Saudi Arabia has little incentive to deescalate

If you haven't already, I strongly recommend that you read Adam Baron's latest piece of Yemen-alysis for the ECFR. In it, Baron does a great job of summarizing recent developments on several fronts (both literal and figurative) of Yemen's internationalized conflict. One of the most important points he makes is that Saudi Arabia's vicious campaign of airstrikes, while drawing considerable criticism from the outside world, is "remarkably popular" within Saudi Arabia. Here's how Baron puts it:

While the Saudi offensive has seemingly failed to notch up significant success, it has proven remarkably popular domestically. Furthermore, contacts have noted a surge of popularity for Mohammed bin Salman. These factors, in addition to Hadi and other exiled officials’ unreserved support for the offensive in the hopes that its success would lead to their return to power, have ensured that the Saudis are under little to no pressure to bring an end to the conflict. In short, while it may appear from the outside that Saudi Arabia is under tremendous pressure to end the war, from an internal perspective, it is just the opposite.

There's so much more packed into this short piece that everyone should read and take to heart, so please read the whole thing. But one other paragraph in particular is worthy of special attention here. It concerns the gains al-Qaeda has made since the start of the war.

As the power vacuum has been exacerbated, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has taken advantage to dramatic effect, seizing control of Mukalla and much of the eastern province of Hadramawt. For the first time, AQAP is openly and actively embedding itself in and coordinating with Yemeni tribes; tribal contacts in Shabwa have said that even a number of staunchly anti-AQAP tribal leaders have agreed to truces with the group. This suggests that the situation in Al-Bayda, where AQAP fighters have openly fought alongside anti-Houthi fighters, risks becoming the norm in much of the rest of the country.

So, Saudi Arabia continues to escalate and is eager to find allies inside Yemen who can actually fight and win. AQAP--one of the most effective fighting forces in the country--is operating in the open, and making new friends. I have an official policy about making predictions on this blog ("don't do it"), so I'll let you map out your own worst-case scenarios from here.

News from the southern fronts

As Saudi-led airstrikes continue in several parts of Yemen, the southern city of Aden is still being contested by local resistance fighters and pro-Houthi/pro-Saleh forces. Earlier this week, Houthi/Saleh units fought their way through al-Mansurah and other northern districts of Aden, and continued fighting with local forces in Khor Maksar. On Friday, the invading units shelled neighborhoods in Sirah District, also known as Crater, Aden's historic commercial core. Reporting by Al Jazeera from Friday shows local resistance fighters receiving crates of weapons and other supplies, which were air-dropped by Saudi planes. For the moment, local forces seem to have stopped the Houthi/Saleh advance outside of Sirah. Saudi-led aircraft bombed several parts of Aden this week, aiming to disrupt the invading forces' supply lines and take out armored vehicles belonging to the Houthi/Saleh forces. However, Houthi/Saleh forces are still in control of all land routes into the city, leaving the civilian population cut off from food and fuel.

According to Adeni officials, almost 200 people have been killed in this week's fighting in the city, and over 1,000 injured. Three quarters of these reported casualties are thought to be civilians.

In an emergency session of the UN Security Council today, Russia put forth a proposal for a humanitarian ceasefire. The Red Cross has called for an immediate halt to fighting to allow its workers and other NGOs to bring in badly-needed medical personnel and supplies.

"Otherwise, put starkly, many more people will die. For the wounded, their chances of survival depend on action within hours, not days," Robert Mardini, the ICRC's head of operations in the Near and Middle East, said Saturday.

Two Red Crescent volunteers working to rescue wounded civilians in Aden were shot dead on Friday in Sirah.

Also on Friday, AQAP fighters seized government buildings and banks in al-Mukalla, the capital of Hadhramawt Governorate. In response, forces from the Hadhramawt Tribal Confederacy have taken control of military bases in other parts of Hadhramawt, and are said to be advancing on al-Mukalla to force AQAP out.