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Saudi Arabia has the right to defend itself

If anything, the rapidly unfolding developments in Yemen over the past few days should be enough to convince even the most unreasonable of critics of just how criminal the murderous Houthi militias are.
Indeed, not only did this group of religious fanatics overthrow a legitimate and internationally recognized government, bringing wrath and destruction upon their own people along the way; but they have also gone from merely raising the slogan of “death to America” and “curse the Jews”… to actually acting upon it!
I am of course referring to the recent Houthi missile attack — launched from their militia-controlled territories — on the USS Mason, an American destroyer which was stationed north of the Bab El-Mandab strait, a crucial gateway for oil tankers heading toward Europe through the Suez Canal.
While it is true no US sailors were injured and that US Naval spokesman Lt. Ian McConnaughey wished to downplay the seriousness of the attack by stating, “it was unclear if the ship was specifically targeted,” the fact remains that such a grave matter should NOT be ignored or swept under the carpet.
One question the US Navy’s statement raises is if it was indeed “unclear” if the destroyer was specifically targeted, then why were Houthi missiles being fired in its direction for more than an hour? Furthermore, let us assume — for the sake of the argument — that they were indeed fired by mistake, would it have mattered what the intentions were if a US sailor was wounded, or killed?
Having said that, I hope that American observers and decision-making influencers aren’t waiting for this column to say this, but the US must wake up and smell the coffee.
For too long now — and for some cryptic reason — political decision-making in Washington has been misguided and the line, which distinguishes friends from foes, has suddenly become blurry.
I say this because the reality today is as follows: The US through acts like JASTA is punishing a longstanding and crucial ally, which has been nothing but a loyal friend in the fight against terrorism (as per several US defense and counter-terrorism officials themselves).
At the same time, the recent US “hands-off” approach toward foreign policy, combined with the controversial Iran nuclear deal has not only left a power vacuum in the region, but gave a carte blanche to Tehran (which President Obama himself has labeled a state-sponsor of terrorism) to cause more regional mayhem; not just to Arab allies, but to America itself (Iran supports the Houthis, who — as noted above — have just attacked a US Navy ship!)
Now, while the US is perfectly capable of defending itself; another recent — and even more serious development — must be taken into consideration before criticizing Riyadh: The failed Houthi missile attack on Taif, which falls in the region of the holy city of Makkah.
This is not only a missile attack on Saudi Arabia— such as in previous incidents when schoolchildren, innocent women and men in southern border of the Kingdom were targeted — but rather an attack on Islam, Muslims and their holiest site of all.
Do mistakes happen in wars? Of course they do… and the US knows this more than anyone, which is why the Saudi-led coalition has repeatedly said that their advice will be sought, particularly as it immediately announced conducting an investigation toward the recent Sanaa bombing.
However, it should be clear from all of the above that with such radical, armed foes who deliberately — not mistakenly — target civilians, the war in Yemen was not an option, but a necessity. By all means, Saudi Arabia has the right to defend itself… and a duty to defend Islam!

Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News. He can be reached on Twitter @FaisalJAbbas