March 31/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Strive to enter through the narrow door/Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.’
Luke 13/22-30: "Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, ‘Lord, will only a few be saved?’ He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, "Lord, open to us", then in reply he will say to you, "I do not know where you come from."Then you will begin to say, "We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets."But he will say, "I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!"There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.’"

Bible Quotation For Today/You accepted the word that you heard from us as what it really is, God’s word
First Letter to the Thessalonians02/13-17: "We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.
For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God’s wrath has overtaken them at last. As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you in person, not in heart we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 30- 31/15
When Iran controls the Houthis, Saudi goes to war/Yaron Friedman/Ynetnews/March 30/15
Netanyahu: Iran nuclear deal tells Tehran it can benefit from aggression/Reuters/March 30/15
The Iranians are praying for an agreement/
Orly Azoulay/Ynetnews/March 31/15
ecisive Storm’ responds to Iran’s encroachment on Saudi borders/Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya/March 30/15
How Ali Abdullah Saleh burnt his own son/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 30/15
Netanyahu blasts emerging nuclear deal as 'a reward for Iran's aggression'/By YOSSI MELMAN/J.Post/March 30/15
The Curse of Ali Abdullah Saleh/Diana Moukalled/Asharq Al Awsat/March 30/15

Lebanese Related News published on March 30-31/15
Asiri Says Nasrallah's Remarks Reflected 'Psychological Crisis'
Salam spoke for himself at Arab summit: Hezbollah 
Bkirki Spiritual Summit: Presidential Void Threatens Sovereignty, Security and Cultural Formula
Lebanon religious summit urges election of president
Arsal man kidnapped in apparent tit-for-tat act 
ISF arrests suspected kidnappers of Syrian army defectors
Assad: STL’s elephant in the room 
Blindly backing Arab autocrats isn’t a solution 
Families of Hostages Block Saifi Road, Warn of Total Closure
Kataeb Lauds Govt. 'Support for Arabs' on Yemen, Warns of 'Dangerous Developments''
Bkirki Spiritual Summit: Presidential Void Threatens Sovereignty, Security and Cultural Formula
Jumblat Rejects Linking Lebanon's Fate to Syria and Nasrallah's Claims that Yemen Offensive Targets its Poor
Samaha Case to Be Separated from Mamlouk's
London Announces $1.5 Million Funding to STL
Renowned Designer Basil Soda Passes Away after Illness
Arsal becomes ISIL Main Stronghold, Implementing Self-Rule

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 30-31/15
Pakistan is to airlift troops for Saudi war on Yemeni rebels. Saudi, Egyptian landing in Aden is imminent
Saudi-led airstrikes cut off Iranian supplies to Houthis: defense ministry
As nuclear talks near deadline, Khamenei aide warns of West's 'deceptive tactics'
Atomic deal rewards Iran for Yemen 'aggression': Israel
US will take a 'hard look' at options if Iran deal deadline missed
Chinese foreign minister upbeat on Iran nuclear talks
Netanyahu blasts emerging nuclear deal as 'a reward for Iran's aggression'
Ehud Olmert convicted in Talansky case retrial
Clinton warns of deterioration of US-Israel ties
Iranian journalist seeks political asylum
Decisive Storm’ responds to Iran’s encroachment on Saudi borders
Iran: US drone kills 2 advisers in Iraq; US
How to read Turkey’s stance on the Yemen crisis
Why ‘Operation Decisive Storm’ is the ultimate setback for Iran
A deputy, a relative, an ideologue: key Houthi leaders reportedly killed
Iran talks blocked on three hurdles, diplomat reveals
Saudi lawyers hail ‘Decisive Storm’ as important for stability in Yemen
U.N. chief troubled by Iraq abuse claims, refugees
U.N. warns of Syria 'catastrophe' as NGOs pledge funds
Turkish plane makes emergency Morocco landing after bomb threat
Erdogan says Iran visit still on despite 'domination' row
Pakistan troops to join Saudi coalition against Yemeni rebels
Iranian filmmaker with ties to Canada arrested in Iran
One dead, one hurt as shots fired at US spy agenc

Jihad Watch Latest News
South Sudan: Christian jailed, lashed after Muslims threaten him
Egypt: Muslim mob attacks church honoring Christian martyrs of Islamic State
Islamic State wants “to control the entire world. To annihilate the infidels”
Assad: Turkey “logistically and militarily” supporting Islamic State fighters
Video: Catholic university officials approve club raising money for Islamic State
Saudis order imams to preach against Yemeni Shia as “enemies of Islam”
UK: Muslim MI5 agent plotted jihad attack against his handlers
Pamela Geller: Free Speech on Trial in U.S. District Court

Asiri Says Nasrallah's Remarks Reflected 'Psychological Crisis'
Naharnet/Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri on Monday hit out anew at Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah over the latter's criticism of Riyadh's military intervention in Yemen, noting that his fiery speech reflected a “psychological crisis.” Asked about his interpretation of Nasrallah's speech, Asiri told MTV: “The only explanation I have is that, unfortunately, there is a psychological crisis.” “What is being said by some Lebanese leaders is inappropriate and the Yemeni issue is not a Lebanese affair or the affair of any leader in Lebanon,” he added. On Sunday, Asiri issued a statement accusing Nasrallah of misleading the public over the Yemeni crisis and defaming the kingdom. “The sides that are supporting Nasrallah and mobilizing the Huthis do not wish well for Yemen,” Asiri remarked of Yemen's rebel Huthi movement that is backed by Iran, Hizbullah's key backer. Nasrallah had on Friday lashed out at Saudi Arabia, accusing it of blocking presidential elections in Lebanon, turning a blind eye to the Palestinian people's plight, financing the Islamic State extremist group, and fabricating “lies” to justify the military intervention in Yemen. Last week, Saudi Arabia began military operation Firmness Storm to combat the growing influence of the Iranian-backed Huthi movement in Yemen. It has launched airstrikes in the country, backed by several Arab and Muslim countries. Asked whether Riyadh was blocking presidential elections in Lebanon as alleged by Nasrallah, Asiri hinted that Hizbullah and its allies were the ones impeding the vote. “I will address this question to our brothers in Lebanon. Who is preventing MPs from heading to parliament to elect a president? We know who is doing this,” said Asiri. Commenting on Nasrallah's accusation that Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal is “vetoing” the election of Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun as president, the ambassador said: “Unfortunately, the failure of some political forces to find an exit has made them search for someone to blame.”And on whether Riyadh was “fighting Iran” in Yemen, Asiri said: “We're against any foreign interference in Yemen and in Saudi Arabia and we're not interfering but rather protecting the legitimacy that was endorsed by the Yemenis.”“We're not fighting Iran but rather its policies. We do not approve of its approach, as it is supporting a certain sect and trying to disrupt the Yemeni situations,” he added. “The reason is Iran's public support that was pouring into Yemen through funds and arms,” he went on to say.

Salam's Yemen remarks do not represent Lebanon: Hezbollah minister

The Daily Star/Mar. 30, 2015/BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s remarks on the Saudi military intervention in Yemen at the Arab League summit two days ago do not represent the views of the Lebanese government, Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan said Monday. The premier’s position towards the intervention during the Arab League summit in Sharm el-Sheikh Saturday “justified... an aggression” against the Yemeni people, the Hezbollah minister said in a statement released by his party's media office.
He also criticized Salam for offering support to the Egyptian proposal to create a joint Arab force to counter terrorism. “These two positions were not discussed in the Cabinet,” Hajj Hasan said. “Salam’s remarks express the position of a portion of the Lebanese and do not reflect Lebanon’s official position.” The industry minister noted that he would raise his objections to Salam’s comments during the next Cabinet meeting scheduled for Thursday. Salam offered an ambiguous position towards the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen targeting opposition Houthi fighters during the Arab League summit Saturday, saying Beirut supported any move that preserves Sanaa's “sovereignty and territorial integrity.” “Out of its keenness on supporting constitutional legitimacy in Yemen, Arab unanimity and the unity and stability of all Arab states, Lebanon announces its support for any Arab stance that preserves Yemen’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in addition to the cohesion of its social fabric,” Salam told the summit.Hajj Hasan's comments come three days after Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah delivered a fiery speech in which he denounced Saudi Arabia for its military campaign in Yemen.

Lebanon religious summit urges election of president
The Daily Star/Mar. 30, 2015
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s most prominent religious leaders announced Monday that they would hold meetings every three months to discuss mutual concerns and issue recommendations. After their first meeting at Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite church, the figures called on Lebanon to elect a president. Attendees of the “Spiritual Summit” issued a joint statement following a four-hour-meeting, which included Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, Grand Mufti Abdel-Latif Derian, Deputy Head of the High Islamic Shiite Council Abdel-Amir Qabalan, and Druze spiritual leader Naim Hassan. The summit’s final statement urged the election of a new president for Lebanon, after 10 months of presidential vacuum. “The attendants express their concern and devastation because of the continuation of the presidential void,” the statement said. “This void threatens the sovereignty, security and safety of Lebanon.”
Describing the presidential election sessions that the parliament had held since last May as “sterile,” the clerics called on the parties engaging in dialogue to tackle the matter. “The ongoing dialogues between some parties, although we encourage and support them, have had little outcome and are yet to treat the major source of pain,” they said. The statement also tackled socioeconomic difficulties in Lebanon, calling on the Cabinet to approve a budget as soon as possible. They said Lebanon ought to reduce public waste and increase the government’s “investment-oriented spending” to create more jobs. The religious figures addressed the international community, asking for an increase in aid to support Lebanon in handling the Syrian refugee crisis. They warned that the “unorganized flow and spread” of Syrian refugees in the country had put the Lebanese citizen’s security and their various services sectors at risk. Participants also commented on the deterioration of the security conditions in Yemen, calling on Arab states to “contain the escalation and protect the sovereignty, security and unity of all Arab countries.”They expressed concern about the conflicts taking sectarian forms in the region. The rise of fundamentalism and terrorism was also an item on the meeting’s agenda. The statement condemned the aggressive behavior of “terrorist groups that have put on the coat of religion,” calling for moderate religious speech to confront extremism.

