7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Local News

Operation Decisive Storm is launched

MANAMA: Gulf countries have formally entered "three-front war" after Saudi Arabia and its allies, including Bahrain, launched air strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen, according to an expert.

Operation Decisive Storm was launched yesterday morning against Shi'ite Houthi militiamen who have sought to topple the Yemeni government led by President Abd -Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

GCC countries, which are already engaged in military operations targeting the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, are also engaged in supporting the governments of Egypt and Libya.

"Clearly we have entered formally the three-front war - Levant, Yemen, and North Africa - which has been growing for a year," Dubai-based geo-strategic and political economic analyst Dr Theodore Karasik told the GDN.

Twelve Bahraini jet fighters have joined 100 Saudi war planes and 150,000 soldiers and navy units, along with 30 UAE jets, six each from Morocco and Jordan and three from Sudan for the Yemen offensive.

Other countries that have pledged support include Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt and Pakistan.

"The GCC can handle such a war with a combination of military, intelligence and police work," said Dr Karasik, who works for Gulf State Analytics.

"We need to watch the impact on Oman closely because the Sultanate is undergoing a transition and Dhofar (a governorate in Oman that borders Yemen) is heavily exposed."

A Houthi-led rebellion against President Hadi, backed by Iran and supported by toppled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, prompted intervention by Saudi Arabia - which also shares border with Yemen.

Dr Karasik suggested security in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden off the Yemeni coast, through which an estimated five per cent of the world's oil passes, was another factor in Saudi Arabia and its allies taking action.

Meanwhile, Bahrain-based Middle East executive director for the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Sir John Jenkins, described initial reaction in the energy markets as measured.

"Oil and gas prices rose initially but have since fallen back," said the former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

"Market fundamentals seem to me to remain strong - very large global reserves, adequate supply and depressed demand.

"So it all depends how long the fighting lasts and that depends on whether the GCC and its partners can craft a political resolution."

He added that Yemen needed a sustainable and legitimate government.

"That means the Houthis have to agree to lay down their weapons and start negotiating," said Mr Jenkins.

"That in turn means that they need to be separated from Ali Abdullah Saleh - who has certainly helped facilitate their gains."

Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat) strategic studies programme director Dr Ashraf Kishk said that a victory for Saudi Arabia and its allies would have a significant effect on the balance of power in the region.

"Operation Decisive Storm intervened to protect the legitimacy of Yemen as a state, irrespective of the parties involved in the conflict," he said.

"The success of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states in ending the Yemeni crisis and halting the expansion of the Houthis should return Yemen to political dialogue.

"This in turn means a readjustment in the GCC balance of power."

However, IHS Country Risk Middle East Analysis head Firas Abi Ali warned that Iran could hit back by seeking to mobilise its supporters in Bahrain.

"Iran will likely feel under increased pressure to reach an accord in the P5+1 negotiations, which prevent further sanctions at the very least, in order to ensure it can continue to sponsor its proxies," he said.

"Iran is also likely to retaliate by putting additional pressure on Saudi Arabia through Bahrain."

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