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Washington has elected to withdraw its air defense systems from Saudi Arabia.
This leaves the Kingdom out to dry in a moment when Ansar Allah (the Houthis) are ramping up their cross-border attacks by way of drones and missiles.
The Prince Sultan Air Base, a key Saudi-led coalition facility, used to house a high-altitude air defense unit (THAAD) and a missile defense system in addition to Patriot missile batteries.
Today, the pads remain empty, with the Pentagon admitting that “certain assets” were removed. In desperation, Saudi Arabia has even accepted a Patriot anti-aircraft missile battery and a deployment of 120 soldiers to work on the system.
Meanwhile, against this worrisome backdrop from Riyadh, Iran is gradually increasing its arsenal of locally produced unmanned aerial vehicles, which it transfers to its allies in the region.
The removal of the US defense systems is an encouraging sign for Iran. As a result, the supply of attack drones, which are essentially copies of US-made RQ-170 Sentinel to the Houthis is likely to continue and even increase.
This is further substantiated by a statement by the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg, who assumed the post in August, after the previous envoy Martin Griffiths failed entirely.
On September 10th, Grundberg admitted that Yemen is “stuck in a state of war for an indefinite period”, and it will not be easy to resume negotiations on ending the more than six-year conflict.
On its part, the United States simply said that it would restore aid to the regions under Houthi control, and their terrorist designation would be lifted.
Riyadh is entirely right to feel left out in the open, as not only is Washington removing security assets from the Kingdom, but it is even indirectly supporting the Houthis by providing aid.
What could potentially sway the war further into Ansar Allah’s favor is the battle for Marib city. It is the last major urban center controlled by Yemen’s puppet government, and the area is home to most of the country’s oil and gas reserves.
The expectation is that no negotiations will take place until the Houthis take Marib, as it would be quite a significant leverage. It is an odd goal, as Marib houses nearly 4 million refugees, meaning an incredible number of mouths to feed, while Saudi-backed puppet government is currently providing some form of care for them.
It is essentially another way of funneling resources from Riyadh, in addition to targeting and destroying its military equipment and facilities.
Most recently, Saudi Arabia lost a Chengdu Wing Loong II spy drone, shortly after it lost control over a large area south of Marib city.
Meanwhile, on the southern Taiz front, the Houthis have regained control over the town of al-Kadhah, Maghdar and Ruwai mountains areas, following the withdrawal of Saudi-backed forces due to lack of financial support from the international coalition.
The fight is gaining momentum, and Saudi Arabia, yet again, shows that it is incapable of adequately participating in the chaos.