Saudi Arabia signs up Egypt for ‘major military maneuver’

Saudi army artillery fire shells towards Houthi positions from the Saudi border with Yemen April 13, 2015. (Reuters / Faisal Al Nasser)
Riyadh continues to strengthen ties with powerful regional armies amid an ongoing air campaign against Houthi fighters in Yemen. It has signed up Egypt for a joint planning of a “major military maneuver” with other Gulf states in Saudi Arabia.

During the visit of the Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Cairo to discuss military campaign in Yemen, both countries agreed to form a joint military committee to discuss the“implementation of a major strategic maneuver in the territory of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”, the Egyptian President's office said in a statement. The statement gave no further details on the planned military exercise.

READ MORE: UN sanctions Houthis in Yemen, ignores Russian calls for all-inclusive arms embargo

Emphasizing that the security of the Gulf region and the Red Sea in particular is a “red line”, Cairo has agreed to participate in a joint Arab force which includes other Gulf states. Egyptian naval and air forces are already involved in the operation in Yemen dubbed the Determination Storm. Cairo said it would supply ground forces “if necessary.”

The Saudis announced productive discussion on the “areas of strengthening military cooperation” inside the coalition, also affirming Egypt’s role as one of the main acting powers in the region.

A coalition of countries which includes, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, and Sudan led by Saudi Arabia, have launched airstrikes against the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen some three weeks ago.

READ MORE: Airstrikes ‘not the answer’: Iran proposes peace plan for Yemen

The coalition airstrikes have inflicted heavy damage on civilian infrastructure in Yemen. Over 1,000 people including many civilians have been killed amid chaos on the ground. The predominantly Sunni Muslim allies are doing their best to return the deposed Yemeni president who fled the country back to power.

Tuesday’s decision by the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on the Yemeni rebels was praised in Riyadh as a“victory for the Yemen people.”However the Russian UN envoy, who abstained from the vote, noted that while it had been passed, the draft still failed to address all sides of the conflict “to swiftly halt fire and to begin peace talks.”

Meanwhile Arab language channels, including Al Jazeera, reported that Saudi military is boosting its troops presence along Yemeni border, adjacent to the northern Yemeni province of Saada. It has increased the count of tanks, artillery units and border guards that could eventually be used to launch a ground assault on its neighbor.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia becomes world’s top arms importer

The world’s top arms importer Saudi Arabia is well equipped in case of a ground operation. Last year, the country’s military spending increased by 17 percent, according to the latest SIPRI report. The theocratic monarchy also has the backing of the United States, who so far stayed out of the conflict but has offered some help to its main regional ally, including air intelligence collected by drones over Yemen.

But the military intervention will never solve the Yemeni conflict, insists another major regional power Iran, proposing a ceasefire and a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that the peace plan involves a truce, humanitarian aid, dialogue between the factions of the Yemeni conflict and “a broad-based government, friendly to all its neighbors.”