There are competing accounts as to exactly what happened at the Al Anad airbase in Yemen on Monday, where Saudi-backed forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi reportedly routed Houthi rebels, marking the latest in a series of setbacks for the Iran-backed group which forced Hadi to flee to Riyadh earlier this year, plunging Yemen into a bloody civil war.
According to the Houthis, coalition forces were "crushed" and their vehicles destroyed, but a spokesman for the Popular Resistance said most of the base was in coalition hands. Here’s WSJ:
Forces fighting for a Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen have defeated the country’s Houthi rebels at a strategic southern air base, the Yemeni defense ministry said Tuesday.
The Houthis denied that the base had fallen. However, if it has been captured this would extend a recent turning of the tide in favor of the coalition in the four-month-old conflict.
The defense ministry said the operation at Al Anad, a large complex from which the U.S. had launched drone attacks against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula before the recent instability, was "a true representation of national will and noble sacrifices that are being made to liberate Yemen from the grip of overthrowing militias."
A report Tuesday by the Houthi-run Saba news agency denied that Al Anad base had been taken, citing an unnamed military official. The Houthis had “crushed all [coalition] offensives” against the base and destroyed scores of military vehicles, Houthi spokesman Nasruddin Amer said Monday evening.
If confirmed, the turn of fortunes in favor of the coalition at Al Anad build upon a string of recent gains in the south by the allies, which include Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt and a number of other Arab states.
Houthi rebels have been driven from Aden in recent weeks, setting the stage for coalition forces to make a further push northward into other Houthi-controlled areas.
Here's footage of the actual battle courtesy of RT:
And here's footage of Saudi tanks pushing north as the coalition offensive gathers steam:
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Importantly, Saudi and coalition boots are now officially on the ground in Yemen, under the guise of tank trainers. Here's The Washington Post:
Saudi and Emirati troops are assisting Yemeni pro-government forces at al-Anad by operating many of the tanks and sophisticated military equipment, military officials said.
A Yemeni military official said thus far, few Yemeni troops have been trained in operating the tanks that have arrived by sea from Gulf allies in recent weeks. He added that the Yemeni military sought help from coalition countries in the al-Anad operation, calling them "partners in the liberation operation of Aden and other provinces."
Obviously, that seems like a rather transparent way of saying that the recent "turning of the tide" in Yemen may indeed be attributable to the fact that the Houthis are now fighting an open war with the Saudi army which turns out to be quite a bit more challenging than urban warfare in the backalleys of Aden with poorly trained Hadi holdouts.
In any event, we suppose the real question is whether Iran is willing to stand by and watch as the Houthis are dismantled by Saudi Arabia, or whether Tehran decides it's time to provide more than just "logistical support", at which point Yemen's proxy "conflict" will officially morph into a regional sectarian war.