The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its allies last week announced the end of Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen, and the beginning of Operation Restoring Hope. But now we must ask: What did Operation Decisive Storm achieve, and what can we expect from Restoring Hope?
In order to see what Decisive Storm achieved, we must realize the sheer quantity and quality of arms that the Houthis and ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s fighters possessed. Saudi Arabia and its allies were ultimately successful in destroying these stockpiles.
So, who were the Houthis and Saleh seeking to target with all these arms and missiles? What would have happened if Riyadh did not take action at this time? It is clear that these arms were being amassed in order to attack Saudi Arabia, which has always had only the best intentions for Yemen—otherwise why else would Saudi Arabia and its allies have waited for so long before militarily intervening to deal with this threat? Therefore, the biggest achievement of Operation Decisive Storm is that it neutralized a great threat not just to Saudi Arabia but also one the rest of the Gulf region, destroying Iran’s stranglehold on Yemen. This also sent a decisive message to Tehran and its followers that Saudi Arabia is more than prepared to respond to any provocation and preserve its security and defend itself.
With Operation Decisive Storm, Saudi Arabia has drawn a regional red-line for Tehran and its followers. This red-line is even more historic than the one drawn by Saudi Arabia for Iran and its allies with regards to Bahrain. The Saudi-drafted Gulf Initiative for Yemen is internationally backed by the UN, under Chapter VII. This means that the international community, not just Saudi Arabia or Yemen’s neighbors, are closely monitoring what is happening in the country. There is a specific deadline for Yemen’s various parties to disarm and refrain from violence. If this deadline is not met, then it will be international forces that will respond—not Saudi forces alone or the current Gulf alliance. This represents a political victory to accompany Saudi Arabia’s military victory that came following the end of Operation Decisive Storm, which destroyed the Yemeni rebels’ arms supplies. Moreover, this demonstrates that Iran is not capable of securing victory for its agents and allies.
As for Operation Restoring Hope, this gives Riyadh and its allies the right to deal with the Houthis and Saleh’s forces if they represent a new national security threat. It also means that Saudi Arabia remains fully committed to protecting its territorial and maritime borders, in addition to preventing any arms from abroad from entering Yemen. This is not Saudi saber-rattling or muscle-flexing, but simply Riyadh fulfilling the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which prohibits the supply of arms to Yemen, and particularly to fighters belonging to either the Houthis or Saleh. Restoring Hope, of course, has an important humanitarian and reconstructive dimension, in addition to pushing all parties to reach a political solution. This second phase is now more likely to meet with success after Saleh and the Houthis’ wings have been clipped, and their forces weakened on the ground.
Therefore, the main priority today is to back the political process in Yemen, while Riyadh keeps a vigilant eye on everything that is going on beyond its southern border. Saudi Arabia successfully broke Saleh and the Houthis’ stranglehold on Yemen while avoiding all-out war. Riyadh successfully exposed the Houthi coup, and what it is doing now is opening the door, for all Yemeni parties, to save face and reach a much-needed political solution.