Monday,24 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1250, (11 - 17 June 2015)
Monday,24 September, 2018
Issue 1250, (11 - 17 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Saudi Arabia’s Yemen war casualties

Almost 2,000 Yemenis have been killed since the Saudi-led war in Yemen, but the kingdom’s casualties, too, are becoming noticeable

Al-Ahram Weekly

Six Saudis were killed this week in two separate attacks from Yemen on border areas, bringing the number of Saudi casualties to 37 since the start of the war on Yemen’s Houthi Movement in March.

Missiles fired from Yemen to the southern Dharan Al-Janoub in Saudi Arabia’s Asir area Monday killed one national guard and one border guard according to the Saudi news agency. The Houthi-run Saba news agency claimed that Houthi fighters ambushed the Saudi border spot of Al-Sharfa near Yemen’s Saada (a Houthi stronghold) forcing Saudi soldiers to flee.

Quoting an unnamed Yemeni official, the agency claimed that Houthi forces destroyed two vehicles and a bulldozer in the Saudi military Atwailq site.

The flare up at the border area took a qualitative turn Saturday when forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthis fired a Scud missile early morning in the direction of Khamees Mushait air base. It was intercepted by two Patriot missiles, according to a statement by the leadership of the joint Arab military coalition.

Soon after the attack, Saudi authorities evacuated the families of officers living in the air base.

It is the first time since the opening of the war that a Scud missile an 11-metre ballistic missile with ranges of 300 kilometres has been fired from the Yemeni side, a sign that the Saudi-led operation and its daily pounding of Yemeni targets hasn’t successfully diminished the military capabilities of Houthi and Saleh forces. Operation Decisive Storm’s other objective has been to reinstate exiled president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The escalation precedes scheduled peace talks between Yemeni parties in Geneva, under the auspices of the United Nations, 14 June. Delegations representing both Hadi and the Houthis will be taking part in the consultations according to the UN. The talks were originally scheduled for 28 May but were postponed.

Observers say any political breakthrough in the talks will hinge largely on Riyadh and how it plans to proceed with its war on Yemen as it enters its third month without much progress.

There are signs that Saudi Arabia’s domestic front might start to feel the impact of the war which if not resolved sooner rather than later could resonate negatively on its architect, 29-year-old Minister of Defence Mohamed Ben Salman, the son of the Saudi monarch.

Saudi officials have remained mum about the economic cost of the war, but estimates by mid-April 2015 suggest it has cost $30 billion so, including the costs of operating, fuelling and arming 175 fighter planes and putting150,000 Saudi soldiers in a state of readiness in anticipation of a possible expansion in the scope of the war.

In light of plunging oil prices, this economic bill could prove damaging for the oil-rich kingdom, which rules as an absolute monarchy and offers no legal channels for political participation for its youth who form approximately 50 per cent of its total population.

In its efforts to curb Iran’s growing regional influence, Riyadh increased oil production amid a slump in oil prices and effectively over-supplied the market. Consequently, Iran’s economy the fourth largest oil producer in the world has been affected by the falling oil prices.

But the policy also harmed Riyadh. According to a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, the kingdom’s public deficit has increased to 20 per cent of its total GDP. The report said the total expected deficit is $130 billion out of a total budget of $649 billion for this fiscal year.

In a recent meeting of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Riyadh insisted on maintaining its production levels, prompting Iran to pump an additional one million barrels per day of crude.

Saudi Arabia’s government announced a two-month salary payment for all citizens estimated at 110 billion Saudi Riyals (approximately $30 billion), and last month announced an additional one-month bonus for all military personnel. This as well as the cost of the war is being drawn from Saudi foreign exchange reserves.

Al-Ahram Weekly and agencies

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