BEIRUT -- Saudi Arabia called its military push against rebels in Yemen two names: "Operation Storm of Decisiveness" (it wasn't) and "Operation Restoring Hope" (it hasn't).
More than four years after the Saudis and other nations sought to help restore government control by defeating the Houthi rebels, the war in Yemen has left almost 100,000 people dead, brought near-famine to millions and made the country's name synonymous with misery. Aid workers use words such as "biblical" and "epidemic" to describe conditions.
The country seems so hopeless to many nations that even the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia's closest partner in the coalition it leads in Yemen, recently announced it was withdrawing most of its troops in hopes of strengthening a peace initiative.
Instead, one of the coalition's Yemeni factions on Saturday snatched the port of the southern city of Aden, the temporary seat of power of the U.N.-recognized Yemeni government and a bastion of UAE influence. It was part of a days-long offensive that had already overrun the government's bases and the presidential palace, forcing Riyadh to respond with what it called "military action" on one of its putative allies to stop the advance.
With the coalition splintered, Saudi Arabia remains largely alone, calling for ever greater U.S. arms support to pursue an increasingly unpopular war where victory seems remote, if not impossible.
"The war was never winnable in the first place," said Farea Muslimi, head of the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies, a think tank based in Yemen's capital, in a phone interview. "With the second-most-important partner gone, even this illusion is no longer there."
There's little sign, nevertheless, that the Saudis or the Houthis, a politico-religious group, are ready to quit the fight.
"It's high time that the Houthis ... put an end to their illegitimate occupation of the centers of powers in Yemen," said Saudi Ambassador to the United Nations Abdallah Mouallimi in a July news conference in New York.
The uprising tied to the Arab Spring of 2011 that opposed Yemen's authoritarian government was aimed at ushering in a more inclusive state and dispose of problems such as corruption and food shortages. In 2014, the Houthis, who have received backing from Iran, were fed up with the slow path to change and blitzed into the Yemeni capital, Sana.
Saudi Arabia launched its intervention in March 2015. It was meant to signal a new era of muscular foreign policy, especially in Saudi Arabia's longtime clash with Iran.