Friday, March 27, 2015

The Model Theater Evolves

Saudi Arabia is leading air attacks against the Shias who are seen as pawns of Iran. Would Saudi Arabia really send in ground troops?

The Saudis entered the raging Yemen Shia-Sunni civil war and jihadi free-for-all (ISIL and al Qaeda running amok):

Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi left his refuge in Aden for Saudi Arabia on Thursday as Houthi rebels battled with his forces on the outskirts of the southern port city.

Throughout the day, warplanes from Saudi Arabia and Arab allies struck at the Shi'ite Houthis and allied army units, who have taken over much of the country and seek to oust Hadi.

Warplanes resumed bombing the Houthi-held capital Sanaa on Thursday evening, shaking whole neighborhoods and terrifying residents. Several civilians have been reported killed in Sanaa.

So far the coalition lacks ground forces:

Al-Arabiya said Saudi Arabia was contributing 100 warplanes to operation "Storm of Resolve" and more than 85 were being provided by the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan.

Egyptian air forces were participating and four naval ships headed to secure the Gulf of Aden. Turkey said it might provide logistical support.

Strategypage says that the Saudis have 150,000 troops near Yemen's border:

Saudi Arabia already has over 150,000 troops on the Yemen border, many of them very near the areas where the Shia tribes live.

I don't get that since my bible of military power--the 2012 The Military Balance--indicates that a commitment of that size would strip the rest of Saudi Arabia of pretty much any defense.

This article relies on the most recent version and says:

The Saudi military numbers 227,000 troops, including 75,000 in the army, 13,500 in the navy and 20,000 in the air force.

Some 16,000 personnel are committed to air defences, 2,500 responsible for strategic missiles and 100,000 man the National Guard, according to the IISS Military Balance, 2015.

The kingdom also has 24,500 paramilitary forces.

How on Earth could the Saudis mass 150,000 troops on the Yemen border?

There is no way that Saudi Arabia would strip their border with Iraq or the eastern oil region of troops or leave Bahrain at the mercy of Iranian counter-moves to stir up Shias. I don't know what the normal deployment patterns are, but I really doubt this is even possible.

As an aside, the strategic missile force is new since my edition (hey, if this site actually made money for me I'd pay the outrageous sums of money for the latest edition).

And while it is the best equipped in the Gulf region, it isn't very good. Nor is the regular army even that trusted. The larger National Guard is a tribal-based force counted on to be the loyal "republican monarchy guard" to keep the royal family in power.

So I seriously doubt that the Saudis would make any major commitment of ground troops inside Yemen despite their ambassador's claim on TV that they don't rule anything out.

Bomb, send weapons and maybe mercenaries and special forces, sure. But regulars or National Guard? I'm doubtful. Saudi Arabia has been historically very cautious about using their forces.

Would Pakistan send troops? They did once hire out a heavy brigade to protect Saudi Arabia. What's the price for sending troops into combat in Yemen? But Pakistan doesn't seem eager despite receiving the request:

Pakistan's defense minister says his country is considering a request to provide ground troops to complement the Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes against Houthi forces in Yemen.

Perhaps this is just Pakistan's bargaining stance to increase the price.

Egypt's role is interesting in this light. They committed a rather large ground army to Yemen in the 1960s (using poison gas in their operations, I'll add). Could Egypt's reliance on Saudi money lead them to commit several divisions if local Sunnis can't handle the jihadis and Shias?

And that would help explain Egypt turning to France for more aircraft--the French don't get all intrusive about how the weapons they sell are used.

Of course, that level of commitment would keep Egypt from increasing their level of intervention in Libya to combat jihadi influence there.

If this Yemen theater of war that was once a model for dealing with ISIL drags on, will we be dragged in back home?

Iran is issuing warnings:

Iran demanded an immediate halt to Saudi-led military operations in Yemen on Thursday and said it would make all necessary efforts to control the crisis there, Iranian news agencies reported.

Remember, the Iranians committed an act of war against us by their attempt to bomb the kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States (and bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies) not too long ago--but no worries, that was barely a ripple in the waters of seeking Iran's partnership for this administration.

If you wonder why we are so awful at diplomacy with Iran, this is one more data point.

What would Iran have to do to push us away, the Iranians must think: "We attempt to bomb their capital, support Assad's murderous campaign; seek to destabilize the home of the American 5th Fleet; undermine Iraq; destabilize Lebanon; support Hamas; seek influence in Eritrea; kill American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; work with North Korea, and now try to expand our influence in Yemen! And the nuclear missile programs, of course!

Let's not mention the stuff that doesn't work out despite Allah and our best efforts.

Yet still President Obama courts us like a reluctant virgin for our hand in marriage!

At this point we could probably get away with nuking a smallish Israeli--or Red state!--city and face no consequences from the Great Satan!"

God, we suck.

Yeah, I know I wandered away from the original topic. But it always seems to come back to the foundation of this administration's ineptitude. Just 22 more months. That's a long time.