Military experts fear Saudi Arabia’s strategy in Yemen is failing

A Saudi-led coalition is keeping up an air campaign against Houthi rebel targets in Yemen, despite an announcement to end airstrikes.

Riyadh is hoping these bombings will disrupt the Iranian-backed militants’ network but, so far, rebels are still holding significant territory in the country, experts tell

Air Force Col. Cedric Leighton (Ret.) and David Andrew Weinberg told Fox News’ Jonathan Hunt that it has been hard to predict whether airstrikes against the rebels are working.

“If the goal is just to get the Houthis to the negotiating table, then perhaps the airstrikes are working. Now, from a tactical, military sense because there apparently are some difficulties with the targeting the Saudis are using, I would then say the strikes are not working,” said Leighton, a former Air Force intelligence officer.

He added, “air power needs to be used in concert with other means of power -- whether they be diplomatic, military on the ground, military maritime – those are the kind of things that make a difference.”

Strategic errors are a potential reason for Saudi Arabia wanting to end their air campaign.

“The Saudis had made a couple missteps on their airstrikes … it seems that they have bitten off more than they can chew diplomatically, in terms of what the optics of what the operation might look like,” said Weinberg, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

He points out that while the coalition was able to strike military targets, they failed to put the deposed president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, back in office.

There are growing indicators a full-scale sectarian conflict will break out between the former Sunni-led government and Shiite rebels.

“The sectarian element of this conflict is very significant … the Saudis have not shown themselves to be particularly concerned with power struggles between one faction or another in Yemen over the years,” said Weinberg. “But when they see another Middle Eastern capital falling to Iranian, Shiite proxies, they have alarm bells going off.”

Even with a fleet of Iranian ships reversing course and returning home, both believe this conflict will remain a long-term issue for the region.

“The underlining issues don’t go away -- there might be a military truce, but nothing more than that is just going to paper over differences,” said Leighton.

“Saudi Arabia’s King Salman said at the beginning of the campaign that the goal was to create a unitary, stable Yemen … frankly, if that is his goal, he’s guaranteed failure,” said Weinberg.