Alwaght- In March 2015, Saudi Arabia launched its aggression against neighboring Yemen, announcing that the aim of the campaign was to defeat the Yemeni revolutionaries, especially Ansarullah movement. Riyadh's plan was to victoriously wrap up the war within a couple of weeks. However, this did not happen as the war is now in its third year and the oil-rich regime has totally lost its hope for victory in the battle against impoverished neighboring Yemen.
Recently, some sources have reported that the kingdom is seeking to withdraw its forces from the Yemeni territories and replace them with mercenary fighters from the Latin American states. The report becomes significant if we know that the Saudi rulers already hired Sudanese and Senegalese troops, as well as fighters from the American security firm Blackwater, now renamed to Academi, only to be surprised by fatal blows from the Yemeni revolutionaries.
The Turkish news outlet Anadolu Agency has said, quoting a senior Pakistani military official, Pakistan was planning to send additional 1,000 troops to Saudi Arabia to enlarge the number of its forces already serving Saudi Arabia according to a security pact signed by the Islamabad and Riyadh in 1982. The decisionfollowed a meeting of the Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman, Anadolu said.
Pakistan's Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir told Senate on Monday there are already 1,600 personnel in Saudi Arabia that are on a "training and advise mission" and will not be deployed outside of the kingdom. The latest Pakistan army’s decision to dispatch more troops to the kingdom has triggered some debates in the Pakistani political circles as some sides raised concerns over their potential deployment to Yemeni front lines.
Army decision faces home objections
Since the beginning of aggression on Yemen, Saudi Arabia struggled to get on board Pakistani and Egyptian forces. But Egypt, that experienced a bitter defeat against North Yemen in the 1960s, refused to involve in the battle. The Pakistani government, on the other side, has failed to persuade the parliament for a green light for direct involvement as the legislation body voted in April 2015 against involvement in the war. The vote was seen as a blow to the Saudi-led coalition after it called on Pakistan to provide warships, aircraft and ground troops. The parliament instead advocated efforts to end the Yemeni crisis by peaceful means. But recently the news of an agreement for military dispatch with the aim of training the Saudi army provoked reactions. The Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan Raza Rabbani on February 16 recalled the Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir to appear before the Upper House of Parliament with regards to the army’s announcement of sending troops to Saudi Arabia.
The news also drew wide-ranging reactions from the large parties. Shireen Mazari, the member of the National Assembly from Tehreek-e-Insaf party called for the fellow lawmakers not to keep silent to the military deployment to Saudi Arabia as the troops are sent without authorization from the National Assembly. Imran Khan, head of Tehreek-e-Insaf party also warned that Islamabad should not get itself involved in the Yemeni war. Rather, it should push for a peaceful solution to the crisis. Nifiseh Shah of the Pakistan Peoples Party has called on the army to explain the purposes behind sending troops abroad.
“We need to decide this move will be beneficial to Pakistan,” she said, blasting the action.
Also, Farhatullah Babar of the Pakistan Peoples Party at the Senate noted that troops deployment to Saudi Arabia was a sensitive case and should have been handled more carefully. More figures strongly against Pakistan joining the anti-Yemeni Arab coalition included Senator Haji Adil of Awami National Party, Hussein Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to the US, Ashraf Jahangir, the former chief of the army’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), and Abdul Saad, the military's retired lieutenant general. Allama Raja Naser Abbas Ja’afari, the head of the Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, a Shiite institution of the country, highlighted the Saudi aggression against Yemeni people as a joint Riyadh and Washington plot to serve the interests of the Israeli regime.
Following the massive reactions to the army dispatch, Asif Ghafoor, the spokesman for the army, tried to calm the situation by saying that the Pakistani forces will never operate outside Saudi Arabia. The army also issued a statement, assuring that even a single soldier will not cross the border into the Yemeni territories and that the parliament and senate’s concerns were pointless.
The defense minister also told Senate "The apprehension that our troops will become entangled in the Yemen war is incorrect, we have clear rules of engagement”.
What are the consequences if Pakistan joins the Yemeni war?
- The experience of the Sudanese and Senegalese troops in Yemen shows that no foreign force can succeed in the Yemeni war. The Yemeni revolutionaries have proven to be so strong in the war, and their resistance and counteractions can inflict heavy human tolls on the Pakistani army in case of intervention. This, in turn, can ignite popular protests against Islamabad government.
- Pakistan involvement in the war is very challenging and risky for the Islamabad because the ethno-sectarian diversity in the country will push the Islamist opposition parties into disputes, something that will make the already-tense conditions of Pakistan enter into a new chaos. Pakistani army is set to deploy troops to help Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi regime fight against Shiite Yemenis while it has 35 million Shiite among its nearly 200 million population.
- The issue will also influence relations between Saudi Arabia's rival Iran and Pakistan. Except for some minor discords, Tehran and Islamabad have friendly ties, but Yemen intervention can damage Pakistan's relationship with the Shiite Iran that is strongly against Saudi-led aggression on Yemeni nation.
- Over the course of past three years, the Saudi crimes in Yemen even drew reactions from some Western allies of the kingdom. At least 14,000 civilians have been killed in the aggression, though the true death toll is potentially far higher as few organizations on the ground have the resources to count the dead.
Bin Salman had plans to travel to London early in 2018, but he delayed the visit to the next month due to pressures coming from pro-rights organizations who vowed to protest. Pakistan entry to the conflict will put Islamabad in the position of an accomplice to the Riyadh’s crimes against the Yemeni people. If the US and the European allies of Saudi Arabia do not set up roadblocks, International Court of Justice’s punishment could be expected for the Saudis for their barbarity.
- Intervention in Yemen can also damage Islamabad's image across the Muslim world.
Saudi army and inefficient spending
All in all, it is becoming clear that Saudi Arabia is seeking to hire more troops from various countries with reliance on its petrodollars. The regime is already one of the biggest buyers of the weapons in the world, for years it has been top on the list of the West Asian weapons buyers. Its biggest purchases were made in 2015, with the US being the largest arms provider. In May last year, during President Donald Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia, Riyadh sealed with Washington an arms deal worth nearly $110 billion. But it is yet to make a progress in the war, which means the excessive arming policy has failed and the Saudi Arabian rulers now are turning head to other options.