Saudi airstrikes against the Yemeni capital city of Sanaa are nothing unusual in and of themselves. This weekend’s strikes, however, appear to be different from the usual strikes, apparently aimed at bolstering former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in his growing fight with the Shi’ite Houthi movement.
Over the course of nearly three years of Saudi invasion of Yemen, the Saleh movement has mostly backed the Houthis, but recent infighting has led to what is being called a “street war” in the capital city. While such fighting has come and gone before, the Saudis seem to be hoping to ensure this latest break is permanent.
Saudi officials say they are “confident” in Saleh having switched sides, and the airstrikes are adding to the sense among Houthis that Saleh’s forces are now effectively part of the pro-Saudi force, even if it’s not very clear where they fit into an increasingly messy coalition.
Saleh’s forces were never particularly fit to ally with the Houthis, against whom they fought a bloody war a few years back. Yet unless the Saudis are prepared to sideline former President Hadi in favor of Saleh, which might be the case, it’s not clear how the two sides could coexist.