Bkirki Spiritual Summit: Presidential Void Threatens Sovereignty, Security and Cultural Formula
Naharnet30/03/15/Lebanon's religious leaders on Monday voiced concern over the continued presidential vacuum in the country and urged political forces to head to parliament and elect a new head of state. “We express our concern over the continued presidential vacuum, given the threat this constitutional vacuum poses to Lebanon's sovereignty, security and cultural formula,” the spiritual summit's closing statement said.  “The delay in electing a president is negatively affecting all public and constitutional institutions, which are being paralyzed one after another,” the conferees warned. They called on all political forces to abide by “the national interest” in order to “exit the dilemma of vacuum.”The religious leaders underlined that “it is necessary to resort to the ballot boxes in the parliament in line with the Constitution.”
As for the ongoing dialogue between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal and the talks between the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement, the conferees said they “encourage dialogue,” but lamented that “all these dialogue sessions have only yielded little results.”
“The election of a president must remain a critical and vital issue because the Maronite Christian president is the guarantee for coexistence,” they stressed.
Baabda Palace was left vacant after the expiry of president Michel Suleiman's six-year term in May 2014. The rivalry between the March 8 and 14 alliances has caused the vacuum at the country's top Christian post despite calls by some political and religious leaders on MPs to head to parliament and elect a new head of state. The majority of the March 8 coalition's lawmakers, mainly from Hizbullah and FPM leader MP Michel Aoun's Change and Reform bloc, are boycotting the parliamentary sessions and causing a lack of quorum.
Separately, the religious leaders urged officials to give the social and economic affairs “utmost attention,” calling for “speeding up the adoption of the state budget, curbing unjustified expenditure, and boosting investment spending in order to activate the economic cycle.”
Turning to the regional situations and their impact on Lebanon, the Christian and Muslim leaders noted that the wars in Syria and Iraq “have caused countless disasters, including displacement.”
“The unorganized entry of Syrian refugees surpassed Lebanon's coping capacity at several levels, from security to housing, labor, health, education, transport and food reserve, which has depleted a treasury that is reeling under the burden of debt,” the conferees warned.
They said the dire circumstances of the refugees “require active international action and an increase in aid.”
“The international community must realize that Lebanon's capacity is limited,” they added. Separately, the religious leader said the phenomenon of terrorism in the region must be confronted “culturally, educationally and politically.” “It must be fought through unifying the ranks of moderation, boosting its position and modernizing the religious rhetoric,” they said. Commenting on the persecution of some Christian minorities in the region, the conferees underlined that “Christian presence has an essential role in giving this Levant a key role.”
“Christian presence in our countries is authentic and predates Islam by several centuries and it will continue,” they emphasized. “These waves of violence have not spared any of the religions and sects. Christians were persecuted, oppressed and displaced, and the last example was the attacks on Assyrians.”As for the Yemeni conflict, the conferees hoped the rapid developments “will be contained in a manner that preserves the Arab countries' unity, security and stability.”The spiritual leaders also announced that they have decided to turn the spiritual summit into an “institution” that will convene on a periodic basis. The decision to turn the summit into an institution came after a recommendation from Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan, An Nahar daily reported.
An Nahar said that during Monday's meeting, Daryan was expected to call for following up the recommendations of a previous summit, which had pledged to form of a joint delegation to visit Arab countries and ask for Lebanon's assistance.

Kataeb Lauds Govt. 'Support for Arabs' on Yemen, Warns of 'Dangerous Developments'
Naharnet /The Kataeb Party on Monday voiced support for the Lebanese government's stance regarding the latest Arab developments, urging domestic "immunity" in the face of the possible "dangerous" repercussions that might result from the Yemeni conflict. “The dangerous developments in Yemen reflect a heated regional escalation that threatens to trigger an unprecedented war in the region,” the party said in a statement issued after the weekly meeting of its political bureau. “The Kataeb Party backs the Lebanese government's official stance that is supportive of the Arab position on Yemen's events and its commitment to the Baabda Declaration,” the party added. Last week, Saudi Arabia launched military operation Firmness Storm to combat the growing influence of the Iranian-backed Shiite Huthi movement in Yemen. It has launched airstrikes in the country, backed by several Arab and Muslim countries. An Arab League summit declared over the weekend that the operation will continue until legitimacy is restored to Yemen through the reinstatement of toppled President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi. During the summit, Prime Minister Tammam Salam stressed keenness on “supporting legitimacy in Yemen and any Arab stance that preserves Yemen's sovereignty and territorial integrity.” In its statement on Monday, Kataeb called on all Lebanese parties to focus on Lebanon's affairs and “boost domestic immunity,” warning that “the coming days and regional events are very dangerous.” Turning to the continued presidential vacuum, the party reiterated that the issue must be given the priority. It called for resorting to the Constitution, “which considers the parliament an electoral body in the absence of a president.”Citing the beginning of the new legislative session, Kataeb called for dedicating all efforts to “resolving the obstacles that are impeding the election” and for “ending bickering on legislation.”

Jumblat Rejects Linking Lebanon's Fate to Syria and Nasrallah's Claims that Yemen Offensive Targets its Poor

Naharnet /Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat reiterated on Monday his support for political dialogue in Lebanon, while voicing his rejection to “once again linking Lebanon's fate to Syria's.”He said in his weekly editorial in the PSP-affiliated al-Anbaa website: “We stress the need to demarcate the border in the Shebaa Farms and Kfarshouba Hills to end the ongoing misconceptions over this issue.”“We should therefore focus our efforts on defending our borders and land as stipulated in the Baabda Declaration, which ultimately emphasizes the need to limit the possession of arms to the state,” he noted. Addressing the developments in Yemen, the MP said: “Some sides claimed that operation 'Firmness Storm' targets the country's poor. It is true that Yemen is poor, but didn't the Huthi movement drag the country to the cycle of wars at the expense of development?” He made his remark in reference to Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's speech on Friday during which he described the Saudi offensive against Yemen as an “act of aggression”.
He also wondered: “What have the poor oppressed Yemeni people done to incite such an attack?”
Jumblat continued: “Has anyone thought of the poor in Syria, whose situation was compounded by the destructive war?”“The heroes of Syria and its poor are liberating it bit by bit and they will be victorious as they did in Idlib and Bosra al-Sham,” he declared in reference to al-Nusra Front and its allies' recent defeat of Syrian regime forces in the city of Idlib. Jumblat also lashed out at Iran and its growing influence in the region, saying: “It seems that there is a need to clarify some labels in light of recent statements about the establishment of an historic empire with disregard to the Arab people and the diversity of the minority groups in the region.”“If such remarks are not considered condescending to them, then we suggest changing the name of the Islamic Republic of Iran to 'Islamic Persia',” he said.
An advisor to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had declared recently that “Iran is now an empire, similar to the one that existed in the past, whose capital is Baghdad.”None of Iran's allies opposed his statement, but Iraqi President Fuad Masum did, noted Jumblat.
“I look forward to seeing Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi succeeding in liberating the Iraqi regions from the Islamic State without the help of the so-called Popular Mobilization forces that have spread corruption and crime,” he added. “I look forward to him building a state and balanced army to achieve radical change on the ground that would restore stability in Iraq,” Jumblat continued. Islamic Persia's direct or indirect intervention in Iraq reflects some of the ambitions of achieving the historic empire, the MP said.
“On sectarian strife, it was clear that Islamic Persia stood against the majority of the Syrian people alongside the Syrian regime since the beginning of the peaceful revolt,” Jumblat stated.
“It was only natural that extremist groups would emerge from the policies of oppression, killing, crime, and shelling adopted by the Syrian regime,” he added. He therefore voiced his support for the recent remarks of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, who said that Syria was under "complete Persian occupation."In Yemen, “the expansionist polices of Islamic Persia” thwarted the Gulf initiative aimed at restoring stability in the country, he noted. “The invasion of military barracks, stripping the army of its weapons, and overthrow of the state whereby an armed militia began to threaten Yemen's national security prompted Saudi Arabia's reaction,” he remarked. He said that the kingdom's operation Firmness Storm is justified and “we completely support it.”“It has achieved further legitimacy through the comprehensive cover it was provided by the Arab League summit,” Jumblat stressed. “Saudi King Salman was clear in emphasizing the need to return to the political solution and Gulf initiative,” explained the MP. “Should we also remind of Islamic Persia's expansionist plans in Sudan on the borders of Egypt but through different methods?” he wondered. Saudi Arabia launched last week military operation Firmness Storm to combat the growing influence of the Iranian-backed Shiite Huthi movement in Yemen. It has launched airstrikes in the country, backed by various Arab countries. An Arab League summit declared over the weekend that the operation will continue until legitimacy is restored to Yemen through the reinstatement of toppled President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Samaha Case to Be Separated from Mamlouk's
Naharnet /State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr approved the separation of the case of former Minister Michel Samaha from that of Syrian security official Ali al-Mamlouk, reported the National News Agency on Monday. He approved the request filed by the permanent Military Court. The separation of the two files will facilitate holding the trial in the case, explained NNA. Samaha, who is considered close to the Syrian regime, was arrested in August 2012 for planning attacks in Lebanon along with two Syrian officials. His trial includes Mamlouk and a Syrian colonel identified only by his first name Adnan. The trial kicked off in June 2013 but has been adjourned on several occasions for failing to summon Mamlouk and Adnan. The former minister and the two Syrian officials were indicted for transporting explosives from Syria to Lebanon in an attempt to assassinate Lebanese political and religious leaders. The Lebanese judiciary sent Syria a formal notification of the warrants and charges, but received no response.

