Sunday, May 03, 2015

Here We Go

Saudi Arabia has led a small force into Yemen's city of Aden. Normally I'd think this is the pointy end of the spear working to make sure an entry point for a larger intervention is secure.

Saudi Arabia has ground forces in Yemen battling the Iran-supported Shia factions:

At least 20 troops from a Saudi-led Arab coalition landed Sunday in Yemen's southern coastal city of Aden on a "reconnaissance" mission amid a fierce Shiite rebel offensive there, Yemeni military officials said.

The objective of the landing, which Saudi officials declined to immediately comment on, was not clear. However, military and security officials repeatedly have said that a ground operation would follow a Saudi-led airstrike campaign after the military capabilities of the Houthi rebels and their allies had been sufficiently weakened.

They landed near the airport and had the support of helicopter gunships when they landed.

An earlier report spoke of 40-50 special forces.

While much of the Arab world's armies are pretty poor, being more capable of fighting civilians than they are of fighting armies, they do have some very good special forces. They gained a lot of experience in Afghanistan (which Strategypage called the "special forces Olympics").

They are working with allied militias:

A "limited" number of Saudi-led ground troops deployed in Yemen's second city Aden on Sunday to support loyalist militia fighting rebels, a government official and a militia commander said.

"A limited coalition force entered Aden and another force is on its way" to the southern port city, said the official who requested anonymity.

I don't know if this means another limited number (perhaps reaching that higher number from an earlier report) or if this means a follow-up force of conventional forces like paratroopers landing at the airport or marines landing at the port.

Certainly working with allied militias is a common role for militias and would be a force multiplier to screen points of entry.

Pakistan said they would not commit troops to Yemen to fight with Saudi Arabia. But Egypt could provide troops and is probably less able to resist Saudi requests to pay back support that Saudi Arabia provided to Egypt the last several years.

This doesn't mean that the Saudis are leading a major invasion. It is far more likely to just be an effort to secure a safe area in Aden for their Sunni allies where supplies and arms can be brought in, and from which militias supported by Arab states can expand their area of control to defeat the Iran-supported Shia factions.

And have no doubt, Iran will support their allies, too:

"Others will not be allowed to put our shared security at risk with military adventures," Hossein Amir Abdollahian said, according to the Iranian Tasnim news agency in an article published on Saturday.

We may have delusions about Iranian partnership, but the Saudis and Iranians are not about to be partners any time soon.

And in this chaotic civil war, al Qaeda gains maneuvering room to grow.

Here we go.

UPDATE: Really?

The international monitoring group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the Saudi-led coalition attacking Yemen had probably used cluster bombs which are banned by most countries.

The coalition probably used bullets, too. Cluster bombs are no more illegal.

Yes, a number of states have banned them--and most of those who signed on to the treaty probably never had any need for cluster bombs.

Or perhaps you sleep better at night knowing Andorra and the Holy See have forever foresworn the use of cluster bombs?

Saudi Arabia is not one of the countries that has signed the treaty. So they are not banned for Saudi use.

We haven't signed either.

Mind you, precision weapons makes it less likely that we'd need them. But they are good against artillery units, massed infantry, and other soft targets, regardless of the dud problem. And like any weapon, they can be used in a lawful manner or not.