End of the Saudi-Houthi war?

Coinciding with the London conference on Yemen, Saudi Arabia 
announced that it had won its war with Yemen's Houthi rebels. 

The fighting does appear to have stopped, at least for now, though it's not the first time the Saudis have claimed victory. In December, in a statement reminiscent of George Bush's premature boast about Iraq, they said they were suspending major operations because there were only a few infiltrators left.

Although the Houthis have undoubtedly suffered heavy losses, the war has also proved far more costly and difficult than expected for the Saudis. Since fighting broke out in the first week of November, at least 133 Saudi soldiers have been killed – an extremely high casualty rate for what was supposedly just a minor incursion across the border. Thousands of Saudi inhabitants were forcibly uprootedfrom their villages in the border area, allegedly for security reasons, and it is doubtful how many will be allowed to return.

The sequence of events leading up to the Saudi "victory" is that on Monday the Houthis offered a ceasefire and said they were withdrawing from the kingdom to avoid more civilian casualties.

On Tuesday, a vitriolic article in Asharq Alawsat by Tariq Alhomayed, the Saudi paper's editor-in-chief, denounced the ceasefire offer. "The Houthi talk about a truce with Saudi Arabia is something that should not be given any attention, or even considered," he wrote. 

On the same day, al-Arabiyya (also Saudi) quoted the rebels as saying they had withdrawn completely from Saudi territory.

On Wednesday, Prince Khaled bin Sultan, the Saudi assistant defence minister retorted: "They did not withdraw. They have been forced out." 

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 29 January 2010.