At a time when Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in a contest for regional dominance, Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi militants have been firing missiles at Saudi Arabia. The latest was fired at the capital, Riyadh, on December 19.
Despite sharp UN warnings that the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade of Yemen could trigger the largest famine the world has seen for decades, the missile attacks give credence to Saudi coalition’s claim that easing the blockade would help the smuggling of weapons, including missiles from Iran, into Houthi-held Yemeni territory.
Granted, the blockade causes non-military shortages, but lifting it ensures the Houthi militants will get more missiles to fire at the population centers in the Gulf states, possibly killing civilians if missile-interception attempts fail.
Houthi missiles target civilians in capital, twice
Saudi-led coalition’s spokesperson said the latest missile was targeted at civilian and populated areas south of Riyadh, although the missile was intercepted by a US-made Patriot missile.
But a Houthi official said the missile was fired at a meeting of the Saudi leadership at the Al-Yamama Royal Palace in Riyadh to mark the 1,000 days the Yemen war has lasted.
The meeting was expected to be attended by Crown Prince Mohammed-bin-Salman and senior ministers to discuss the annual budget. Houthi leadership said that Saudi palaces, military, and oil facilities are within the range of the missiles from Yemen.
This is the second missile attack by Houthi militants targeting Saudi Arabia’s capital since November 4. The Houthi targeted Riyadh’s King Khaled Airport last month with a missile that was also intercepted by Saudi Arabia.
On December 14, the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, presented concrete evidence of Iran’s involvement. She said the short-range ballistic missile was made by Iran and sent to Houthi militants, who fired it at Riyadh on November 4.
Houthi missiles targeted civilians in border towns
The Saudi coalition has been at war with the Houthi since March 2015, when Houthi militants forced the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile. The Saudi coalition started a military campaign against the Houthi militants in order to restore the Hadi government.
Since then, Houthi have fired dozens of missiles into border towns inside Saudi Arabia, causing casualties among local residents. Houthi militants recently killed Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s former president, after Saleh broke his alliance with Houthi and expressed his readiness for a “new page” in relations with the Saudi coalition.
Houthi claimed earlier this month that they fired a missile at a nuclear plant under construction in the UAE, which is part of the Saudi coalition. The UAE, however, denied the claim.
Credence to coalition’s blockade
After the Houthi militants fired the Burkan-2 missile at Riyadh’s airport on November 4, the coalition tightened its blockade on the Yemeni territories held by the Houthi in response to that attack, saying it wanted to halt the smuggling of weapons from Iran.
In response to the UN warning that the blockade on Yemen could trigger the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, the Saudi-led coalition marginally eased the blockade, allowing humanitarian aid to be delivered to Houthi-controlled ports and airports.
Despite the gesture shown from a humanitarian angle, Saudi Arabia once again was attacked with another missile from beyond its borders. Houthi militants fired a ballistic missile at Riyadh on December 19, making it their second effort to fire missiles at civilian populated area in Riyadh.
Following the missile attack on December 19 – Anwar Gargash, minister of state for foreign affairs of the UAE – tweeted that the necessity of military operation against the Houthi becomes clear with every Iranian-missile fired by the Houthi militants against civilian targets.
The latest missile attack on December 19 could compel the Saudi-led coalition to tighten the blockade once again. After the attack, already the coalition’s spokesperson accused the Houthi militants of using humanitarian entry points to import missiles from Iran.
Though blockade causes shortages of essential non-military supplies, lifting it ensures the Houthi militants get more missiles to fire at the population centres in the Gulf States, killing many civilians each time if missile-interception attempt fails.
Therefore, despite the sharp UN warnings that the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade on Yemen could trigger the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, Houthi’s missile attacks to Riyadh’s populated airport and residential area give some credence to the blockade. Easing the blockade primarily helps smuggling of weapons, including missiles from Iran, into Houthi-held Yemeni territories.
Iranian leaders and Houthi militants are to be blamed
Media outlets and European foreign ministers have blamed the Saudi coalition’s blockade for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. But these claims should be re-examined.
Had the Houthi militants not targeted Riyadh’s civilian populated airports and residential areas and the bordering areas between Saudi-Yemen borders, there would have been no necessity for the coalition to tighten the blockade.
More importantly, had the Houthi not occupied the capital of an independent state (Sanaa of Yemen), there would have been no reason – at the first place – for the coalition to wage a war to restore the internationally recognized government of President Hadi.
Had the Iranian leaders not aided the Yemeni militant group with military weapons and equipments, including missiles, these militants targeting civilian populated areas across the border would have been defeated by now.
If Houthis had to answer its atrocities before the International Criminal Court sometime in future, the Iranian regime should also be held answerable for the atrocities that they were part of.