Yemeni officials loyal to former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, say Saudi Arabia has for the first time deployed troops to the southwestern port city of Aden, where Riyadh and its ally, the United Arab Emirates, are vying for a foothold.
The officials, who were speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Saudi forces had been stationed at Aden’s presidential palace, port and airport.
They are the first special Saudi forces in Aden since 2015, when the Arab monarchy launched a military campaign against Yemen in an attempt to eliminate the country’s Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstall Riyadh-friendly Hadi.
Saudi Arabia receives backing in the war from a number of its client states, including the UAE. There have, however, been some indications that Saudi Arabia and the UAE disagree on a number of issues over the war on Yemen, among them the control of Aden International Airport.
Earlier this year, Aden-based Hadi became suspicious of Abu Dhabi’s role in Yemen and accused it of acting “like an occupation power.”
He also sacked two of his pro-Emirati officials who allegedly supported the secession of southern Yemen. The move sparked mass protests in the south and fueled calls for separation.
Saudi Arabia has come under international criticism over mounting civilian casualties in Yemen and the massive destruction.
It has also achieved neither of the objectives despite spending billions of dollars on the war and enlisting the cooperation of dozens of its vassal states as well as Western countries.
The Saudi-led bombing campaign, which has been accompanied by a naval and aerial blockade on Yemen, has so far killed over 12,000 people in the impoverished state, left 70 percent of the country’s 27 million population in desperate need of humanitarian aid, and caused the worst cholera outbreak in the world.
‘Long history of destructive intervention’
With the Yemen war at a stalemate, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are competing for influence in the areas which their mercenaries control.
Saudi Arabia has a long history of destructive intervention in Yemen, treating the country “as both threat and target,” according to political analyst Andrew Hammond.
The kingdom’s stance on Yemen revolves around splitting political entities, spreading the radical Salafi ideology, and securing a passage to Bab-el-Mandab and the Arabian Sea, thus bypassing the Straits of Hormuz.
Saudi Arabia’s strategy has been funding Yemen’s administrations as well as tribal leaders to secure support for its policies and prevent the emergence of a non-tribal, non-sectarian culture.