Arsal man kidnapped in apparent tit-for-tat act
The Daily Star/Mar. 30, 2015/BEIRUT: A man from the volatile northeastern border town of Arsal was kidnapped by unknown gunmen Monday, less than two weeks after his relative was murdered, which prompted a suspected retaliatory killing. Hussein Ezzeddine was kidnapped by gunmen from inside Arsal and taken to the outskirts Monday afternoon, a security source told The Daily Star. The source could not identify the gunmen, but suggested that they belonged to an Islamist group operating on the outskirts of Arsal, most probably ISIS. The man is a relative of Ali Ezzedine, a man from Arsal who was murdered 12 days ago also by gunmen suspected of belonging to ISIS. His death is suspected to have prompted his relatives to commit a retaliatory shooting against two Syrian men close to ISIS residing in a refugee camp in Arsal. The two men, whose identities were never made public, were shot, and one of them succumbed to his wounds. The security source highlighted Monday the possibility to find a correlation between the three incidents. The security situation in Arsal has been perturbed by the presence of fundamentalist groups Nusra and ISIS near the town. The two groups enjoy strong presence in the Syrian Qalamoun hills, which are connected to Arsal’s outskirts.

ISF arrests suspected kidnappers of Syrian army defectors
The Daily Star/Mar. 30, 2015/BEIRUT: The Internal Security Forces announced Monday it had busted a kidnapping ring in north Lebanon that accused of abducting defected members of the Syrian army. In recent months, north Lebanon has witnessed an increase in the kidnapping of soldiers and officers who had defected from the Syria army and joined rebels, the police statement said. After monitoring the area, the ISF’s Information Branch determined the identities and locations of a three-man kidnapping ring. The detained suspects, who are all Lebanese, were identified as M.S., 29; M.M., 36; and A.K., 32.The suspects allegedly confessed to kidnapping a defected Syrian officer and two defected soldiers and handing them over to the Syrian government. They also confessed to attempting to kidnap another defected officer, the statement added. The ISF is still pursuing three other Lebanese suspects who are also accused of kidnapping defected Syrian army personnel. The suspects being pursued were identified as M.H., 33; A.A., 28; and M.Q., 34.

Pakistan is to airlift troops for Saudi war on Yemeni rebels. Saudi, Egyptian landing in Aden is imminent
DEBKAfile Special Report March 30, 2015
The US-led world powers and Iran Monday, March 30, entered the last tense hours for a nuclear deal - as though Lausanne was on a different planet from the Middle East, where the Yemen war in which Iran is deeply involved abruptly scooped up a power outside the region, Pakistan.
An official in Islamabad announced Monday: "We have already pledged full support to Saudi Arabia in its operation against rebels and will join the coalition," he said, without specifying the type of military support Pakistan has pledged to its Saudi ally.
debkafile’s Intelligence sources report that the Pakistani army is preparing to airlift a large force of several brigades up to a complete division to Saudi Arabia. Friday, the government in Islamabad promised “a strong response” to any threat to “Saudi integrity.”
Our military sources note that Pakistan’s decision to intervene in the war against “Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels” presages the Yemen conflict’s expansion to ground and sea operations after four days of heavy Saudi air raids.
The Pakistani brigades would be able to relieve the substantial Saudi ground forces strung out along the kingdom’s 1,000-kilometer long southern border with Yemen, and free them up for action against the Houthis. Pakistani troops would also be available for ensuring security at Saudi oil fields and terminal, as they have in the past.
Riyadh fears that bands of terrorists trained by Iran, some of them Houthis, might infiltrate the kingdom and target its oil infrastructure.
debkafile sources report that, after the Saudi air bombardment broke the back of the Houthi-controlled Yemeni Air Force aircraft and its missile resources Sunday, a task completed Sunday,the fourth day of its intervention, Saudi and allied Gulf and Egyptian forces are preparing to land marines in the big Yemen Red Sea port of Aden. They aim to stabilize battle lines and prevent the town’s fall into rebel hands.
Once Aden is secured, the Yemeni president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled the city on the eve of the Saudi operation, can return and start re-assembling his tattered regime. A restored and functioning legitimate Yemeni government is essential for the conduct of the coming stages of the war to crush the revolt, but also envisages an exit linet: negotiations for the conflict’s termination.

