by Sheila Carapico
There have been numerous reports of Saudi bombardment of Houthi targets inside Yemen, starting with the Houthi homeland in Sa’ada province but extending as far south as the Anad airbase in Lahj in the south. Early reports indicate that ten foreign powers are participating in the operation in addition to Saudi Arabia — Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco and Pakistan. Just yesterday, somewhat mysteriously, the US evacuated about 100 Special Operations Forces from Anad after the Houthis captured a nearby town. As in Iraq in 2003, this withdrawal signaled the onset of the bombing campaign. While Riyadh has denied any direct U.S. involvement, a U.S. official cited in various news reports indicated that Washington was providing support to the operation.This is a huge escalation by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, apparently cleared with Washington in advance, following deteriorating circumstances that evidently drove Interim President Hadi from his refuge in Aden. All this followed a bleak week of twin suicide bombings (for which a local affiliate of the Islamic State took responsibility) in mosques in Sana’a and a Houthi advance into the central city of Ta’iz where they were decidedly unwelcome.With the news of Saudi air raids, my Facebook feed, populated mainly by liberal urban intellectuals, is throbbing. I am not going to capture or attribute posts friends may not want made public — who knows what risks they face this week or month? — but here’s a taste of the comments in English and/ or my rough translations from Arabic. They testify to confusion, debate, and foreboding:
– Saudis started shelling Sana’, family & friends terrified & finding shelter in basements or hallways from continuous airstrikes – bombardment can be heard everywhere, so much fear & confusion over what is happening
-The consequences of the military operation will be disastrous for the whole region and not only for Yemen!!!
– Every single step taken in the past few days has contributed significantly to the radicalization of the Yemeni people.
– Who are the ten nations supporting the attack on Yemen?
– Saudi Air Force pilots : please do not crash land alive anywhere in Yemen. It will not be good for your health.
– This horror is cosponsored by Riyadh and Tehran.
– The Saudis declare the US had advance notice and approved the assault.
– Airstrikes on compounds still commanded by Salih in Sana’a. The heartbreak is that some people welcome this aggression. May Allah have mercy on them. God curse them for supporting this naked aggression.
– The Houthis brought this dirty war to Yemen.
– Curse them all. Hadi is a son of a bitch. Salih is the offender. Abd al-Malik al-Houthi foments sectarianism.
– Sana’a tonight. What’s your opinion? Thanks to the Saud.
-Anyone sitting on Saudi aggression, you are all our enemies!
Sheila Carapico is Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Richmond. Carapico is the author of Civil Society in Yemen: The Political Economy of Activism in Modern Arabia (Cambridge University Press, 1998) and numerous articles and book chapters on Yemen, the Arabian Peninsula, and the region. A contributing editor to Middle East Report, she has also written essays for several publications about the Egyptian and Yemeni revolutions of 2011. Her most recent book is Political Aid and Arab Activism: Democracy Promotion, Justice and Representation (Cambridge University Press, 2013).