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Viewing cable 09RIYADH1687, SITREP ON SAUDI MILITARY OPERATIONS AGAINST THE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09RIYADH1687 2009-12-30 15:03 2010-12-07 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Riyadh
VZCZCXRO8254
OO RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDIR
DE RUEHRH #1687/01 3641524
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 301524Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY RIYADH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2154
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO IMMEDIATE 2801
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS IMMEDIATE 5360
RUEHDH/AMCONSUL DHAHRAN IMMEDIATE 0415
RUEHJI/AMCONSUL JEDDAH IMMEDIATE 0525
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUMICEA/USCINCCENT INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 RIYADH 001687 

NOFORN 
SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/30/2019 
TAGS: MASS MOPS PREL SA YM
SUBJECT: SITREP ON SAUDI MILITARY OPERATIONS AGAINST THE 
HOUTHIS, DECEMBER 30, 2009 

REF: A. SANAA 2117 
B. SANAA 2279 
C. RIYADH 1558 
D. RIYADH 1570 
E. RIYADH 1547 
F. RIYADH 1621 
G. RIYADH 1633 

RIYADH 00001687 001.2 OF 002 


Classified By: Amb. James B. Smith for reasons 1.4 (A), (B) AND (D) 

SUMMARY 
------- 

1. (C) While there is no open diplomacy being conducted, it 
appears the Saudis and the Houthis may be seeking to 
disengage from their fighting. Prince Khalid's announcement 
on December 23 that major military operations had ended was 
followed by a Houthi statement that offered withdrawal from 
all positions on the border in return for a cessation of 
Saudi attacks. Saudi Land Forces have reportedly ceased 
offensive activities, although significant Saudi air strikes 
and artillery shelling have continued. It may be that the 
Saudis are now starting to turn the fight over to Yemeni 
government forces; Yemeni military sources reported today 
that they launched several attacks on Houthi positions on 
December 28 (Reuters, 12/29). End summary. 

SHRINKING MEDIA COVERAGE 
------------------------ 

2. (C) Reporting in national Saudi media about the Houthi 
fighting has decreased substantially in recent days, with 
news about Yemen focusing mostly on the attacks against 
Al-Qaida targets. Saudi media reports from the battlefront 
say that the Saudi military continues "clearing operations" 
and air strikes while insisting that these operations have 
not and will not cross into Yemeni territory. Houthi-sourced 
reports claim daily air attacks by Saudi and U.S. aircraft. 

3. (C) After Prince Khalid's 12/23 announcement of Saudi 
casualties and his 48-hour ultimatum for the Houthis to 
withdraw from Al-Jabri, the Houthis released an official 
statement to Al-Quds Al-Arabi. Muhammad Abd-al-Salam, 
official spokesman for the Houthis, said: "There is no 
objection to our withdrawal from the positions in Saudi 
Arabia on the condition that the Saudis stop the aggression 
and not allow the use of their territories against us. ... 
The crux of the problem with the Saudi regime is not the 
territory or the border but because we faced Yemeni 
aggression from its territories." 

4. (C) This possible olive branch offered by the Houthis was 
apparently not accepted by the Saudis, as the next day the 
Saudi newspaper Al-Yawm reported that Saudi tanks, heavy 
artillery and planes "pounded the stronghold of the 
infiltrators fortified in Al-Jabri inflicting heavy losses 
including the deaths of 340 infiltrators and the destruction 
of the deserted houses where the enemies were taking refuge." 
The actual number of Houthi deaths has not been confirmed, 
but both Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan reported on 12/28 that the 
village of Al-Jabri was recaptured by Saudi forces. For 
their part, the Houthis say there were 31 air strikes on 
Al-Jabri. 

PRINCE KHALID'S REPUTATION: 
ANOTHER CASUALTY OF THE WAR? 
---------------------------- 

5. (C) Embassy contacts in the Saudi Ministry of Defense 
suggest that the Saudi Land Forces have largely ended 
offensive actions since Dec, 23 when Prince Khalid declared 
victory and an end to the main Saudi military campaign. 
Prince Khalid's decision to stop ground operations probably 
means that the Saudi military has been able to clear the 
border area of Houthi insurgents. 

6. (S/NF) We have also heard that Prince Khalid was pressed 
to stand down the ground forces because of King Abdullah's 
growing ire over three particular issues: 1) why it has taken 
so long to expel the ragtag Houthi fighters, 2) how there 

RIYADH 00001687 002.2 OF 002 


could be so many Saudi casualties, and 3) why the Saudi 
military has not proven more capable, given the billions 
invested in modernization over recent decades. Some military 
officers have speculated that Prince Khalid may have been 
removed from his position by the King if not for the return 
and protection of his father Prince Sultan. At minimum, 
within the Saudi leadership Prince Khalid's reputation as a 
military leader appears to have been damaged, perhaps ruling 
him out as an eventual successor to his father as Defense 
Minister. 

COMMENT - FINGER-POINTING TIME APPROACHES 
----------------------------------------- 

7. (C) For the last two months, the Saudi military has 
employed massively disproportionate force in its effort to 
repel and clear the lightly armed Houthi guerillas from the 
border area. Day and night aerial bombardment and artillery 
shelling have been the main instruments of what is 
increasingly regarded within the Saudi military as an 
embarrassingly long campaign that was poorly planned and 
executed that brought unexpectedly high Saudi casualties 
(exact number not known - officially 73 deaths), many 
apparently from friendly fire. Nonetheless, the conflict has 
been carefully spun as a heroic and successful struggle to 
protect Saudi sovereignty. 

8. (C) During the campaign, the Saudi military turned to the 
U.S. for emergency provision of munitions, imagery and 
intelligence to assist them to operate with greater 
precision. The U.S. military responded with alacrity to the 
extent possible, primarily by flying in stocks of ammunition 
for small weapons and artillery. However, the great majority 
of Saudi requests remain bogged down in the FMS contacting 
process or in interagency reviews. Prince Khalid and several 
senior Saudi Air Force officers have complained that the U.S. 
has not rallied to support Saudi Arabia during its hour of 
greatest need. As the Saudi military services seek to divert 
blame for the poor management of the Houthi operations in the 
weeks ahead, it can be expected that such criticism of U.S. 
support will continue, if not sharpen. 
SMITH