Yemen president sacks military official for fierce Saudi-UAE coalition criticism

Yemen president sacks military official for fierce Saudi-UAE coalition criticism
An arrest warrant by Yemen's president has been issued for Major General Mohsen Khasrof after slamming the Saudi-led coalition for failing to provide supplies to the Yemeni army.
5 min read
11 July, 2019
Hadi has been based in Riyadh since 2015 [Getty]
Yemen's Riyadh-based president ordered the arrest of a senior military official on Thursday for his fierce criticism of the Saudi-UAE coalition fighting in Yemen, which he said had "failed to supply" his military with weapons.

Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi's order included the removal of Major General Mohsen Khasrof from his post as the director of the guidance department after he made the comments during a live television interview, according to an official source from the ministry of defence, news agency SABA reported.

The president, who has resided in Riyadh since fleeing the Yemeni capital in 2014, "ordered an investigation as a result of violations of the rules of the profession and regulations and laws governing the military", SABA reported.

"The political and military leadership will not hesitate to take legal action against all violators of the army," the source said. He also warned that the military leadership should be more disciplined.

Fierce criticism

Hadi's decision to fire the commander comes after a fiery interview with Khasrof, which was aired live on the government-run Yemen television channel. In it, the military official unleashed a barrage of criticism targeting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

Khasrof said the coalition, which has been backing pro-government fighters battling the Houthis in Yemen since 2015, has failed to adequately arm Yemen's military,  comparing the support given by Iran to the rebels.

"The Iranians have sent rockets to the Houthis, what has the coalition offered us? The coalition has not given us heavy weaponry, or a tank, or a rocket launcher or a fighter jet - we do not have anything," the major general said.

The Iranians have sent rockets to the Houthis, what has the coalition offered us?

"The Yemeni army is fighting with basic weapons and nothing more," he confirmed. He noted that the coalition itself uses heavy weaponry but "does not give them to the Yemeni army".

"We do not have the means to fight according to our capabilities - they don't need to fight alongside us, we just need the coalition to provide us with the means to achieve victory," he said.

"We are facing a real obstacles. The world does not want the Yemeni army to be victorious because that would mean the victory of the Islah," he adds, referring to Yemen's branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to back the internationally-recognised government against the Houthi rebels. It has repeatedly accused Iran of supplying sophisticated weapons to the Houthis, a charge Tehran denies.

The comments came just days after the UAE announced it was going ahead with plans to reduce the number of troops in war-torn Yemen, announcing a shift from a military strategy to a push for peace.

"We do have troop levels that are down for reasons that are strategic in (the Red Sea city of) Hodeida and reasons that are tactical" in other parts of the country, a senior UAE official told reporters.

"It is very much to do with moving from what I would call a military first strategy to a peace first strategy, and this is I think what we are doing."

In late June, a Reuters report said UAE, a prime ally in the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, is to scale-back its military efforts in the war in Yemen to focus on security threats posed by US-Iran tensions which have bubbled over in close proximity to the wealthy Gulf nation.

The UAE has led a drive to form dozens of military brigades and several military hubs across southern Yemen in recent months.

Abu Dhabi - which has triggered anger among Yemen's government for its activities in the south of the country - will withdraw some troops from the port of Aden and Yemen's west coast, diplomatic sources said. The UAE has established teams of local fighters who will continue battling Houthi-aligned forces on the ground and protect its interests.

'Undermining the government'

However, on the back of these reports sources claimed that Abu Dhabi is now building up a huge militia force to sustain military efforts on the ground.

Another aim of the militia army will be to undermine the authority of the internationally-recognised government led by Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, The New Arab's Arabic-language daily reported last week.

Military and government sources in Yemen revealed that the UAE have been funding and equipping militias belonging to the secessionist Southern Transitional Council in order to install pro-Emirati factions in areas seized from Houthi control.

The UAE, who supported the establishment of the Southern Transitional Council in 2017, has led a drive to form dozens of military brigades and several military hubs across southern Yemen in recent months. 

These initiatives have angered the Hadi government who see this as an attempt by Abu Dhabi to usurp control from the legitimate Yemeni leadership.

Sources close to the Southern Transitional Council leadership revealed that the UAE directed them to form a parallel army to that of the Hadi government, consisting of between 25 and 35 brigades based in southern Yemen, which it fully supports and readily arms. 

Each brigade consists of around 1,500 troops, meaning the militia army may be 52,000-strong.

In context, government forces are said to number around 200,000, however, many suspect these figures to be inflated.

The militia brigades have been ordered to take control of the southern provinces and their resources, in order to secure former border areas while expelling government forces from these areas.

The support from the UAE comes in the form of hundreds of armoured vehicles and machinery, as well as military training centres. Sources from the Hadi leadership also accused the Emiratis of spreading negative propaganda about the internationally-recognised government.

Sources in the Hadi government also complained that the UAE has set up so-called "commando brigades" of militia fighters that have taken over the fighting and leadership on the front lines, in an attempt to push government forces out and leave them with no role in the conflict.

They also say the UAE pays the salaries of the militia brigades in Saudi riyals, in order to persuade Yemeni citizens to join their ranks over those of the government.

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