Yemen’s rebel masters in Tehran must be held to account

Yemen’s rebel masters in Tehran must be held to account

On Saturday night, while the weekend was winding down in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and citizens prepared for the work week, the skies north of the city lit up with traces from Patriot missiles bringing down a ballistic missile fired from inside Yemen, about 1,000 kilometers away.  
Houthi rebels had been threatening to target Riyadh and other GCC capitals, but now it is clear that they have the capability to carry out that threat.
In a similarly nihilistic fashion, almost every day the rebels send shorter-range missiles across the Saudi border, some of which land on schools and private homes, killing and injuring innocent civilians, including Saudis and Yemeni refugees.
The missiles fired by the Houthi/Saleh rebels are quite crude and imprecise. They are a terror weapon, intended not so much to hit precise military targets but rather to inflict indiscriminate damage on civilians. It is part of the rebels’ sadistic fighting doctrine —terrorize civilian populations to obtain political advantage. For example, they have been besieging the city of Taiz for nearly three years, lobbing indiscriminate missiles against defenseless civilians to cow them into accepting their rule.
For the same purpose, Houthis and their allies have used prohibited antipersonnel mines throughout Yemen to kill, maim and terrorize civilians. Over 50,000 of those illegal mines have been laid along the Saudi-Yemen border alone. The landmines are scattered without the use of maps or signs indicating their presence, in clear violation of the rules of war.
Intentionally targeting civilians, and the use of grossly inaccurate weapons, can be described as war crimes under the Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols governing the conduct of warfare, not to mention the rules of decency and chivalry. Rebel leaders responsible for directing and firing those weapons should be held accountable. More immediately, the UN Security Council should immediately take legal action to sanction such acts. Already, leaders of the Houthi and Saleh camps are under Security Council sanctions imposed on them under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. UN agencies have been slow in implementing those sanctions.

The Houthi missile attack on Riyadh was intended to inflict indiscriminate harm on civilians, and the UN’s credibility is at stake if it does not act.

Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

The UN’s credibility is at stake. Not only has the organization failed to carry out Security Council resolutions against the Houthi/Saleh leaders, some UN agencies have done the reverse, going after the Hadi government, the only legitimate government of Yemen, and the Saudi-led coalition to restore it, with unfounded accusations about their conduct of the war and handling of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
The rebels have not hidden their intentions to continue ballistic missile attacks against Saudi and other GCC cities. The Riyadh attack proved that they are capable. The UN should therefore take immediate action to deal with the attack on Saturday night against Riyadh, a city of over six million, to prevent recurrence of similar attacks.
Equally important, Yemen’s rebel masters in Tehran should be held accountable. Iran’s officials, in particular leaders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have made no secret of their desire to target GCC states and cities. Their threats have become more vociferous after President Donald Trump announced the new US strategy on Iran last month. They have threatened Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen with the same fate as Syria, and a devastating “conquest like Aleppo,” in reference to the manner with which the IRGC and Assad regime conquered the city of Aleppo this year. 
The international community should be united against the threats coming out of Iran. The US and GCC countries have made their position quite clear. In the words of the White House: “The IRGC’s stated purpose is to subvert the international order. The IRGC’s power and influence have grown over time, even as it has remained unaccountable to the Iranian people, answering only to Khamenei. It is hard to find a conflict or a suffering people in the Middle East that the IRGC’s tentacles do not touch.”
Next, action is needed to immunize the region against those “tentacles.”
• Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg is a columnist for Arab News. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @abuhamad1
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