Decisive Storm’ responds to Iran’s encroachment on Saudi borders
Monday, 30 March 2015
Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya
“Operation Decisive Storm” in Yemen marks a U.S.-endorsed Gulf position against Iranian encroachment on the Saudi border through the Houthi coup against the legitimate government in Yemen. The question, however, is this: are the military strikes by Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia, with the participation of Egypt and Pakistan, part of a strategy to halt Iranian encroachment in the Arab countries, or is it just a Yemeni episode imposed by necessity? The decision to respond militarily followed a request by the Yemeni President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi, who was besieged by the Houthis seeking to complete their coup in Aden and bring Iran to the strategic strait of Bab al-Mandab.
Saudi national security was also a major factor behind the Gulf and Arab military decision, because the developments on the Yemeni arena placed the Houthi and Iranian militias in a position of dominating decision making and of threatening the Saudi-Yemeni border. So will Decisive Storm persevere militarily until the Houthi coup -- supported by former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, his son Ahmed, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard -- is undone, even if this requires a ground operation and not just air and naval operations? Is the sudden awakening regarding the need to act in Yemen and make a military move part of an obligatory response, or is it the start of a qualitative strategic shift to re-sort regional balances and let both Washington and Tehran know that the Arab awakening is serious, especially on the eve of an anticipated U.S.-Iranian deal?
Operation Decisive Storm will raise morale among the supporters of legitimacy in Yemen and many Gulf people who suffered one humiliation after the other as a result of the Houthi adventures in Yemen and at the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. However, air strikes alone cannot decide the outcome of a war, despite the importance of dominating the skies. The United States relied on drones to fight al-Qaeda in Yemen, but this did not succeed in eliminating al-Qaeda or make a real impact on the ground in Yemen.
This does not negate the importance of taking out military bases, weapons caches, and air bases controlled by the Houthis, pro-Saleh forces, or Iranians in Yemen, however. Furthermore, eliminating senior Houthi commanders is a development that would affect morale on the battlefield. So certainly, air and naval operations have tangible value and results. However, control on the ground is of a different magnitude of importance.
In the past two days, there has been much talk about preparations for a ground operation by Egypt, Jordan, and Sudan. There were reports about the participation of 6 Moroccan planes, 6 Jordanian planes, and 3 Sudanese planes in Decisive Storm, to which Saudi Arabia committed 100 planes and naval units and 150,000 troops, and the UAE 30 planes, and in which Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain are also participating.
The participation of 10 Arab countries in the military operation in Yemen is important and carries many far-reaching implications, especially if the talk about ground intervention materializes. In that case, the Yemeni issue will enter a new internal and regional phase.
Ground forces?
Some are rushing to say that Egypt will intervene with ground forces in Yemen. Others are also confident Egypt will be drawn to interfere in Libya. Both scenarios are possible, though they are unlikely. Egypt realizes today that it is unprepared for a military intervention in Libya, as it could become involved in a protracted conflict there. Egypt still remembers its previous involvement in Yemen, meanwhile, and the bitter taste in its mouth from those times.
Of course, there are new developments today in terms of the extremely important strategic relations between Egypt, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This relationship includes mutual defence when it comes to the national security of any one of these countries. In fact, Yemen’s developments posed a threat to Saudi national security, prompting the military operation.
What will give Decisive Storm a sense of military and political seriousness is clarifying its strategic-regional dimension, beyond Yemen
The most important link in the future and in the outcomes of Decisive Storm has to do with the question of whether the operation’s strategic implications are confined to Yemen, or whether they go beyond Yemen. In other words, the decision-makers must have examined how to respond to the Iranian incursion inside Yemen as part of a broader political-military strategy. Their planning must have addressed the timeframe of Decisive Storm and the requirements of the phase that follows the operation vis-a-vis Iran, the Houthis, and Ali Abdullah Saleh. This is the minimum requirement. However, it is also important for the leaders of Decisive Storm to have a vision that goes beyond Yemen in terms of regional repercussions, to confront the Iranian role in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, not just in Yemen.
The Arab military operation in Yemen does not have an international dimension, unlike the coalition against ISIS, which includes the majority of Arab countries under U.S. leadership. Washington is not part of Decisive Storm, though it has endorsed it after the Houthis nearly took power in Aden after Sanaa.
Washington was compelled not to object to Decisive Storm after it previously turned a blind eye to the events in Yemen. It was as if Washington had seen the Houthis and their Iranian allies as a means to eliminate al-Qaeda and prevent ISIS from entering Yemen.
In fact, it was not just the United States that was absent from Yemen because of a dismal policy based on mutual attrition. Some Gulf countries also saw this policy as beneficial, to exhaust the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh on the one hand, and al-Qaeda and the angry tribes on the other hand hand. This strategic mistake was made worse by the belief that betting on the failure of the Houthis to govern Yemen by themselves was tantamount to a real policy, or that bribing tribes from time to time was a real policy.
Iran won’t back down
For its part, Tehran, in its first reaction to Decisive Storm, has made it clear that it will not back down. Tehran criticized the military operation, saying the Saudi military strikes would hinder a peaceful solution in Yemen. In other words, Tehran will not let Riyadh feel comfortable and will not facilitate its victory in Yemen, but will instead seek to implicate it and implicate Egypt, should Egypt decide to intervene on the ground.
If Decisive Storm has an exit strategy -- just like each calculated military operation has an exit strategy -- then a political track parallel to the military track is unavoidable, to address the Yemeni crisis politically on the basis of new foundations. But if the military objective is exclusively to create new balances on the ground, Decisive Storm’s strategy will be a “staying strategy” because a military approach to the crisis will need time and could lead to a quagmire.
The problem today is that the political approach requires compromises that have become difficult following the military operation. The political approach requires understandings that are rejected now with the vengeful and vindictive former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has played a fundamental role in leading Yemen to the brink of civil war. Ignoring him leads to further bloody conflict, while an accord with him requires a compromise that is difficult if not impossible for the decision makers behind the military operation to accept.
As regards the Houthis, it is impossible to eliminate them, even if there is an overwhelming desire to punish this tribe that has challenged major Gulf powers. There is also the al-Qaeda, which must not be encouraged or enabled, whether individually or officially by Saudis, because this will feed another monster that will backfire against Saudi Arabia and the region. Subsequently, no matter how much al-Qaeda could appear to be a necessary factor to defeat the Houthis or the Iranians behind them, enabling al-Qaeda would be suicide
Thus, there is a need for a comprehensive strategy that goes beyond the traditional buying of allegiances and the military goals of Decisive Storm, no matter how crucial or necessary they are. This strategy has an American component and a component related to the Iranian encroachment and Arab balances.
The developments in Yemen constituted the most important challenge for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which had sought a political solution in Yemen following the wave of change there 5 years ago. The GCC helped Ali Abdullah Saleh leave Sanaa, and facilitated dialogue that nearly pushed Yemen to a federalism formula satisfying all sides. But Iran became involved in Yemen, believing helplessness was the dominant feature of Saudi policy, following Tehran’s victories in Syria and Iraq. Tehran grew increasingly self-confident as a result of its overtures to the U.S. administration, and President Barack Obama’s desperate bid for a nuclear deal with Iran. Tehran proceeded to consolidate its hold over Yemen in Saudi’s backyard, seriously challenging Saudi national security.
Decisive Storm followed the Yemeni president’s appeal for help. But what made it a strategic requirement is the dramatic U.S.-Iranian rapprochement, which had reached the extent of disregarding the entire Arab national security. Washington remained silent vis-a-vis Iran’s encroachment in Syria, and became an “aerial” partner of the militias run by Iran in Iraq under the pretext of the joint fight against ISIS. Washington turned a blind eye to Iranian encroachment, both directly and through the Houthis, in Yemen, next door to Saudi Arabia.
What will give Decisive Storm a sense of military and political seriousness is clarifying its strategic-regional dimension, beyond Yemen. This requires a conversation and a new discourse between Arab countries, particularly between Gulf countries and Egypt, over the military role of these countries on the ground and how to best respond to Iranian escalation from Yemen to Iraq and Syria. In turn, this requires sitting at the long-term policy drawing board, and not contenting oneself with issuing statements and holding Arab summits. This is what is needed from Decisive Storm, so that this operation would be truly qualitative as part of a tight strategy, rather than being just a storm of rage as part of fleeting responses, which would reinforce the conviction that Saudi policy is haphazard and reactive.
What Decisive Storm also requires is a rational political dimension, because the interests of the Middle East and the Gulf do not lie in a large-scale military confrontation with Iran, unlikely as this may be. Perhaps Decisive Storm will open the door to accords, as proxy wars in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq failed and destroyed these countries. Only Syrians, Yemenis, Iraqis, and Lebanese were killed in those wars, and not citizens from the countries backing the proxy wars.
At the level of the Arab-American dialogue, Decisive Storm is a new milestone, but it will not turn into the nucleus of a new kind of Arab-American or Gulf-American relationship unless there is real determination to stop Iranian encroachment in Arab countries and end American disregard for Arab interests and positions.
This article was first published in al-Hayat on March 27, 2015 and was translated by Karim Traboulsi.

How Ali Abdullah Saleh burnt his own son
Monday, 30 March 2015
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
The son of isolated Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been injured with more than half of his body suffering from burns. Despite this, Saleh – who is allied with the Houthis who support Iran – is the mastermind of the current mayhem in Yemen that erupted months ago. Saleh, the wounded fox, was betrayed by his own intelligence and hasn’t yet comprehended that he would no longer govern the country after thousands of Yemenis took to the streets demanding an end to his rule which lasted for about 40 years and had lost all legitimacy and credibility. Just like he himself was burnt by the revolution, he is now behind burning the political future of his eldest son Ahmad, whom he had planned protests for in Sanaa a week ago calling for Yemenis to appoint him as president.
What destroyed Saleh’s conspiratorial plan was the leaked details of the secret message which he previously sent via his son Ahmad to Saudi defense minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The letter was leaked after Saleh appeared on a Yemeni television channel after the Saudi-led coalition began to shell his forces. He claimed neutrality and patriotism saying he’s always stood by a political solution and that he and his family members have no power ambitions.
He appeared as a lamb before the Yemeni people claiming his innocence in any involvement in the coup and war, which he had in fact caused. His lies pushed Riyadh to leak the details of the secret message he sent via his son Ahmad to Prince Salman. Al Arabiya News Channel’s report aired details of how two days before the Saudi-led military attacks began, Saleh sent his son to negotiate a deal with the Saudis. The deal stipulated that he would be willing to stand by the Saudis and abandon his Houthi allies in exchange for a series of demands – which were all personal.
He demanded that the U.N. Security Council lift sanctions imposed on him, like ending the travel ban and unfreezing his assets in Yemeni and foreign banks and that his son be allowed to govern. The leak of the message aimed to clarify to the Yemeni people what Saleh truly is and what he wanted to bargained for. It also aimed to show that not meeting his personal demands was actually an act of blackmail in which he threatened to continue his alliance with the Houthis to take full control over Yemen and sabotage the transitional process sponsored by the Gulf states and the U.N. Saudi Arabia refused the deal and launched the military campaign.
Saleh as Yemen's fox
In the past, we described Saleh as Yemen’s fox. He described himself as “dancing on the heads of snakes” because he governed the country for decades via slyness and not via institutions. He’s done so until the Yemenis revolted against him in 2011. He did not accept to step down until he was forced to after he suffered burns in an explosion which targeted him in a mosque. When he returned from Saudi Arabia, the country that treated him, he conspired against it and allied with its Iranian rivals and their Houthi proxy and sought chaos of the domestic situation, sabotaging Yemen and threatening the Middle East’s security by pushing the Gulf to collide with Iran.
Saleh sabotaged Yemen and threatened the Middle East’s security by pushing the Gulf to collide with Iran
Saleh’s slyness failed at tempting the Saudis with the deal he proposed as for years, Saudi Arabia has been well-aware that he’s a sly man. The Saudis decided that what’s best for them and for the Yemeni people is to go ahead with the reconciliation plan and with the political solution which the U.N. adopted because this would be the only guarantee for Yemenis and not just for Saleh and his son. This choice is also the best option for Saleh if the latter had wisely considered it. Engaging in the reconciliation for the sake of Yemen’s stability, instead of sabotaging it, would have made him a father-figure they can resort to and it would have also improved the future of his son Ahmad who could have been one of the possible leaders of the country.
The stupidity of this isolated fox destroyed his present and his son’s Ahmad future. He failed at calculating the Saudi reaction since the very start. His evil slyness led him to using the Houthis because he was confident that while he transfers power to himself and his son, they – like Hezbollah in Lebanon – can assassinate, destroy, invade and cancel out legitimacy without being deterred by anyone. However, he was surprised by the decisive Saudi policy and realized it’s smarter and wiser than he thought. Saleh bet that any foreign military act against him is almost impossible. He thought that Gulf-Gulf differences will lead any coalition to fail and that the Americans will reject any Saudi intervention to avoid upsetting the Iranians whom they (the Americans) are negotiating with in Switzerland on the nuclear program. Saleh was taken by surprise when realizing that Riyadh organized one of the best military, political and legal operations. “Decisive Storm” brought together the Qataris with the Emiratis on a military level and gained the support of the Egyptians and the Turks.
Saleh also saw how the Americans rushed to publicly support the campaign as the American president called Saudi King Salman to voice support of the campaign. The Americans also offered their intelligence and logistical services. The recent Arab League summit turned into a conference that greatly supports the campaign and the legitimacy of President Hadi who was celebrated as he represented Yemen at the summit and delivered a speech on behalf of the Yemeni people. All this happened while the fox Saleh is in hiding to escape the military operation against his forces and the tribes who are pursuing him to detain him and bring him to justice after he violated the vows of reconciliation and immunity guarantees.

