The Saudi Arabia-led coalition offensive against Yemen's Houthi fighters ended late on Tuesday, unofficially killing 944 people and wounding more than 3,000 others with 2,415 airstrikes. The offensive was said to be an effort to contain the spread of the Houthi fighters in the region, who overran the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Sept. 21, 2014, and seized key parts of the country.
The coalition announced the end of the operation after nearly a month of airstrikes, saying that the campaign's main objectives had been achieved. While it remains to be seen whether former Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi will return to his country, what steps the Houthis take next will be closely watched. Although it is said to be officially over, two hours after the announcement about the end of the operation was made, coalition warplanes struck an alleged military base in the Daka Hemdan region north of the Yemeni capital.
On March 25, Saudi Arabia and several Arab allies launched the military offensive against the positions of Houthi militants across Yemen. "Operation Decisive Storm" gave the impression that all Gulf countries were participating. However, one notable exception was Oman, which chose to abstain. Sudan, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain took part in the operation that lasted for 27 days. The Saudi Foreign Ministry claims the operation was launched only at the call of Hadi and the operation also ended only at his behest. The Houthis, for their part, have decried the offensive as unwarranted "Saudi-American aggression." Some Gulf States accuse Shiite Iran of supporting Yemen's Houthi insurgency.
The coalition aircraft launched airstrikes in Sanaa and other cities where the Houthis and their sympathizers were expected to be in the majority. The coalition claimed they eliminated 95 to 98 percent of the Houthis' air defense capacity along with 80 percent of their arms depots. Arms depots that reportedly included Scud missiles were hit in Sanaa. The weapon dumps and military camps were run by Houthis and forces loyal to ousted Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh is said to have started backing the Houthis following the revolts that targeted him in 2011. Various groups believe the intervention of the Houthis into Yemen's transition process and policy was in fact Saleh's "revenge."
The Saudi-led coalition has said that the next step is "Operation Restoring Hope." According to Saudi Arabia's official news agency: "In line with U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216, the attempt of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and results of the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference, a political effort will be swiftly launched with the aim of protecting civilians, fighting terrorism, evacuating foreigners in the country, providing humanitarian assistance to the damaged regions, halting the advance of the [Houthi] Ansarullah movement and preventing arms assistance to forces loyal to Saleh."
Saleh, a member of the Sanhan tribe, was born in Bait el-Ahmar in 1942. He was elected president and chief commander of Yemen's armed forces by the Yemeni parliament on July 17, 1978. Saleh initially struggled for a republican government that was supported by Egypt in the face of the monarchy, backed by Saudis, in the civil war between 1990 and 1994. By winning the elections held in 1982 and 1988, Saleh led the unification of the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) and communist People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) in 1990. Yemen, which supported Iraq during the First Gulf War, paid a heavy economic price. Saudi Arabia deported more than 1 million Yemeni workers and the U.S. imposed an arms embargo on Yemen. Only later, during his visit to Washington, D.C. in 2007, did Saleh allow CIA drones to target al-Qaida camps in Yemen, which resulted in improved bilateral relations and economic assistance.
After the "February Yemen Revolution" within the Arab Spring of 2011, Saleh was forced to transfer his authority to his deputy and incumbent president Hadi on June 4, 2011; thus, the 33-year Saleh regime came to an end in Yemen. Hadi, appointed as vice president on October 3, 1994, became the acting president when Saleh underwent medical treatment in Saudi Arabia following an attack on the presidential palace on June 3, 2011. Hadi had been supported by the U.N. and the GCC to manage the transition period in the country and took the office of presidency on February 25, 2012 after running as the sole candidate in the presidential elections on February 21 of the same year. Following the storming of the presidential palace by Houthi fighters, Hadi announced his resignation on January 25, 2015, on the grounds that "the country cannot be governed anymore." He later fled to Aden on February 21 where he declared he was still the legitimate president of the country and began talks with different countries in a bid to seek support. As a result, some countries agreed to move their embassies to Aden. Later, Hadi entered into a self-imposed exile in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh after the Houthis reached Aden.
The Saudi-led operation sought assistance from the international community and in response, the logistics and intelligence assistance was provided by the U.S., which was a driving power in the military campaign. Reconciliation efforts by Jamal bin Omar, the U.N.'s special envoy to Yemen, have failed many times since 2011, and the intervention of the Houthis into the country's policy foiled the U.N. attempts. The envoy conducted mediation meetings between Houthi fighters and Hadi, and retreated from Yemen after failing to get any results to prevent a military operation.