Saudi Arabia on Monday declared that the missile fired from Yemen at Riyadh over the weekend was a “blatant act of military aggression” by Iran, acting through its Yemeni proxies, the Houthi insurgents.
The Saudi-led military coalition that has been attempting to restore the internationally-recognized government of Yemen announced that it would temporarily close all land, air, and sea routes into Yemen to prevent further weapons smuggling.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman echoed the sentiment on Tuesday, stating that Iran providing weapons to Yemen’s Houthi rebels was an act of “direct military aggression.” Salman, reportedly in conversation with British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, added “that the Iranian regime’s involvement in providing Houthi militias, which are affiliated with it, with missiles is a direct and a military aggression by Tehran and amounts to being viewed as an act of war against the kingdom,” according to Saudi state-run news agency Al Arabiya.
Reuters argues that the blockade of Yemen is “likely to worsen” an already grievous humanitarian crisis involving widespread famine and a cholera outbreak. The Saudi coalition said that it would continue to allow aid workers and humanitarian supplies to enter Yemen, but the United Nations reported it was unable to obtain approval for two scheduled humanitarian flights on Monday.
“We’re trying to see whether we can get our normal access restored. We underscored to all parties the need for regular humanitarian access,” said a U.N. spokesman.
The Saudi coalition statement said that “experts in military technology” have examined debris from the missile, which was reportedly intercepted in the vicinity of King Khalid International Airport and “confirmed the role of Iran’s regime in manufacturing these missiles and smuggling them to the Houthi militias in Yemen for the purpose of attacking the kingdom.”
U.S. President Donald Trump agreed with the Saudi analysis on Saturday, telling reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Tokyo that “a shot was just taken by Iran, in my opinion, at Saudi Arabia.” He credited U.S.-made Patriot missile batteries with intercepting the attack.
Iran insisted the missiles were “produced by the Yemenis and their military industry,” arguing that Yemen has been under a blockade since the civil war began, so the Houthis could not have obtained their missiles from the outside.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif counter-accused Saudi Arabia of “wars of aggression, regional bullying, destabilizing behavior, and risky provocations.”
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia bombs Yemen to smithereens, killing thousands of innocents including babies, spreads cholera and famine, but of course blames Iran,” said Zarif.
Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps chief Mohammad Ali Jafari responded to President Trump’s comments: “Mr Trump has said many baseless things and told many lies and frequently falsely accused Iran, and this one of those slanders.”
Saudi Arabia also posted multi-million-dollar bounties for the capture of Houthi leaders in Yemen. One of the targets, Mohammad Ali al-Houthi, defiantly responded, “We fear nothing!” and accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of conducting a “coup” over the weekend.
“We tell the citizens and princes in Saudi Arabia that the Yemeni people are opening their arms to you. None will endure injustice,” he added, seemingly offering the targets of the Saudi “coup” refuge in his war-torn, famine-stricken, cholera-plagued country. There were no takers for his offer at the time of this writing.
The Houthis did not deny responsibility for launching the missile, wherever they might have gotten it from. “We had warned that the capitals of the countries that attack Yemen would not be safe from our ballistic missiles,” a spokesman boasted. Houthi leader Abdel Malek al-Houthi has also threatened to target the capital of the United Arab Emirates for their role in the Saudi coalition.
In addition to declaring a blockade, the Saudi coalition struck the Yemeni capital of Sanaa with intense airstrikes after the missile attack.