As nuclear talks near deadline, Khamenei aide warns of West's 'deceptive tactics'
An adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out at world powers amid negotiations to reach a preliminary nuclear accord in Switzerland Monday.
"Our negotiating team are trustworthy and compassionate officials that are working hard, but they should be careful with the enemies' deceptive and skillful tactics," the adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, told Fars news agency.
For days Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have been trying to break an impasse in negotiations aimed at stopping Tehran from having the capacity to develop a nuclear bomb, in exchange for an easing of United Nations sanctions that are crippling its economy.
But officials at the talks in the Swiss city of Lausanne said attempts to reach a framework accord, which is intended as a prelude to a comprehensive agreement by the end of June, could yet fall apart.
Negotiators from all parties appeared increasingly pessimistic. "If we don't have some type of framework agreement now, it will be difficult to explain why we would be able to have one by June 30," said a Western diplomat.
He said three major sticking points must be resolved if Iran and the six powers are to secure the deal before March 31, and it is unclear whether those gaps could be filled.
The diplomat said the most difficult issues related to the duration of any limits on Iranian uranium enrichment and research and development activities after an initial 10 years, the lifting of the sanctions and the restoring of them in case of non-compliance by Iran.
"It seems that we have an accord for the first 10 years, but with regard to the Iranians the question of what happens after is complicated," the official said on condition of anonymity, adding: "I can't say what the final result will be."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said there had been "some progress and some setbacks in the last hours".
Highlighting the general mood, a diplomat quoted by Chinese news agency Xinhua said the atmosphere on Monday had turned from "optimism" to "gloom" among negotiators.
In addition to US Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Steinmeier, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, China's Wang Yi and Russia's Sergei Lavrov gathered at a 19th-century hotel overlooking Lake Geneva.
After the first meeting since November of all the ministers, Lavrov returned to Moscow for an engagement, though officials said he would return if there was something to announce.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has campaigned against the negotiations, said in Jerusalem that the agreement being put together in Lausanne sends the message "that Iran stands to gain by its aggression."
Western officials said the two sides had previously been closing in on a preliminary deal that could be summarized in a brief document which may or may not be released.
Officials said the talks were now likely to run until the deadline of midnight on Tuesday or beyond.
The six powers want more than a 10-year suspension of Iran's most sensitive nuclear work. Tehran, which denies it is trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability, demands a swift end to sanctions in exchange for limits on its atomic activities.
Both Iran and the six have floated compromise proposals but agreement has remained elusive.
One sticking point concerns Iran's demand to continue with research into newer generations of advanced centrifuges. These can purify uranium faster and in greater quantities than those it currently operates for use in nuclear power plants or - if very highly enriched - in weapons.
Another question involves the speed of removing the sanctions on Iran.
Even if a framework deal is reached by the deadline, officials say it could still fall apart when the two sides attempt to agree on all the technical details for the comprehensive accord by the end of June.
There were several examples of progress and setbacks. Western officials said Iran suggested it would could keep fewer than 6,000 centrifuges in operation, down from its current figure of nearly 10,000, and ship most of its enriched uranium to Russia.
But Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi said dispatching stockpiles abroad "was not on Iran's agenda".
A senior US State Department official said there had been no decisions on stockpiles, though several officials made clear that the Iranians had given preliminary consent to the idea before reversing their position. Still, negotiators said stockpiles were not a dealbreaker.
It was not clear if the Iranian backtracking on certain proposals was a sign that Tehran might be getting cold feet.
On the issue of UN sanctions, officials expressed concerns that the five permanent veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council could object to plans to strip away some of the UN measures in place since 2006, albeit for different reasons.
Britain, France and the United States want any removal of UN sanctions to be automatically reversible, but the Russians dislike this because it would weaken their veto power, a Western official said.

Netanyahu blasts emerging nuclear deal as 'a reward for Iran's aggression'
By JPOST.COM STAFF/03/30/2015
As Iran and world powers face less than two days to reach a framework nuclear deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday again attacked the emerging agreement, saying it would serve as "a reward for Iran's aggression."
Netanayhu, who has maintained a staunch stance against a nuclear Iran, warned that Israel among other "moderate and responsible" states in the Middle East would be the first to be affected by a deal that emerges from the current ongoing negotiation in Switzerland.
"The deal emerging in Lausanne [Switzerland] sends a message that there is no cost for aggression, and in turn, that there is a reward for Iran's aggression," the premier lamented.
Turning to the recent unrest in Yemen, Netanyahu criticized negotiators from the P5+1 powers - the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany - for "turning a blind eye" to the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels that continue to occupy more territory in their pursuit to gain control of the country.
Netanyahu stressed that Israel would continue to stand up to all threats against the Jewish state.
"We will never close our eyes and we will continue to operate against every threat in every generation, and of course in this generation," he vowed.
Meanwhile in Switerland, a Western diplomat on Monday said there are three major sticking points that must be resolved if Iran and major powers are to secure a framework deal before a self-imposed March 31 deadline and it is unclear whether those differences will be bridged.
The diplomat said the most difficult issues were related to the duration of any limits on Iranian nuclear activities after an initial 10 years, the lifting of UN sanctions and restoring them in case of non-compliance by Tehran.
"There cannot be an agreement if we do not have answers to these questions," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "The feeling is that if things are to happen, it's now that the pieces will fit together. There's a moment when you have to say yes or no."
The foreign ministers of Iran and the six world powers met on Monday in a final push for a preliminary accord ahead of the deadline to outline a deal to end Tehran's nuclear standoff with the West.
Reuters contributed to this report.
As a mere coincidence, while reports were emerging on Sunday in Lausanne, Switzerland, about the developing agreement over Iran's nuclear program, Israel's military reporters were granted a tour of the Israel's naval base in Haifa, to view its newest submarine.
This is the fifth submarine that Israel has acquired at a significantly subsidized price from the Germans. Their generosity stems from pangs of guilt following the Holocaust. Each submarine costs more than half a billion dollars – Israel is expecting its sixth submarine to arrive this summer. Israel sees this submarine fleet – what it calls Fleet 7 – as a "strategic arm" of its military force.
Foreign experts and reports explain that Israel, according to their assessments, has eighty nuclear bombs and warheads, and with the submarines can carry a "second strike" nuclear capability. This means, that on "Doomsday" if Israel were ever to be bombed in a nuclear attack (if and when Iran achieves that capability, and if Tehran were to carry out such an offensive) and Israel's stock of nuclear weapons stored underground were to be destroyed, Israel would still be able to respond with a "second strike," firing missiles from its underwater fleet, nearly indiscernible to enemy eyes.
Armed with these six submarines, Israel's strategic arm – along with the air force, and pending approval from the political echelon – could attack Iran to prevent it from reaching its storage of nuclear weapons. This is what former Mossad chief Meir Dagan meant when he spoke about a military attack as the last resort – "only when the sword is at the throat."
The deal currently being consolidated in Switzerland – which may not even come into fruition by the deadline - between the five world powers and Germany (P5+1) and Iran, even if not ideal, certainly does not belong in the category of "sword at the throat."
The Israeli government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, defines the pending agreement as a "bad deal." It's true - maybe it would have been possible to reach an immeasurably better agreement. Iran has come to these talks, which are aimed at limiting its nuclear program, out of weakness. The heavy sanctions imposed on it over the last years – particularly on its oil exports and banking system – are threatening to crush its economy, and Iran's leaders are concerned about the future of their regime.
But even with the concessions given by the P5+1, it is Iran which is forced to capitulate most. The centrifuges will not be dismantled, but their numbers will be reduced by 40 percent, to at most 6,000 – leaving Iran with only older, slower and less efficient models. Most of its stock of enriched uranium – some eight tons, those too at a level of only up to five percent – will be transferred to Russia. The nuclear reactor it is building in Arak will not be able to produce enough plutonium to create an atomic weapon. International inspection will be intrusive, and will continue as such for at least 10 more years. The sanctions will be lifted only gradually.
Each of these steps will distance Iran from being able to create nuclear weapons by at least a year. At the moment, it is only a few months away from such a capability.
It's true that the agreement leaves some loopholes that are worrisome and that beg for a solution, such as requiring that Iran reveal its past "weaponization" activities (the final stage of assembling a bomb), and how to prevent it from research and development of advanced models of centrifuges. The question here is not just if this is a bad agreement – but rather, what is the alternative? A military option? Iran could have already begun galloping toward a bomb years ago – but it didn't, for various reasons. One, is its fear of an Israeli preventative strike. As we just saw on the submarine tour, Israel is the strongest military and economic power in the Middle East. Its strategic posture amid the dissolution of the governments in the Arab world has only improved in the last years. There is no existential threat to the Jewish state. Not even from Iran. Israel can permit itself to show more self confidence than its prime minister, who imbues his citizens with horror. In any case, Israel always reserves the right to use military action if ever it should feel "the sword at the throat."

