In Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition and its Yemeni allies have seized control of the country’s energy-rich Shabwa province. The development comes as a blow to pro-Iranian Houthi rebels who control the country’s capital Sanaa and much of the country’s north. Analysts say the victory gives way for a pro-Saudi coalition to retake parts of nearby Marib province, which also holds a major energy prize.
Arab media broadcast video of Saudi coalition forces and their Yemeni tribal allies advancing into the desert areas of Marib province on Tuesday, after capturing the entire Shabwa province on Monday.
Both the coalition and the Houthi have been vying for key parts of Marib for months.
Saudi coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki told a news conference in Riyadh on Tuesday that “the fight to recapture Marib began early Tuesday morning and is now continuing.”
The Houthis have reportedly privately admitted that they have lost Shabwa but have not made any public statements.
Yemeni analyst Mohamed Qameem told Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV that recent airstrikes by the Saudi coalition on Houthi forces and their weapons stockpile “undermined the military capabilities of the Houthis and allowed them to enter Shabwa and Marib provinces”. pushed back.”
The Saudi-backed government of President-in-exile Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi controls the city of Marib, but the Houthis still control other energy-rich areas of Marib province. The Houthis have repeatedly fired missiles and rockets into the city, killing and wounding many civilians.
Atlantic Council Middle East analyst Paul Sullivan told VOA that the Saudi coalition’s victory in Shabwa means that it now “controls a large percentage of the dominant coastline in southern Yemen,” and that it “recommends Yemen”. is a building block to hold together.”
Shabwa, he said, “has important oil and gas fields …. as well as two ports for energy exports.” He said the main port of Balhaf has a facility for liquefied natural gas.
Washington-based Gulf analyst Theodore Karasik says there has been a serious increase in military and diplomatic activity in Yemen, driven by the perception that the United States is not playing an active role in trying to resolve the conflict, leaving the stage for other players. open.
“The perception in the region is that the US is not going to make any agreements (of the Yemen conflict) or help the players achieve their strategic goals, so you see Russia and China and Iran starting to enter the dialogue picture. do. A very strong way,” said Karsik.
Officials from the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi coalition in Yemen, have visited China in recent days, while Iran’s foreign minister was in Oman on Monday to meet the Houthi delegation.
Tehran militarily supports the Houthis in Yemen. The Houthis are reportedly seeking more weapons after Saudi coalition airstrikes destroyed various Houthi assets, including rockets, missiles and drones at Sanaa’s airport.