Saudi Arabia announced Tuesday an end to its military campaign in Yemen, which it calls Operation Decisive Storm, nearly a month after it began bombing Houthi rebel targets there. The kingdom will now begin focusing on finding a political solution in its impoverished, chaotic neighbor in a new operation dubbed “Restoring Hope,” Saudi state television announced.
"Operation Decisive Storm has achieved its goals ... (including) removing the threat to Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries especially in terms of heavy weapons," said a statement from a Saudi state news agency, Reuters reported. "With its end, the new Operation Restoring Hope begins with the following goals: continuing to protect civilians, continuing to fight terrorism and continuing to facilitate the evacuation of foreign nationals and to intensify relief and medical assistance to the Yemeni people."
The Saudis launched the campaign last month in response to advances by the Shiite Houthi rebels, who are allied with Saudi Arabia’s regional archrival, Iran. The group overthrew the Saudi-backed government in January, ousting President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is currently in exile in Riyadh. At the outset of the campaign, the Saudi government said defeating the Houthis to restore Hadi was one of the objectives.
While the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign has largely failed to halt the Houthis’ ground advance, Hadi has not been reinstalled and the rebels retain their hold on the capital, Sanaa, the Saudi government is still calling Operation Decisive Storm a victory. The campaign was able to achieve its objectives through “very good planning, very precise execution, by the courage of our pilots, our sailors, our soldiers,” said military spokesman Brig. Gen, Ahmed Asiri, in remarks reported by CNN. The focus of the new operation will be on security and counterterrorism as Saudi ground troops will continue to protect the border while blocking attempts at destabilization, Asiri said, adding that military action will remain an option if necessary.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the end of the air campaign. "We had previously announced that there is no military solution to Yemen's crisis,” spokeswoman Marziyah Afkham said in a statement reported by the BBC. “Undoubtedly, the ceasefire and end to killing innocent and defenseless people is a step forward."
The growing humanitarian toll of the Saudi campaign has also been a cause for concern for the kingdom’s U.S. allies, who also are increasingly worried that the chaos has given Yemen’s powerful al Qaeda affiliate room to expand its territory.