The Curse of Ali Abdullah Saleh
Diana Moukalled/Asharq Al Awsat
Monday, 30 Mar, 2015
Following the ouster of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011, I visited Yemen twice, with my last visit coming just over three months ago.
During those visits I always noticed his old pictures, still hanging in Sana’a, though some had been ripped up and damaged, others their colors faded with age. Months passed following his departure from power, and yet during a short walk through the Old City in Sana’a you would still be able see those old pictures, obstinately refusing to go away.
Like the colors in those pictures, Saleh’s power may have faded somewhat, but he remains, as they do, “stuck on the walls,” so to speak, for despite being ousted in 2011 after 33 years in power, his influence remains. I don’t think it would be too much to say that Saleh is the person most responsible for this current dangerous moment in the country’s history.
Saleh remained in Yemen following his ouster in 2011, and the political road map laid for the country did not stipulate that he be tried in court. So he stayed, and continued to pursue his activities in the political and security spheres, as well as appearing regularly in the media, offering stinging critiques of the political power in the country which filled the vacuum his departure had created—as though he had not had a hand in the problems that he was lambasting the new government and president for failing to solve.
In recent leaked audio recordings of Saleh, we can hear him inciting some of those military and security leaders still loyal to him against the Yemeni people, whom he also insults during the recordings. We can also hear him vowing to “destroy everything beautiful” in the country. I think the only appropriate response to such comments would be one of concern and anger—though also ridicule: for Saleh did not leave much in the country during his 33 years in power for him to destroy now, whether beautiful or not (this is nowhere more evident than in the following example: after an attempt on his life three years ago, Yemen’s president was not able to find any adequate medical care in the country and had to go and seek treatment abroad). All of this proves that the man did nothing in those three awful decades in charge of the country except consistently hoard its wealth—billions of dollars of it, if we are to believe some of the estimates—for himself, despite his people being among the poorest and neediest in the world today.
The recent coup in Yemen, staged by the Iran-backed Shi’ite Houthi movement, could not have taken place without Saleh’s assistance and support. We see proof of this—again—in leaked recordings and in the way some of the country’s army and security services still loyal to him so openly aided the advance of Houthi militias across Yemen and refused to protect the country’s legitimate and internationally recognized president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. This involvement was at its most obvious, and brazen, when Houthi militias attacked Aden in the last few days.
Hundreds of thousands died during the six armed conflicts Saleh waged against the Houthis during his three decades in power, but this did not stop him from putting his bloody hands in theirs after he had lost power, all in a desperate bid to gain it back and diminish that of Hadi’s, whose authority was already weak and fragile.
In the end it seems that Saleh’s recent actions are nothing but an act of revenge against the Yemeni people who so bravely overthrew him in 2011. Among those targeted by him for special treatment are some major tribal families like the Al Ahmar, who had such an instrumental hand in mobilizing mass protests against his rule.
Everything that has happened in the country since last year clearly shows him as seeking to drive the country into the abyss. “Destroy everything beautiful,” he tells those military leaders in the recordings. No more fitting tribute for the man could be found.
Yemen is at the edge of a dangerous precipice. If the regional players have any power left to help the situation in the country, they must first and foremost make sure that when Yemen finally turns a new page, Ali Abdullah Saleh’s name is nowhere to be seen.

Saudi-led airstrikes cut off Iranian supplies to Houthis: defense ministry
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi-led airstrikes against the Iran-backed Shi’ite Houthi movement in Yemen have successfully cut off air supply lines to the movement from Tehran, Saudi Arabia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday.
In his daily briefing on the progress of the air assaults—dubbed Operation Decisive Storm—Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Ahmed Bin Hassan Assiri told reporters the Houthis had used a recent deal signed between Yemen and Iran’s civil aviation authorities to gain military supplies from the Islamic Republic.
Yemen and Iran’s civil aviation authorities signed the agreement in late February, following the Houthi coup, to operate 14 direct flights between both countries, via state carrier Yemen Airways and Iranian private airliner Mahan Air.
Assiri said the Houthis had amassed a large amount of weapons and ammunition from Iran since the deal was signed, but that these supply lines had now been successfully cut off, with weapons storage facilities also targeted throughout the country.
The border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen had now also been secured, he said.
He added however that the operation to target Houthi military supplies stored throughout Yemen was ongoing and remained difficult as the group had placed many of their supplies near residential areas.
The Arab-wide, Saudi-led airstrikes are particularly focusing on the Houthis’ anti-aircraft and ballistic capabilities, he added.
This comes as Operation Decisive Storm reaches its fifth day and regional allies continue to bomb Houthi targets in Yemen. Warplanes from Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Sudan, as well as Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, are also taking part in the operation. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday, Qatari Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Hamad Bin Ali Al-Attiyah said Gulf countries had no choice but to enter the operation after the Houthis refused repeated calls to return to the negotiating table.
“The Houthis insisted on continuing their plot, which completely sidelines the legitimate and elected political authority in Yemen and threatens the security and stability of the country,” he said.
“Even this wasn’t enough, though, and the movement also began threatening the security and stability of other regional countries, including Saudi Arabia, and this is what pushed the GCC countries to take the decision to enter military operations in Yemen in order to defend the region.”Regarding Iran, which is backing the Houthi coup in Yemen, Attiyah said that GCC countries deal with the Islamic Republic “on the basis of mutual respect and the non-interference in the internal affairs and sovereignty” of other countries.
He also dismissed talk of a sectarian, Sunni–Shi’ite basis for the current offensive, saying that Shi’ites were an “essential part of the makeup of the region” and that religious affiliation should have no bearing on citizenship.
Attiyah also said it was unlikely the current air offensive would be beefed up with ground troops at the current time, though he said that should a “political decision” be taken from Arab countries to enter Yemen with boots on the ground, Doha would be ready to offer its assistance and that its armed forces would be “at the service” of its allies in the region.
**Nasser Al-Haqbani contributed additional reporting from Riyadh.

President Assad: the STL’s elephant in the room
Elise Knutsen| The Daily Star/Mar. 30, 2015
BEIRUT: While Syrian President Bashar Assad has been referenced on a near-daily basis at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon over the past few months, it is unlikely that the Syrian regime will be legally implicated in crimes the court is investigating, experts say.
While the names of the five Hezbollah suspects accused of being criminally responsible for Rafik Hariri’s February 2005 assassination have been uttered only a handful of times since political testimony began last November, both the prosecution and the defense have quizzed witnesses extensively about Assad’s role in the political and security climate which prevailed in Lebanon in 2005.
Judge Nicola Lettieri remarked frankly on Assad’s simultaneous absence and ubiquity in the proceedings – something of an elephant in the courtroom – earlier this month.
“There is a ghost who wanders in this courtroom, that is a Syrian regime and this president,” Lettieri said. Minutes later, he clarified his statement. “I spoke about ‘ghost’ because a ghost is someone who is not present in the courtroom but whose ears are always burning.”
Political witnesses allied with Hariri have for months been highlighting the fraught and even inimical relationship between the late prime minister and the Syrian president.
Still, it would be immensely difficult to prove that the Assad regime is directly tied to Hariri’s assassination, explained Rodger Shanahan, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy. “Even if it had been ordered by him [Assad], it is hardly likely that there would be any admissible evidence of a standard sufficient to meet judicial requirements,” Shanahan told The Daily Star.
Many of the individuals who may have been in a position to testify to the links between Hezbollah, Damascus and the Lebanese-Syrian security apparatus have died.
Nadim Shehadi, director of the Fares Center at Tufts University, noted that “key” figures identified by United Nations investigators as potentially implicated in the crime, including top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, leading Syrian intelligence officer Jamaa Jamaa and Assad’s brother in-law Assef Shawkat have taken their secrets to the grave.
Bashar, Shehadi said, is not the ghost of the STL. Rather, the individuals who could “link” him to Hariri’s assassination are ghosts.
Moreover, Syria is not legally required to cooperate with STL. Unlike the Lebanese government, which is bound by order of the United Nations Security Council to assist the proceedings, the Syrian regime is under no obligation to provide evidence or suspects that could be material to the case.
Even if the international community applies pressure, it seems unlikely that the regime will be cooperative, said American University of Beirut Professor Sari Hanafi.
“I mean the international community ... was unable to stop Assad’s madness in Syria,” he said, referring to the bloody civil war in the country now entering its fifth year. “It will not convince Syria to deliver” its citizens to the tribunal for questioning.
Peter Haynes, who represents the victims of the blast that killed Hariri and 21 others, said Assad and the Syrian regime are unlikely to materialize in any meaningful way at the STL.
“I don’t see it being any more concrete than a spectral presence,” he said.
While the victims hold a wide range of political opinions, Haynes said that many share “general belief that the Syrians were where the buck stopped with this murder.”
Though Assad may remain a ghost before the STL, Haynes said that evidence presented at trial may well pave the way for future lawsuits against the regime.
“I think the trial chamber is perfectly entitled to make findings that the Syrian regime had the dark hand in all of this. And that may be sufficient for subsequent civil claims against them [the regime],” Haynes said. Specifically, if adequate evidence against Assad is presented before the court, victims may be able to sue the regime for compensation.
“But that’s a long away from indicting any individual connected to the regime,” he acknowledged.
“It is unlikely [Assad] will be prosecuted for the attack on Hariri or for any other act before [the] tribunal,” agreed lawyers Karlijn van der Voort and Anne-Marie Verwiel, who run a blog about the STL.
Still, evidence against the regime raised at the STL may help generate momentum to bring Assad to justice.
“It may serve to gain international political will to have Assad and his allies tried before either the ICC or, if that remains impossible, to create a Special Tribunal for Syria,” they said in a joint email.

