Yemen’s president, who has fled the country, said Saturday that Iranian-backed Houthi rebels must “surrender” as Arab League powers indicate they might agree to a joint force to back the Saudi attack on the rebels.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi spoke at an Arab League meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, and called for the “continuation of Operation Decisive Storm until this gang [the Houthis] announces its surrender, exits all occupied territories in the provinces, leaves state institutions and military camps.”
Iran may have been caught by surprise by the fierce Saudi response to the attempted takeover by the Shi’ite Muslims, and the continuing Saudi air strikes are an indication of a dramatic change in the Sunni Muslim kingdom since King Salman succeeded King Abdullah after his death earlier this year.
Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian warned Saudi Arabia against the consequences of a Saudi-led land invasion of Yemen and described the military attacks as “a strategic mistake.”
“Resorting to military acts against Yemen which is entangled in an internal crisis and fighting terrorism will further complicate the situation, spread the range of crisis and destroy opportunities to settle the internal differences in Yemen peacefully,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said.
Saudi Arabia evacuated dozens of diplomats from Aden and the United Nations evacuated more than 200 personnel from Sanaa on Saturday as the Saudi aerial offensive continued in its third day.
The Houthis are well-armed, are in control of the capital of Sanaa and have opened a new front on the Arabian Sea coast, 60 miles from the key port of Aden.
Many, but not all, Arab League foreign ministers have said they support a joint force, with Egypt and the Gulf States the most anxious sponsors.
Syria, an ally of Iran whose Hezbollah forces are fighting alongside the regime’s army, is an obvious dissident. Iraq also is hesitant to join the Saudi-led campaign.