Saudi Arabia enlists women in military for first time

RIYADH, Oct 04 (INP): The Saudi Defense Ministry has allowed women to be enlisted in its armed forces for the first time in a bid to “empower women” as part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Saudi Vision 2030” development plan.

The Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported on Thursday that the measure permitted women to serve from soldier ranks to “senior ranks” across its different military branches.

The kingdom first allowed women to join its security forces last year in areas related to “public security”, such as anti-narcotics, criminal investigations, customs and the prison system.

Saudi Arabia’s push to allow women to enlist in the military comes despite women being banned from driving and traveling without male permission in the country up until just a year ago.

No other country in the region, other than Israel, commonly enlists women as part of its armed forces.

The measure comes as Bin Salman has sought to portray an increasingly liberal image of the country as part of the 2030 initiative, pledging to make the kingdom more “open” and eradicate “extremism” since his ascent to power.

The announced recruitment of women in the country’s armed forces also comes as the Saudi military is marred in a quagmire in Yemen, with the Saudi military relying on foreign mercenaries to fight on behalf of the kingdom.

Last week, nearly 2000 Saudi-led mercenaries surrendered to Yemeni forces as part of a major retaliatory operation led by the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement in the north of the country.

Another 200 Saudi-led forces were also killed in the retaliatory operation.

Yemeni Armed Forces release the footage of “Victory from God Almighty” offensive in Saudi Arabia’s southern border region of Najran.

Asides from depending on mercenary forces in its war on Yemen, Riyadh has also historically relied on the deployment of American troops in the region in a bid to ensure the regime’s security.

Following a highly successful drone Yemeni drone attack on major Saudi oil installations last month, the US pledged to send troops to Saudi Arabia bolster Riyadh’s air defenses.

The US announced Friday it would send more troops to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in response to the recent attack on Saudi oil facilities.

Iran has repeatedly slammed Saudi Arabia’s role in hastening the deployment of foreign forces in the region, expressing concern that foreign troops will only heighten regional tensions.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says regional security cannot be purchased from outside, expressing Tehran’s readiness to cooperate with countries in the region in that regard.

Despite its gross war crimes and failed military aggression in Yemen, Riyadh enjoys much political and military support from western countries, and has become the world’s largest arms importer since the offset of the Yemen war.

The US and UK stand as Riyadh’s largest arms suppliers with the US making up 70 percent and the UK 10 percent of the oil-rich kingdom’s arms purchases from 2014 to 2018, according to reports.

In a damming study published by the Stanford Law School earlier this year, it was revealed that out of over two dozen studied attacks on Yemeni civilians, 25 involved US weaponry and five involved British ones.

According to the US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), nearly 91,000 Yemenis have been killed as a result of the Saudi-led campaign.

INP/AJ/LK