Blindly supporting Arab autocrats isn’t a solution
Fareed Zakaria| The Daily Star
Yemen’s descent into chaos – with jihadi groups jumping in to fill the vacuum of authority – has startled many observers. Just months ago, the White House was touting the country as a model for its anti-terrorism campaign. But Yemen’s trajectory should not surprise anyone. It follows a familiar pattern in the Arab world, one that we are likely to see again – possibly in larger and more significant countries such as Egypt.Yemen was ruled for 33 years by a secular dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh. He ruthlessly suppressed opposition groups, especially those with a religious or sectarian orientation (in this case, the Houthis, who are Shiite). After 9/11, he cooperated wholeheartedly with Washington’s war on terror, which meant he got money, arms and training from the United States.
But the repression ensured that over time, dissent would grow. His regime faced political and military opposition, and eventually, during the Arab Spring, he was forced to resign. While people both in Yemen and in Washington promised a more representative government, they quickly settled into a comfortable relationship with Saleh’s former deputy, Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi, who broke promises for political inclusion and participation and quickly began to rule as repressively as his predecessor. As Farea al-Muslimi wrote in a perceptive essay in Foreign Affairs last summer, “the number of elected officials in Yemen was effectively set at zero.”
Soon, the opposition and insurgency mounted. To understand how power politics is often behind religious and sectarian opposition, consider this: Saleh is himself a Shiite, but cracked down on the Shiite Houthis forcibly. Now deposed, he and his family have allied with Houthis in a bid to come back into office.
This is the pattern that has produced terrorism in the Arab world. Repressive, secular regimes – backed by the West – become illegitimate. Over time they become more repressive to survive and the opposition becomes more extreme and violent. The space for compromise, pluralism and democracy vanishes. The insurgents and jihadis have mostly local grievances but because Washington supports the dictator, their goals become increasingly anti-American.
Since we have learned little from this history, we are now repeating it. The Obama administration praises Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who arguably rules in a more repressive manner than did Hosni Mubarak. Sisi’s regime has killed hundreds of protesters and jailed tens of thousands, mostly members of the political opposition, according to Human Rights Watch. It has censored the press and imprisoned journalists.
And it is not just the Obama administration. Intellectuals like Ayaan Hirsi Ali praise the general for wanting a moderate version of Islam. Sen. Ted Cruz praises Sisi for his courage in calling out Islamists, contrasting him with President Barack Obama. Rep. Louie Gohmert compares the general to George Washington for his singular determination.
But it is hardly unusual for an Arab military dictator to want a moderate form of Islam. In fact, that was the norm. Modern Egypt’s first military ruler, Gamal Abdel Nasser, consistently spoke out against the backward and obscurantist religious views of the Muslim Brotherhood, as he jailed its members. His successor, Anwar Sadat, intensified this crackdown. And it was in this atmosphere of repression, in Egypt’s jails in the 1970s, that Al-Qaeda was born.
There was an American president who understood the danger of blind support for Arab dictators, no matter that they were admirably secular in their outlook or willing to jail jihadis or to stay at peace with Israel. He said, “60 years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe.”
His secretary of state was clearer about the connection, explaining that in the Arab world, “there were virtually no legitimate channels for political expression in the region. But this did not mean that there was no political activity. There was – in madrassas and radical mosques. It is no wonder that the best-organized political forces were extremist groups. And it was there, in the shadows, that Al-Qaeda found the troubled souls to prey on and exploit as its foot soldiers in its millenarian war against the ‘far enemy.’”
That was George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice. The fact that Bush’s administration so botched its remedy – regime change and occupation of Iraq – should not blind us to the fact that it was accurate in its diagnosis of the problem. The Arab world provides no easy answers, trapped as it is between repressive dictators and illiberal democrats. But that does not mean that blindly supporting the autocrats is the answer.
As we ally ever more closely with Yemen’s and Egypt’s dictators and engage in joint military actions with the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, we should be wondering what is going on in the shadows, mosques and jails of these countries.
**Fareed Zakaria is published weekly by THE DAILY STAR.

The Iranians are praying for an agreement
Orly Azoulay/Ynetnews/3.31.15 Israel News
Orly Azoulay finds herself watching Netanyahu's Congress speech from the lobby of an Iranian hotel, and encounters a country desperate for a deal that will free it from crippling sanctions.
The minute or two during which the passport control official at Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport scrutinized my foreign passport felt like an eternity. He didn't look me in the eye; he didn't smile; and he didn't say what he was looking for. And then he suddenly stood up and walked over to consult with a second official at another counter.
A further two officials soon joined the group. One of them approached me and asked if I was born in Israel. I nodded. I couldn't deny it; it says so in my passport. I tightened the hijab covering my hair so as not to give him any reason to arrest me.
The centrifuges in my mind kept spinning, enriching the fears and prejudices I brought from home to the highest level. I thought about Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post correspondent who was arrested in Iran some four months ago and hasn't been seen or heard of since. Several more minutes went by, and then the official ushered me into a nearby room to be fingerprinted.
A young stern-faced woman pressed my hands firmly onto the ink pad – first my right hand, then the left, and then both together. A few minutes later, one of the officials returned with my passport in hand. He handed it to me and spoke three words in English: "You can go."
Thus began my visit to Iran – 14 days and nights in Tehran and Shiraz, Isfahan and Persepolis, the ancient capital of the Persian Empire; a 5,600 kilometer journey through the land of the ayatollahs and centrifuges, a country whose people eagerly await an agreement to rescue them from the stifling sanctions.
We arrived in the city of Hamadan, the burial place of Queen Esther and Mordechai, in the evening. Hanging above the reception desk of the small motel at which we were staying was an American flag – a rare sight in a country where Stars and Stripes are still set ablaze at demonstrations.
After taking my suitcase up to my room, I went back down to the lobby and couldn't believe my eyes: There on the giant TV screen, in front of framed photographs of Ayatollah Khomeini and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, was the face of the Israeli prime minister.
Iran's English-language television network, Press TV, was carrying a live broadcast of Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the US Congress; and out of all the places in the world, I found myself watching him from the lobby of an Iranian hotel, on the road between Tehran and Baghdad.
Dozens of Iranians were standing in the lobby and watching the speech. And they didn't like what they were hearing.
"After a speech like that, Iran should go all out to achieve the nuclear capabilities it desires," one of our local escorts said to me, his face red with anger. "It was an insulting and degrading speech. I was ashamed to listen to it. That prime minister would be willing to send planes to bomb all of us here. It's good that President Obama doesn't listen to his advice."
The following morning, I came across a satirical magazine at a newsstand. A large picture of Netanyahu adorned its front page. In his one hand, Netanyahu was holding an Angry Bird; a cartoon image of King Kong appeared to be coming out his head; and the caption below in Farsi read: "Nothing scares him more than peace."
A little later, at the café of the Laleh Hotel in the Iranian capital, a waiter handed me a copy of the Tehran Times, the local English-language newspaper owned by associates of Supreme Leader Khamenei. The huge picture on the front page showed a man brandishing a banner in protest against Netanyahu's address in Washington.
Displayed on the banner was a computer-enhanced image of the Israeli prime minister with blood-stained hands. And the paper's op-eds were filled with glee and gloating: "Netanyahu's speech destroyed Israel's special relationship with the United States."
But despite the venom and hatred, one should also read between the lines – no longer "the Zionist entity," but the State of Israel. Nuances. And the newspapers tell the Iranians that when the agreement is signed, most of the sanctions will be lifted. "Obama is strangling us," said one man I met in Tehran, near a kebab restaurant. He saw me with a box of Marlboro and asked for a cigarette. When I gave him one, he ran his fingers over it longingly and told me he hadn't seen an American cigarette in years. I gave him the box.
"I have four children," he said. "I want to give them a good education, but the sanctions have killed us. It's impossible to save money, the prices are sky high, and wages are only $50 a month. I'm not only hoping for an agreement; I'm praying for one."

Netanyahu: Iran nuclear deal tells Tehran it can benefit from aggression
Ynet and Reuters
03.30.15 / Israel News
Western source warns nuclear deal might collapse over 'major sticking points'; ministers from Iran, six powers meeting in bid to end impasse.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out again Monday against the negotiations taking place in Switzerland on Iran's nuclear program, saying that the Islamic Republic was benefitting from its aggression.
The foreign ministers of Iran and six world powers were meeting Monday in Lausanne for a final push on a preliminary nuclear accord, less than two days before the deadline.
"The emerging agreement in Lausanne sends a message that there is no price to pay for aggression, and conversely, there is a reward for Iran's aggression. The moderate and responsible states in the region, led by Israel and many others, are the first to be affected by this agreement," Netanyahu said.
"It is impossible to understand how when in Yemen forces supported by Iran continue to occupy more and more areas, in Lausanne we turn a blind eye to this aggression. But we will not turn a blind eye, and we will continue to act against any threat in any generation, and certainly in this one."The prime minister said Sunday that the developing agreement on Iran's nuclear program was even worse than Israel had feared, and the "Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis" must be stopped,
But a Western diplomat said Monday that it was unclear whether a deal on Iran's nuclear program could be reached, claiming major issues remain. There are three major sticking points that must be resolved if Iran and major powers are to secure a framework deal before the self-imposed end-March deadline, and it is unclear whether those differences will be bridged, the diplomat said.
For days Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have been holding marathon negotiations in the Swiss city to break an impasse in the negotiations, but officials had cautioned that attempts to reach a framework accord could fall apart. Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov had voiced optimism earlier Monday over the talks, TASS news agency reported.
"An extremely intensive and very deep session of the six powers and Iran took place this morning," Ryabkov was quoted as saying. "The main thing that causes optimism is determination of all ministers to achieve results... within the current session."Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had been due to leave Lausanne on Monday for pre-planned meetings in Moscow, but could return to Switzerland on Tuesday, RIA news agency also quoted his ministry as saying.
In addition to US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Lavrov and China's Wang Yi gathered at a 19th-century hotel overlooking Lake Geneva to try to end the deadlock in the talks.
The six powers want more than a 10-year suspension of Iran's most sensitive nuclear work. Tehran, which denies it is trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability, demands in exchange for limits on its atomic activities a swift end to international sanctions that are crippling its economy. While some issues being discussed in the negotiations have been resolved, there are several differences on which the two sides have been unable to reach agreement. Both Iran and the six have floated compromise proposals in an attempt to make an accord possible.
One sticking point concerns Iran's demand to continue with research into newer generations of advanced centrifuges that can purify uranium faster and in greater quantities than the ones it currently operates for use in nuclear power plants or, if very highly enriched, in weapons.
Another question involves the speed of removing United Nations sanctions on Iran. A senior US official said Sunday there were other unresolved issues, but expected those would fall into place if the big sticking points could be worked out. Even if Iran and the six powers reach an agreement by their end-March deadline, officials close to the talks say it could still fall apart when the two sides attempt to agree on all the technical details for a comprehensive accord by June 30.

