Nowadays, the Iranian role suffers relapses due to the Yamani legitimate forces’ tightening of control over marine coasts in Yemen and the restoration of many Yemeni ports. The Arab Coalition in Yemen has won successive victories on the ground in order to support legitimacy in the country. Those victories coincided with Riyadh summit in May 2017 and the launch of Arab-Islamic-American alliances in order to besiege and counter all manifestations of terrorism including the Iranian threat, add to that, the clear shift that took place in the US policy towards the region. The Yemeni case witnesses an Iranian relapse after the new US administration announced plans and visions to end the crisis in Yemen. This is happening in conjunction with the developments that the legitimate forces along with the Arab Alliance have achieved including taking back control of strategic cities that Houthi-Saleh alliance was controlling. Analysts and observers often wonder about the balance of power in Yemen and the extent of control of both government forces and Houthi-Saleh militias, to see who dominates the equation on the ground.
The facts on the ground already answered this question through “the control and power distribution map between Legitimate Forces and Houthis.” Houthi-Saleh militias control declined from 80% after the Arab Coalition forces entered the frontline in Yemen on 26 March 2015, and by the first half of 2017, the government forces have the percentage in many Yemeni provinces, especially southern and eastern ones. Pre-Decisive Storm, legitimacy forces may have controlled only 0% of the Yamani territories. Back then, the Yamani state and its official institutions have been dismantled and some ministers were arrested as Yemen became under the control of coup militias. However, after the Decisive Storm, led by the Arab Alliance to support legitimacy in Yemen, the legitimate forces recovered, up to the date of preparation of the report, 80-85% of the Yamani territories through successive four phases according to the following table:
Thus, the Houthi-Saleh militias only control the lowest geographical areas in Yemen (20%). The following table shows the distribution of control and power areas in the Yemeni provinces (al-Mahara, Hadhramaut, Jouf, Marib, Shabwa, Abyan, Baida, Dali, Lahj, Sa’da, Omran, Sana’a, Zammar, Ibb, Taiz, Hajjah, al-Mahweet, al-Hodeida, Rima, Socotra) and also shows the areas of engagement between legitimate and coalition forces with Houthi-Saleh militias. Thus, the Houthi-Saleh militias only control the lowest geographical areas in Yemen (20%). The following table shows the distribution of control and power areas in the Yemeni provinces (al-Mahara, Hadhramaut, Jouf, Marib, Shabwa, Abyan, Baida, Dali, Lahj, Sa’da, Omran, Sana’a, Zammar, Ibb, Taiz, Hajjah, al-Mahweet, al-Hodeida, Rima, Socotra) and also shows the areas of engagement between legitimate and coalition forces with Houthi-Saleh militias.
Despite the 20% size of the Houthis areas of control, these areas have limited natural resources, mentioning that 95% of the Yemeni budget depends on natural resources such as oil and gas. Whereas government forces control the province of Marib, 170 km east of Sanaa, which has oil and gas wells and important oil installations. They also control the provinces of Hadhramaut and Shabwa in the east, in which most of the oil fields that produce about 70% of Yemen’s oil production are located. As well as the LNG export port in the Balhaf region in Shabwa province which is considered the most important and largest Yemeni oil installation in the country.
In addition to Aden province which the Yemeni government controlled as its temporary capital city and has the most important seaport in Yemen in addition to the international airport besides the international airports of Mukalla and Sayeoun in Hadhramaut province, Its port and the port of al-Dhuba for oil export.
In this context, the Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid bin Dagher said on March 27, 2017, that the operations of the Arab Alliance to support the legitimacy “smashed the Iranian project in Yemen”. Hadi government regained control of 80% of the Yamani territories as a result of the Arab alliance combat operations, which restored the prestige and glories of Arabism, clarified the Iranian [Persian] project seriousness and helped to eliminate Iran’s plans in Yemen, which targeted the security and stability of the neighboring Gulf countries. Moreover, Iran plan in Yemen could enable it to blackmail the international community as usual, through threatening the safety of international navigation in the Strait of Bab al-Mandab, one of the most important corridors of world maritime trade.
By the end of June 2017, a new military map emerged. That map could lead to a change in the balance of power on the battlefield and turn the cuff in favor of government forces in areas that are still under the control of the Houthi militias. The leadership of the Fourth Military Region in the Yemeni Armed Forces commanded to mobilize most of the military units stationed in Aden to the areas of confrontation to participate in the fighting and the expulsion of the Houthis. The new deployment regions of these brigades included Heifan, Karash, and Qubaytah areas, as well as al-Wazaiya, Mozei and Gabbana. Other units of these forces are deployed in Maris, Dhala, Mukiras and Jabal Thara in Abyan province to participate in the fighting against Houthis. Soldiers ensure that these units are able to restore the rest of Yemeni territories from the Houthi grip, as the military moves coincide with a military operation launched by the legitimate forces to restore the rest of Marib province. Operations in the Sarwah Directorate indicate the advance of the legitimate forces towards the center of the Directorate, which is considered the last stronghold of Houthis in the province. The legitimate forces are carrying out a roundup operation aimed at controlling the supply lines of Houthis. Sarwah also has a great importance in the equation of war in Marib because it is close to the Houthi-controlled Sana’a which makes its restoration a top priority for the legitimate forces, especially with the advancement of Coalition-Governmental Forces towards Naham at the eastern gate of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. In addition to the control of these forces and their southern allies over Mokha Directorate and its strategic port.
Finally, in light of the regional and international siege imposed on Iran, the difficult economic conditions which Iran is currently going through the internal crises on the one hand, the new control and power map, the military strategies of the legitimate government and the Arab coalition forces to besiege Houthi militias in Naham and Sarwah to encircle Sana’a on the other hand, the issue of the Houthis’ ability and power to impose their conditions and views has become questionable in such a way that make Houthi-Saleh coalition rethink the idea of delivering arms to the official state and ending control of Sana’a, although this is not easy.