carrying weapons to resupply the Houthis. It’s unlikely, but possible, that US involvement in the interception of these Iranian ships could impact the nuclear talks, which are supposed to get back underway tomorrow in Vienna.

UPDATE: The other shoe appears to be dropping. Details when they become available.


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