Is the French position still viable in the war in Yemen? For having decided to continue delivering weapons since 2015 to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the two main actors in the Arab coalition against the Houthi rebels in the bloody Yemeni conflict, Paris is suspected of participating to a dirty war. A group of French journalists, Disclose, accuses France of "State lie", Monday, April 15th.
The group challenges the government's assertion that French materials would only have functions 'Defensive'. It is based on a note from the Military Intelligence Directorate (DRM) of October 2018 evaluating the action of the coalition and detailing the role of armaments acquired by the protagonists.
The note, stamped "confidential-special defense France", one of the highest levels of classification, was established by the DRM for the restricted council of October 3, 2018 at the Elysee. At the time, the Arab coalition embarked on a new phase of its operation "Golden Victory", and obtained little results on the ground. French military intelligence believes that despite its proactive statements, it is unable to resume the port of Hodeida, attacked since June.
The note strengthens the position of the executive by saying that "there is no evidence to conclude the presence of French equipment on active fronts."
In Paris, the situation is scrutinized, because strikes and blockades involve French equipment. François Hollande, then Emmanuel Macron, decided to continue to honor the deliveries of sealed weapons before the outbreak of the conflict for his two "Strategic partners" what are Arabia and the UAE. Deliveries continue, officially with "Increased vigilance", under the opaque filter of the Interministerial Committee for the export of war materials which depends on Matignon. The only record of the air strikes since 2015 bears witness to the scale of the stakes: according to the DRM, 150,000 air missions of all types were conducted by the Arab coalition, including 24,000 strikes – 6,000 in 2018.
The note reinforces the position of the executive by stating thatthere is no evidence that there is French material on active fronts ". But in detail, the DRM portrays a much less clear reality.
35 civilians dead during 52 bombings
His maps estimate that nearly 437,000 people "Population potentially affected by possible strikes" Coalition artillery, including the French Caesar cannon, on three border areas between Arabia and Yemen. Disclose that by crossing these data with those of the American NGO The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (Acled), it can be established that 35 civilians died during 52 bombings between March 2016 and December 2018 in the field of action of French Caesar.
Several localities, in which Yemeni sources have directly found victims, are affected in 2018. This is, for example, the case of Bani Faid village in the Midi district, in the west, where two children died. Or the case of the city of Hard in which three residents of an affected home lost their lives.
Saudi military engagement, "Predominantly airborne", Since March 2015, it has been "Campaign of massive and continuous strikes against the territories held by the Houthi rebellion". An average of 120 sorties per day, from the bases of Kamis Mushat and Taif, with American (F15S) and European (Tornados and Typhoon) planes. They do not use French ammunition but bombs "Could" according to the DRM be guided by French boats Damocles. Saudi aviation has US support for targeting reminiscent of DRM, but close air support is "Poorly controlled"in other words, likely to cause collateral damage.
On the ground, Riyadh secures its border, but, – and this is qualified "Unpublished objective" by the DRM in October 2018 -, also wishes "Progress in Houthist territory ». Since July, the Saudis have been trying to penetrate the Houthist positions "In the direction of Baqim, Munabbeh, Razeh and Haradh to pave the way for a hypothetical taking of Sadah". The note states: "To date, no equipment of French origin belonging to the Saudi forces has been observed in Saudi and loyalist operations in Yemeni territory. "
"Not employed in Yemen"
As for the armored units, a heavy device is in place, with five brigades of the army and two of the National Guard, between Jizan and al Wudayah. From 11 to 16 squadrons permanently deployed on the Saudi side of the border with the observed presence of 300 tanks. To these are added 28 artillery batteries with a range of 18 to 42 km deployed from east to west between Al-Hatirah and Al-Wudayah, American and French cannons.
"An additional Caesar self-propelled gun battalion had been deployed at the Saudi-Yemeni border on the Saudi side, bringing the number of Caesars in that area to 48. A brigade of the National Guard was also sent to reinforce the border. However, the DRM is not able to accurately assess the current Saudi device at the border due to a lack of sensors in the area. "
These batteries are firing barrages against rebel attacks, but "They also support the loyalist troops, supported by the Saudi armed forces, in their progression in Yemeni territory". And the DRM says do not be "Able to accurately locate Saudi artillery pieces at the border in September 2018".
The note also lists the equipment sold "Not employed in Yemen" : armored AMX10 and 30, Cobra radars, shells and missiles.
Paris acts in a "responsible and reliable" way
On the Emirates side, aviation is much more competent – at the NATO standard, according to the DRM. She uses Mirage 2000 with French nacelles of designation (Damocles). And operates A330 multirole tankers. Land engagement makes UAE "The first land-based contributor to the Arab coalition" with 1,000 men, 400 special forces and contractors. Emirati forces coordinate the Loyalist forces' land operations on the west coast towards the port of Hodeida. Besieged port: A French-born Bayunah corvette from the French navy participated in the blockade, as did a Makkah-class Saudi frigate sold by Paris and helicopters from the Saudi navy Panther and Dauphin.
Matignon says he does not have "knowledge of civilian casualties resulting from their use in Yemeni theater".
Paris notes that Leclerc emirate tanks "Are not observed on the front line". They are nonetheless deployed on the al-Khawkhah right-of-way 115 km from Hodeida. And in October 2018 Paris monitors their positioning in Assab Eritrea, waiting for a deployment in Yemen. The DRM says it finds "A mainly defensive engagement of Leclerc tanks: as of September 25, 2018, some forty are observed in fixed defense of camps and advanced positions in the west, on the 70 or so tanks deployed by the UAE as part of the surgery ".
Monday, the services of the Prime Minister responded in a statement that Paris acted so "Responsible and reliable" with its partners, with whom France has "Common security interests: the fight against terrorism and the preservation of security in the Middle East". Matignon repeats that "French weapons are mostly placed in a defensive position" and ensures not to have "Knowledge of civilian casualties resulting from their use in Yemeni theater".