Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen will not hesitate to fire missiles that can reach Riyadh, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi if the fragile ceasefire now in place in the country’s main port city of Hodeidah fails to prevent violence from escalating further, the leader of the Shiite rebels warned on Monday.
Abdul Malik al-Houthi, the chief of the Shiite rebels, told Houthi-run Masirah TV, “Our missiles are capable of reaching Riyadh and beyond Riyadh, to Dubai and Abu Dhabi,” Reuters reported.
“It is possible to target strategic, vital, sensitive and influential targets in the event of any escalation in Hodeidah,” he added. “We are able to strongly shake the Emirati economy.”
The Houthis have regularly fired ballistic missiles at Riyadh that American and Saudi officials believe originated from Iran. Saudi troops have managed to intercept most of the weapons.
In early 2018, the Middle East Monitor, citing the New Khalij newspaper, reported that Saudi Arabia is trying to keep the public in the dark about large swathes of territory — about 100 miles — the Houthis control inside the Sunni kingdom, which borders Yemen.
For over four years now — since March 2015 — Houthis have been fighting against the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by a Saudi-led coalition receiving assistance from the United States and Sunni Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Although the Houthis still control major population centers in and around the capital of Sanaa, including regions that straddle the country’s border with Saudi Arabia, the internationally recognized government now controls the majority of Yemen’s territory.
The Shiite rebels deny receiving assistance from Riyadh’s regional foe Tehran, but the Congressional Research Service (CRS) asserted on the eve of the war’s fourth anniversary last month that Iran and its narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah “have aided Houthi forces with advice, training, and arms shipments.”
Houthi-controlled Hodeidah is considered the lifeline for Yemen, which mainly relies on imports for its food and supplies. For nearly a year now, the Hadi forces and the Saudi alliance have been trying to seize the port city from the rebels to no avail.
“Although a ceasefire largely holds in Hodeidah, violence continues elsewhere and has escalated in recent weeks,” Reuters pointed out.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) expressed concerns about “credible reports that the Houthis continue to severely mistreat, arbitrarily detain, and torture Baha’is” in the areas under their control.
In Iran, where Baha’is adherents comprise the largest non-Muslim minority in the country, they face “severe and pervasive religious persecution,” according to the U.S. Baha’is Office of Public Affairs, an advocacy group for the religion that believes in unity among religions and equality between the sexes.
This persistent pattern of vilification, oppression, and mistreatment by the Houthis of Baha’is in Yemen must end. Baha’is face daily discrimination and persecution as they seek to practice their faith in Yemen and elsewhere around the world. Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and a source of stability for all countries. Every person around the world should be free to practice their religion without fear of intimidation or reprisals.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), considered one of the international terrorist group’s most potent branches, also continues to hold territory Yemen, particularly in the south, despite U.S. military efforts against the group.
AQAP has reportedly benefitted from the Saudi-led coalition’s near single-minded focus to defeat the Sunni group’s rival, the Houthis.
The U.N. has accused both the Houthis and pro-Hadi forces, mainly the Saudi-led coalition, of blocking much-needed aid to Yemen, home to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Arguing that the bill is “unnecessary” last week, U.S. President Donald Trump vetoed legislation approved by Congress that would have ended American support for the Saudi-led coalition.
Some experts, including Katherine Zimmerman from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), believe U.S. support for the Saudis provides the United States with leverage to shape its actions in Yemen and prevents the Sunni coalition from going to America’s strategic rivals Russia and China for assistance.
According to the United Nations, the ongoing war in Yemen has killed at least 16,000, wounded many others, and triggered a widespread famine affecting millions in what is now known as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.