Explaining Houthi warfare strategy: Endless attempts, countless fighters

Explaining Houthi warfare strategy: Endless attempts, countless fighters



By Sarah Hassan

Contributing opinion writer

The Houthi militia's long-term warfare strategy depends on two key tactics. The first is endless attempts.

The terrorist Shiite theocratic militia is fighting tirelessly since March 2015 to expand and take Marib as well as other territories under the government's control. They have been launching incursion attempts on Marib on almost a bimonthly or less basis for the past six years. It is expected they will maintain the continual attempts of incursion open-endedly. The last attempt was conducted in March and was successfully repelled by the army. The current one was launched – despite a unilateral cessation of offensives on the government's side since 9th April - on Monday.

Besides endless incursion attempts, the militia's warfare strategy depends on the tactic of countless fighters in each battle.

By this the militia make most sacrifices from the resource they have in abundance. Impoverished families in the population centers they control are both desperate for income and too afraid to resist Houthi recruitment campaigns. The other option for families is to redeem their children chosen for the warfronts with paying YR 50,000 (roughly $107), an exorbitant amount. Several tribal leaders and neighborhood chieftains sometimes lose their lives if they fail or refuse to recruit fighters in their communities.

Having too many fighters and careless no matter the number they will sacrifice in the cause of capturing the oil producing governorate, the extremist dynastical militia pour overwhelmingly large numbers of fighters overrun the army posts fearlessly. The militants are trained not to give way to empathy for wounded comrades no matter what and, under the effect of psychoactive drugs, to keep on advancing no matter the risks. This tactic is meant to wear out the army in morale and ammunition and intimidate troopers into fleeing.


The militia have reportedly committed 2500 fighters for the ongoing offensive in Nehm, a Sana'a area bordering Marib. As many as 321 of them have been killed in the past two days - Tuesday through Wednesday- according to news websites quoting Houthi sources. The sources add that "476 others have sustained injuries, 208 deserted the warfront and 37 others went missing."

In the previous attempt of March, the militia reportedly committed five thousand fighters hundreds of whom were killed, injured or arrested.

Further backward in time in January the militia captured the strategic Nehm front east of Sana'a depending on this same tactic: committing three rebel fighters for every soldier from the government's 7000-strong combat units in the contested mountains.

"My colleague neutralized like 30 Houthi fighters advancing in suicidal bravery towards us, but they kept pouring like they are countless. His finger became too sore to keep pulling the trigger, vomited and slipped into a coma," a government soldier who identified himself only as MMS said. "When he woke up, he kept crying involuntarily for the whole day."

Yemeni newspapers say this Houthi tactic is an Iranian style. "The Houthis don't have this thing of cost-benefit rational when it comes to sacrificing the children of other people. The satisfaction and victory of the dynasty is the most important thing," says Abdullah Saeed a social media activist who also fought alongside the army in March's battle. "They always commit enough numbers of fighters for pyrrhic victories."


Fawaz Shamsan a Marib-based news analyst says the diehard Shia theocratic militants "will keep attempting to capture Marib for ever and ever until the Day of Judgment' in their words." He says "this is natural of such a religious militia with transborder ambitions. When they were a small rebel group in Saada, during Ali A. Saleh's era, they kept breaking the truces and clashes make a more violent campaign every time with the militia's geographical toehold expanding further every time.


"Here we are. Now the government has only a few strongholds remaining - in the defense since 7th October 2015. And the Houthis have all the 21 million population living under their control as potential recruits."

Shamsan affirms that "it is impossible the maximalist group will stop trying on Marib. And if they take complete control of Yemen, it is impossible they will stop!


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