Egypt 'to send troops' to Saudi Arabia

Egypt 'to send troops' to Saudi Arabia
With air strikes unable to break the impasse in Yemen, does the planned dispatch of Egyptian troops to Saudi Arabia mean a ground offensive is imminent?
3 min read
14 April, 2015
Militiamen in Aden [Getty]
Egypt is ready to send troops to Saudi Arabia in advance of looming ground operations in Yemen, Al-Araby al-Jadeed has learnt.

A source close to Egypt's military told al-Araby al-Jadeed that some 700 rapid intervention troops are primed to go to Saudi Arabia in preparation for a ground offensive.

"Egypt has not yet been informed of a decision to start phase two of Decisive Storm, and the rapid intervention
     There is no safe foothold in Yemen today for ground troops. -

 Adel Sulayman, military analyst
forces set to go to Saudi Arabia may be tasked with reconnaissance and paving the way for ground intervention in case of final approval. The troops have not left Egypt yet," the source said.

After 19 days of the Saudi-led Decisive Storm, facts on the ground in Yemen have changed little. Clashes in the south between Houthi rebels and forces loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the Southern Movement and popular committees, allied to Yemen's president Abd-Rabbo Mansour Hadi continue seemingly unabated.

The Saudi-led military coalition continues to strike at Houthi and allied positions in Sanaa and Marib from the air in operations that, according to Houthi spokesmen, have so far caused 2,571 civilian deaths and 3,897 injuries.

Fierce clashes

Clashes are especially fierce in Marib province. On 13 April, Turkey's Anadolu news agency reported that Saudi air strikes targeted Houthi positions during a battle for control of Sirwah against local tribesmen, as well as Houthi-controlled positions in Majzar district. Significant casualties were reported on both sides.

Air strikes also hit sites in Sanaa and Amran. According to Houthi sources, a Special Forces base in the west of the capital was attacked for the 19th time since Decisive Storm began. Targets also included the nearby state television and broadcast buildings at Jabal Ayban, as well as a number of other sites in Amran to the north. The coalition also targeted Houthi positions in Ibb province further south.

In the south itself, the coalition targeted Houthi and allied positions, particularly in Shabwa and Aden, including the Houthi-controlled presidential complex, according to AFP.

Heading towards Phase II?

With air strikes achieving little impact, the possibility of a ground inavsion grows ever more likely.

Egypt's enthusiasm for theidea was reportedly luke-warm at first. Its material support for Decisive Storm so far has been limited to the deployment of warships in Bab al-Mandab. But recent remarks by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi indicate this may be about to change, even if 700 troops will hardly have a decisive military impact.

Some observers are pointing to parallels with the situation in 1962, when the Egyptian army fought alongside Abdullah al-Sallal following his coup against Imam Muhammad al-Badr Hamid al-Din to establish a republic in Yemen.

But Egyptian military analyst General Adel Sulayman, who heads the Strategic Dialogue Centre, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that there was no grounds for comparison between the two wars.

"There are several points of difference between the two wars, the most important of which is how the ground intervention came to happen. In 1962, it was Sallal, the leader of the Yemeni revolution, who asked Egypt to intervene, and he had control of Yemen's air and sea ports in Aden and al-Hadida, where Egyptian warships headed directly from Suez. There is no safe foothold in Yemen today for ground troops, as the Houthis control all the ports.

"So how will the troops enter Yemen? We cannot expect to go through Oman, because Oman is neutral and will not allow troops to enter Yemen through its borders. This is one of many reasons why a ground intervention has been delayed."

The general concluded: "Anyone who proposes that Egypt's forces intervene on the ground in Yemen must first answer the question of how they get there."

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.