When Iran controls the Houthis, Saudi goes to war
Yaron Friedman/Ynetnews/Published: 03.30.15/Israel Opinion
Analysis: The Saudi-led campaign in Yemen is multi-faceted: The poverty and neglect that led the Houthis to rebel; the fear of Iranian imperialism that led Saudi to attack; the cynical manner in which Iran used the operation in nuclear talks and the risk Tehran takes in supporting the Houthis. And how do the Jews and 'Zionist regime' play into it all? The conflict between Sunnis and Shiites has rapidly escalated since revolutions in the Arab world started. After Bahrain, Syria and Iraq, it is now Yemen's turn. The Houthis, a Shiite rebel group in Yemen, have raised the banner of "Allah is great. Death to America. Death to Israel. A curse upon the Jews. Victory to Islam." The group has taken over much of northern Yemen, including the capital city of Sana'a, and made a tactical mistake in attempting to take control of Aden, the southern capital. The step triggered the initiation of a military operation against them by Saudi Arabia and a coalition of regional allies. Presently, two major questions arise from the crisis in Yemen. First, do the Houthis really want to hurt the US and Israel? And second, how did a local Shiite movement in northern Yemen turn into a monster that poses a threat to southern Saudi Arabia and sea routes from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea?
The Houthis
The Houthis, who are part of the Zaydi Shiite minority, make up 30 percent of Yemen's population. The Zaydis are a Shiite cult that split from the main sect at the height of its power in the 8th century. The Zaydi are vastly different in their religious practices to the Shiites in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, and are closer in doctrine to Sunni Islam.  However, like other Shiite cults, they were persecuted by the Sunni regime and it was only in the 10th century that they managed to form an independent country for themselves in Yemen and parts of what is now considered to be parts of southern Saudi Arabia, with their capital in Saada. Now, some 1,000 years later, they're coming closer to reclaiming their former glory. The Houthis launched their insurgency in 2004, led by Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, who called for the end of neglect and discrimination against the Shiite in Yemen. Hussein claimed the government was impoverishing the Shiite and intentionally harming them. He was cruelly assassinated by the Yemeni military that very same year, with photos of his body being widely circulated in the Yemeni press. With this, the regime turned Hussein from a local leader to the organization's Shiite martyr.
The rise of the Houthis, also known as Ansarullah (Supporters of God), became particularly noticeable as a result of the vacuum left by the Arab Spring revolt in 2011, and following former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's decision to flee the country.
In 2014, the group took advantage of the civil war between tribes in north and south Yemen to expand their territory from their stronghold in Saada to the northern part of Yemen, as well as seize oil installations.
It's common to compare the Houthi takeover of Yemen to that of Hezbollah in Lebanon, but the Houthis are completely different. Unlike Hezbollah, the Houthis have no organized, hierarchical leadership, but rather several tribal leaders belonging to the same family. Furthermore, while Hezbollah enjoys training directly from Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the Islamic Republic's support of the Houthis is not direct. According to Saudi sources and claims made by the Yemeni government, Iran has been sending ships loaded with weapons to the Houthis and has been providing them with financial support over the past decade. But Yemen doesn't need such shipments, as the country has in recent years become a paradise for arms dealers – and there is no shortage of ammunition.
The severe poverty from which soldiers in Yemen suffer has led many of them to steal weapons from the army and sell them to the Houthis. Many senior officers got rich this way. The corruption, poverty, and tribal strife have become the main reasons the Yemeni army has been disintegrating from within and has lost its ability to fight the Houthis.
Former president Saleh also bears responsibility for this disintegration. He deliberately split the army after he was ousted. What's more, according to Qatari and Saudi sources, Saleh's soldiers are now fighting alongside the Houthis and it appears that as the Shiite militias' success rises, so does support for them, even among the Sunni tribes.
What is Saudi Arabia trying to accomplish?
The Saudi press is boasting of the immense military the kingdom has built up over the past few years. Al Arabiya described the Saudi military's massive advantage, including a fleet of F-15 planes that is the third-largest in the world. By contrast, most of the arms possessed by the Houthis are outdated, and the planes and helicopters they have accumulated are aging Russian models. The Saudis were joined in the airstrikes by the Gulf States, with the exception of neutral Oman. The objectives of the strikes are both military and political. It is meant to prevent Yemeni military airplanes from falling into the hands of the Houthis; and it is an attempt to avert the overthrow of the Saudis' ally, President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
The current crisis broke out after the Houthis rejected offers by Saudi Arabia and Qatar to hold negotiations between all the combatants in Yemen in attempt to reach a diplomatic solution for what is swiftly taking the shape of a civil war. Until the airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition began, the Houthis hoped for a decisive military victory that would give them control of all of Yemen – but they failed. As of right now, it appears unlikely that the coalition will rush to send ground troops to conquer Yemen, a step that could be very costly in lives. The goal is not to completely destroy the Houthis at this stage, but to weaken them until they are willing to sit at the negotiating table.
Egypt and Pakistan, Saudi Arabia's allies, have offered their help should it need it. The coalition that was formed on behalf of Yemen is indicative of Saudi's influence as a leader for the Sunni axis.
This is not the first time that Saudi Arabia has intervened militarily in its neighbors' affairs in light of the Iranian threat. About four years ago, the Saudis sent an army to Bahrain to stop an uprising by the Shiite majority against its Sunni rulers. It can be assumed that this time the Saudis will not intervene in the same way and will first attempt to equip the Sunni pro-government fighters with many weapons. It will thus avoid the mistakes the Sunni axis made in Syria, when it delayed sending aid to the Free Syrian Army.
The damage to Iran
Unlike its failure in Syria against President Bashar Assad's army and Hezbollah forces, Saudi has a good chance to push the Houthis back in Yemen. Russia and China are not invested enough in the conflict in Yemen to provide significant assistance as they do with Assad in Syria. In addition, because of the fear of creating another Islamic State sort of situation, in whih IS spread into two countries - Syria and Iraq, Saudi and its allies are determined to hit the Houthis hard before they manage to take over all of Yemen and invade Saudi Arabia.
The airstrikes have proven their efficacy on the very first day, causing the Houthi to withdraw from areas they captured shortly before the launch of the Saudi-led campaign.
The responses in the Shiite world clearly reveal its support of the Houthis: Iran condemned the Saudi "aggression," Hezbollah in Lebanon slammed the "Saudi hostilities against the Yemeni people" and at an Arab League meeting in Cairo, the Shiite regime in Iraq expressed its objection to the operation.
Iran cynically took advantage of the American effort to reach progress in nuclear negotiations. It supported the Houthis knowing the US will avoid criticizing it to avoid hurting the chances of reaching an agreement.
If the Houthi efforts fail, it would also be a failure to Iranian imperialism. A Houthi withdrawal will motivate the Sunni side to push on with its fight against the Shiite threat in other parts of the Middle East.
'Death to Jews'
The call "Death to Israel, Death to Jews" is actually a call for rebellion against anyone the Houthi accuse of cooperating with the US (which is "controlled" by the Jews, of course). It was used a decade ago against ousted President Ali Saleh and is now being used against President Mansur Hadi. The anti-Jewish propaganda is meant to draw as much support as possible to the Zaydi movement and send a message identical to Iranian propaganda, according to which Israel and the US are behind the Sunni leaders, primarily Saudi Arabia. According to the Iranians, "al Yahud" and "the Zionist enemy" are also behind the rebellion in Syria and are aiding the rebels.
The success of the operation in Yemen is critical for Saudi Arabia, as this is newly-crowned King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud's first test, after only three months in power. To the Saudis, thwarting the Houthis means stopping Iran from getting closer to their borders. Analysis articles in the Saudi press are warning against a nightmare scenario, in which rockets controlled by Iran and stationed on Yemen soil threaten Saudi Arabia's entire territory. But isn't that the situation in which Israel finds itself today?
**Dr. Yaron Friedman, Ynet's commentator on the Arab world, is a graduate of the Sorbonne. He teaches Arabic and lectures about Islam at the Technion, at Beit Hagefen and at the Galilee Academic College.