World View: Houthi Missile Attack on Saudi Cities Sharply Escalates the Yemen War

Supporters of Shiite Houthi rebels attend a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. The killing of Yemen's ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh by the country's Shiite rebels on Monday, as their alliance crumbled, has thrown the nearly three-year civil war into unpredictable new chaos. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
AP Photo/Hani Mohammed

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Yemen’s Iran-backed al-Houthi rebels launch barrage of missile attacks on Saudi cities
  • Al-Houthi missile attack on Saudi cities sharply escalates the Yemen war

Yemen’s Iran-backed al-Houthi rebels launch barrage of missile attacks on Saudi cities

Light show over Saudi capital city Riyadh, as American-supplied Patriot missiles intercept ballistic missiles launched by al-Houthis in Yemen (CNN)
Light show over Saudi capital city Riyadh, as American-supplied Patriot missiles intercept ballistic missiles launched by al-Houthis in Yemen (CNN)

The Yemen war sharply escalated on Monday when the rebel al-Houthis launched a barrage of seven ballistic missiles from Yemen across the Saudi Arabia border. Three of them targeted the capital city Riyadh, while the other four targeted other nearby cities. In all cases, civilian neighborhoods were targeted.

The Saudis targeted the incoming missiles with defensive American-supplied Patriot missiles. At least one and possibly two of the Patriot missiles failed to achieve its objective of destroying the incoming missile. One incoming missile hit a residential area, and another exploded in mid-air shortly after launch. An Egyptian woman was killed, though it is not clear whether she was killed by an incoming missile or by falling debris from a missile destroyed in flight.

Saudi officials are claiming that the missiles must have been supplied by Iran, since they were too sophisticated to have been developed by the al-Houthis themselves. The missile attack is infuriating the Saudis, who are becoming increasingly belligerent and nationalistic, and the attack raises the possibility that the Saudis might retaliate militarily directly against Iran.

Yemen is considered to be the worst humanitarian disaster in the world today. Out of a population of 27.6 million, about 50,000 people have died of starvation, and 8.4 million more are on the verge of starvation. Disease is rampant, where over one million people have contracted cholera. The Saudis have largely blocked the ports, preventing humanitarian food and water from being delivered, leaving the people on their own.

Saudi Arabia has been under increasing international pressure to end the Yemen war and end the humanitarian disaster. Both Britain and the U.S. have been supplying weapons to the Saudis, and politicians in both countries have been demanding that the supply of weapons be stopped.

The Saudis point out that they are acting on behalf of the UN-recognized government of Yemen, and that they are fighting rebels who have overthrown the legitimate government. They also point out that an Iran-backed Houthi government on the Saudi southern border would present an existential threat. Gulf News (Dubai) and Saudi Gazette and CNN and The National (Abu Dhabi)

Al-Houthi missile attack on Saudi cities sharply escalates the Yemen war

It is not clear why the al-Houthis launched this attack. Perhaps they believe that by targeting civilian neighborhoods in Saudi Arabia, they can build both international and Saudi domestic opposition to the war, and force the Saudis to withdraw and hand a victory to the al-Houthis.

That might have been true in the 1990s during a generational Unraveling era, when the Silent Generation, the last survivors of World War II, were in charge, and there was a great aversion to war. But today, we are in a generational Crisis era, with younger generations in charge, and nationalism and xenophobia are surging around the world.

So if the Houthis were hoping that this attack would convince the Saudis to back down, there is no chance of that. Instead, increased nationalism will cause the Saudis to take even more drastic steps to win the war, while critics who want Britain and the U.S. to stop supplying weapons will be muted. I would expect the Saudis to sharply escalate their actions in the next few weeks, possibly even taking some action directly targeting Iran. Gulf News (Dubai) and The National (Abu Dhabi) and Business Insider and Foreign Policy

Related Articles:

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, al-Houthis, Patriot missiles
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