Saudi-led coalition forces have been preparing to launch a large-scale offensive on Hodeidah, the fourth-largest city in Yemen, with a population of 400,000 people, in an effort to recapture the city’s port which currently serves as one of the remaining humanitarian lifelines in the war-stricken country.
United Arab Emirates approached Washington with the request. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is now waiting for a “quick assessment” of the UAE’s plea, which seeks US intelligence capabilities, mainly drone overflights, to help a Saudi-led coalition retake Hodeidah. Washington’s potential involvement has excited a number of US officials and has left others worried about the potential consequences of such an operation. While the US is weighing its options, the UAE and Saudi Arabian officials have allegedly assured the US that they will stay clear of the port.
Recapturing Hodeidah and its port is crucial for Saudi Arabia. Over the course of the conflict, Riyadh has repeatedly tried to blockade the docks, claiming that the port is being used to smuggle arms for the Houthi rebels. Repeated calls from human rights groups and the UN have kept the port open, on and off, so that vital aid can be delivered to the country.
While human rights groups warn that the battle to retake Hodeidah would spell humanitarian disaster.