As Saudi-led airstrikes on Houthi insurgents in Yemen continued on Thursday, several international powers came out in support of the Gulf coalition’s Operation Decisive Storm.
The action was launched after the Iran-backed Houthis reportedly took control of most of Aden, one of Yemen’s largest cities, on Wednesday. Gulf-backed President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi had been residing in Aden after being forced out of Sanaa several weeks ago.
There have been mixed reports regarding Hadi’s current whereabouts, but Saudi state television broadcast an announcement earlier on Thursday that he had left Aden for Sharm el-Sheikh to attend the Arab Summit, scheduled for March 28-29, where the current crisis is expected to top the agenda.
Turkey announced its support of the intervention in statements issued Thursday afternoon, demanding that “the Houthi groups and their foreign supporters” stop their actions that threaten the safety and peace of the region. The Turkish foreign minister said that Saudi Arabia had notified Turkey of the operation before it started, and Turkey believes the strikes will restore Yemen’s legitimate government and stop the threat of a civil war.
Sudan also announced it would contribute to the operation with both air and ground forces. Sudanese Defense Minister Abdel Raheem Mohamed Hussein said that his military has begun deploying troops to the conflict zone.
Egypt declared its support for the operation late Wednesday, and military sources said Egyptian Armed Forces did participate in Thursday’s strikes. Sources at the Suez Canal told Reuters that four Egyptian warships are currently on their way to secure the Gulf of Aden.
In Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Araby’s opening statement at the Arab Foreign Ministers meeting on Thursday, he announced the league’s full support of Operation Decisive Storm.
“The operation is based on the Arab League Treaty, as well as the second article of the Mutual Defense Treaty, making it a clear act of self-defense,” Araby said.
General Lloyd Austin, commander of US forces in the Middle East, had declared before the US Senate that he was working with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to ensure that the Straits of Bab al-Mandab and Hormuz remain open for navigation.
The Palestinian Authority also joined the chorus of support for the intervention. The official Palestinian news agency published a statement issued by the authority announcing its support for military action “aiming at protecting the unity of Yemen and the legitimacy of its government.”
However, the leaders of Syria and Iraq, as well as the Hezbollah group, voiced concerns regarding the operation. In separate statements, they argued that military action would make the situation in Yemen even worse, calling for an end to military action and a return to negotiations to find a political solution to the crisis.
Iran is also speaking out against the strikes. According to Iranian news agency Al-Talaba, Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Gowad Zarif stated during a visit to Switzerland that “the Saudi air raids have to stop immediately. They are against the sovereignty of Yemen, and Iran will do its best to control the crisis in Yemen.”
There have also been some skeptical voices regarding the operation and Egypt’s involvement in it closer to home. Former Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Haridi, now an ambassador, told Mada Masr that he hopes the operation ends as soon as possible. He said he doubts military intervention will lead to a permanent solution to the political crisis in Yemen.
“I’m not sure the ‘Decisive Storm’ operation is the appropriate reaction,” he continued. “I think it’s better to continue pooling political efforts into gathering all local powers in Yemen, and to rely on a Gulf initiative to start national dialogue in the country.”
He also believes that the Houthi rebels’ threat to Egyptian national security through their control of the Bab al-Mandab Strait has been exaggerated.
“No one can shut down the strait, or handle the international repercussions of such actions,” he emphasized.
According to Haridi, even during the years of war between Iraq and Iran, the Persian Gulf’s Strait of Hormuz was not closed due to the possibly devastating global consequences. “The same applies to the Strait of Bab al-Mandab,” he concluded.