March 24-31: Decisive Storm continues, as does Houthi expansion

The Saudi-led aerial bombing campaign, labeled Operation Decisive Storm, has divided the local media since it was launched last week. Besides, fresh news websites have emerged while some of those which had previously suspended operations have resurfaced. The campaign, ostensibly intended to halting the Houthi movement’s expansion across the country, started two days after UN envoy Jamal Benomar cancelled the political talks between the Houthis and their opponents, which had only just resumed in the capital, Sanʻa.

While such a campaign seems to have ended any possibility of political negations, the Saudi King called on the Houthis to participate in talks proposed to be held in Riyadh – a proposal that was rejected by the Houthis along with four other political parties earlier last month.

President Hadi’s newly appointed Foreign Minister, Riyadh Yasin (who, like Hadi, is currently in Saudi Arabia), said that the political process is dependent on the Saudi-led campaign.

In the days since the campaign was launched, Ansar Allah has not yet responded militarily toward Saudi Arabia as local observers expected. However, the group's leader gave a speech threatening Saudi Arabia with strong response if it continues the airstrikes.

Meanwhile, pro-Houthi and pro-Saleh forces advanced on southern areas in Aden, Abyan and Shabwah. Fierce clashes ensued and hundreds were reportedly killed and wounded.

While the airstrikes continue to hit pro-Houthi/Saleh military bases in different parts of Yemen, civilians have been killed and wounded. On the first day of this campaign, when the Sanʻa airport and al-Dailami airbase were bombed, 27 people were reportedly killed including 15 children. All schools in Sanʻa have been closed, while students of Sanʻa University were called in to continue.

Pakistan’s prime minister was quick to join the Saudi-led coalition and pledged to send ground troops, but later backpedaled under pressure from the public and government officials. A high-level Pakistani delegation is currently in Riyadh, and the government has promised not to commit forces to Decisive Storm before the issue is discussed at an all-party conference. Pakistan and other countries, including China, have acted to evacuate their citizens from Yemen, while the Indian premier asked Saudi Arabia to help his country evacuate Indian nationals. Sudan is currently reviewing how to evacuate its nationals, and its president confirmed he may ground troops to Yemen.

Hello Pakistan, Hello India, Hello KSA

If you're visiting our site from a country involved in airstrikes in Yemen, we want to hear from you! Since the beginning of the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen this week, our website has seen a huge increase in visitors from Pakistan, India, and Saudi Arabia. By "huge," I mean that pageviews from Pakistan, which in an average week make up about 3% of our total traffic, now account for 20% of all pageviews. Visitors from India are now about 20% of the total as well, up from an average of 9%. Visitors to our website from Saudi Arabia now account for about 9% of our total traffic, a noticeable increase from their normal 3%. In short, our site's traffic patterns have changed in a big way since a coalition of GCC, Arab League, and other states have decided to intervene in Yemen's civil war*.

The thing about international intervention is that it is rarely a one-way operation. America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, had massive secondary effects on domestic politics here in the US. Similarly, as Saudi Arabia and its allies drop thousands of tons of ordnance on Yemen's cities, the conflict is also heavily impacting some of the countries involved. My suspicion is that the conflict will be felt most strongly by the public in Pakistan, where the military receives much more public support and loyalty than does the federal government.

If you're visiting our site from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or any other country involved in Operation Decisive Storm, we'd love to hear your opinion about this intervention, and your thoughts on how the war in Yemen matters to affairs in your own country. You can email us your comments at, or share them on our Facebook page. Also, while you're here, please consider making a donation to the YPP so we can continue to provide news and analysis about Yemen to readers and listeners all over the world. Thanks!

*Yes, I know India isn't part of the coalition. But in general, issues that are big in Pakistan become important in India as well, and there's also a sizable Yemeni population there. If you can help explain India's increasing interest, please do!

War without a face

If you read the international papers, you've surely noticed that a day no longer goes by without a story of "suspected US drone strikes" in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These strikes are always "suspected" because, even though everyone in the world knows about them, they are the work of the CIA's "clandestine" services, and thus officially secret. September was an especially busy time for the drones, with over 20 separate attacks reported in the media. Occasionally the US or Pakistani authorities will announce the death of a major militant figure in such a strike, but more often, it seems, America's robotic killers take innocent lives. Jason Ditz at puts it this way:

President Obama has made the drone strikes the centerpiece of his foreign policy, and has killed well over a thousand people inside Pakistan since taking office. The vast majority of those killed have turned out to be innocent civilians, while large numbers of others remain unidentified but classified as “suspects.”

Obviously, with so many victims to its credit, the impact of these clandestine weapons is only too visible to most Pakistanis and Afghans. But in the United States, drone warfare seems immune to the kinds of scrutiny and criticism that other elements of the president's military policy have faced. Politicians and generals in this country have long understood that the public will stand in their way if American lives are at stake; as long as the only people dying are foreign nationals, we as a people will keep quiet. This sense of safety, even from their enemies in the Republican Party, has allowed the Obama administration to develop a severe addiction to robotic warfare.

Given all of that, it should be obvious why I'm writing about AfPak policy in a blog about Yemen. Obama has already increased US military aid to President Saleh's government, and sent more covert CIA and Special Forces operatives to Yemen; the drones cannot be far behind. Right now, the American public knows almost nothing about Yemen, and is willing to believe anything about it. Aside from a few hardcore pacifists and Yemen-philes like us, Americans seem to be completely at ease with the expansion of the "War on Terror" to a new front. What this means is that Yemen will be an ideal killing ground for Obama's Predators and Reapers. American apathy, if left unchecked, will ensure that thousands of Yemenis are added to the civilian death toll that the US government touts as progress.

Obviously, the Yemen Peace Project opposes the use of drones in Yemen, just as we oppose all American military action in the country. But as the American presence grows and becomes more and more costly for the Yemeni people, we must increase our efforts to bring their suffering to the attention of the world. We'll want the help of our readers and friends, as well, to make sure that every death is counted, that the American public that funds and encourages this pointless war is forced to reckon with the true cost of their decisions.

Stay tuned for updates on this subject, and on our efforts to change America's policy toward Yemen.