Thursday, October 3, 2019

Washington, Saudi Arabia and Yemen - The Other Side of the Narrative

Updated December 2019

The October 2019 capture of significant numbers of Saudi troops by the Houthis in Yemen received modest coverage in the Western mainstream media.  This rather significant turn of events in Yemen does not bode well for Saudi Arabia and its de factor ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS).  In this posting, I want to look at how Iran's Press TV covered the story and provide an alternative to the narrative being presented by the Trump Administration and, in particular, how Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is selling his narrative to American voters.

According to a Houthi spokesman, Colonel Yahiya Sarea, three Saudi brigades had surrendered to Anasarallah (Victory from God Almighty), the Houthi rebel movement, resulting in the capture of 2,400 soldiers (including children  who are being forced to fight by the Saudis according to Iranian news reports) plus Yemeni and Sudanese mercenaries as well as several hundred Saudi battle vehicles in the Najran Province located in southwestern Saudi Arabia near the border with Yemen as shown on this map:  

Here is the news coverage of the Yemeni Army's large-scale offensive by Iran's PressTV:

If you watch the video, you can see Saudi forces fleeing in armoured personnel carriers at the 4 minute mark, captured and damaged Saudi vehicles at the 5 minute 30 second mark onwards as shown in this screen capture:

...and this screen capture showing a lineup of captured military vehicles from the 10 minute mark:

At the 9 minute 30 second mark, you can see the first of a long parade of captured and rather ragged looking Saudi fighters:

At the 13 minute 10 second mark, we see a pile of surrendered weapons: well as this weapon mounted on a truck at the 20 minute 30 second mark which was captured by the Houthis:

At the 14 minute 30 second mark, we see an unidentified plane flying overhead followed by an explosion on the ground where the narrator claims that Saudi air forces were bombing their own troops.  At the 22 minute mark, we see a Yemeni soldier moving a fully functional captured Oshkosh American-manufactured military vehicle, adding to the inventory of the Houthi fighters.

According a blog posting written by Colonel W. Patrick Lang, a retired senior officer of the United States Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces, senior Saudi commanders deserted their men shortly after the ambush by Houthis and Salih loyalist parts of the Yemeni Army began.  Thanks to a video released by Iran's Press TV, we can see the ambush taking place and what was left behind by the Saudi troops.  Colonel Lang notes that the vehicles, including armoured vehicles, contain large numbers of weapons, ammunition and other supplies.  Among the vehicles captured are fully tracked M-113 U.S. built armoured personnel carriers equipped with radar trained air defense Gatling guns as shown on this screen capture from the 23 minute 45 second mark of the video:

Some of the vehicles are marked (in Arabic) as belonging to the Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG), a group of tribal elements (i.e Bedouin tribe members) that are loyal to the Saudi royal family and that serve to protect the country from internal rebellion as shown on this screen capture from the 23 minute 14 second mark of the video:

The Arabic characters on the door of the vehicle look very, very similar to the Arabic on the Saudi Arabian National Guard emblem as shown here:

The United States has spent decades training and modernizing this force; here is a June 2013 news release from the Defense Security Operation Agency showing a sale of $4.0 billion worth of American military equipment designed to modernize SANG:

Note the following quote from the news release:

"This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by making a key regional ally and partner in the international fight against terrorism more capable of defeating those who would threaten regional stability and less reliant on the deployment of U.S. combat forces to maintain or restore stability in the Middle East."
Here is a screen capture from the website of the U.S. Army Office of the Program Manager - Saudi Arabian National Guard (OPM - SANG):

Here is OPM - SANG's mission:

"To develop within the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) the capability to unilaterally initiate, sustain and operate modern military organizations and systems in conjunction with other Kingdom defense forces. These capabilities include force expansion and sustainment, medical services, and light armored vehicle fielding, as well as a robust construction program that is jointly managed by OPM and SANG personnel."

And, in light of the recent actions in Yemen, how is Washington's modernization of the Saudi Arabian National Guard forces working out for the fight against terrorism and the threats to regional stability?  Apparently, Washington can arm Saudi Arabia all they want but recent activities clearly show that unless the Saudis are willing to fight, it's a lost cause.  And, as we know, there are always two sides to any narrative.  Thanks to Iran's PressTV, we have an opportunity to explore the other side of recent events along the Saudi Arabia - Yemen frontier which suggest that the Saudi Royal Family may be far more vulnerable than we are being led to believe.

1 comment:

  1. The Saudi force was actually one brigade consisting of three battalions.

    Even though the Saudis were not regular army, this is an impressive victory by the Houthis, who are usually described as ragtag militia. It is also yet another demonstration of the utter incompetence, fecklessness, and cowardice of the Saudi military.