Why did Egypt send a military team to Yemen?

Intelligence Online has reported that Egypt has sent a team of military experts to the Yemeni governorate of Shabwah, to work alongside Alweyet Al-Amaleka (The Giants Brigades), the Emirati-sponsored dominant militia in Yemen.

This coincided with the visit of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to Abu Dhabi, following the missile attacks launched by the Yemeni Ansar Allah troops, known as the Houthis. Following this information – confirmed by Yemeni sources – the Ansar Allah group sent messages to the Egyptian General Intelligence Service confirming its pledges not to prejudice Egypt’s interests and its desire to continue the understandings reached by the two sides through previous meetings that brought together Houthi delegations with Egyptian intelligence officials in Cairo. However, the messages stipulated that Egypt should not be involved in the wars waged by Saudi Arabia and the UAE against the Houthis.

The intelligence website indicated that the Egyptian military team is composed of 10 expert officers, and its main task is to unify and coordinate military action between the factions and the anti-Houthi forces like the Giants Brigades, the rest of the forces affiliated with the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, (loyal to Riyadh), the forces of the Southern Transitional Council and the forces of Tariq Saleh, who is the nephew of the former Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

A source told Egypt Watch that Egypt’s justification for sending the military team is to reassure the security and safety of Bab Al-Mandab, which is the main gateway to the Suez Canal and the most important source of Egyptian national income. This step came after the Houthi’s violation of their agreement not to destabilise the security of navigation in the strait. Early last month, a ship flying the UAE flag was detained by the Houthis.

On 3 January, the Ansar Allah group announced it had detained the Emirati ship Rawabi while it was sailing off the Yemeni coast, claiming that it was carrying military equipment and had entered Yemeni waters without a licence and was engaged in hostile activities. However, the spokesman for the Saudi military coalition said that the cargo ship was hijacked off the port of Al-Hudaydah while it was on a mission between Socotra Island and the port of Jazan, carrying medical equipment for a Saudi field hospital.

The previous source referred to Egyptian cooperative efforts with the Saudi Emirati coalition to establish and equip Yemeni naval forces affiliated with the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi capable of confronting Houthi operations and threats in Yemeni territorial waters.

The intelligence website indicated that the Saudi intelligence service had informed some of the allied agencies that it had obtained information indicating the intention of the pro-Iranian militias to launch naval operations using underwater explosives and small trapped patrol boats. Egypt wanted to become involved in Yemen through mediation between the Saudi regime led by Prince Muhammad bin Salman, and the Ansar Allah Houthi group to end the war in Yemen since 2015. This mediation is based on Egypt’s position on that war, which is described as positive by both parties. However, those efforts, the most recent of which took place in November of last year, failed because the Saudis were not open to it.

After that mediation failure Cairo focused its efforts on preserving its direct interests by ensuring the security and safety of navigation in the Bab Al-Mandab strait, which was confirmed during a meeting of a delegation by the Houthi group in Cairo at the request of the Egyptian intelligence service. In that meeting, Cairo threatened to respond directly to any violation of the Bab Al-Mandab strait.