Iran will come to regret its destructive policies
Although the Iranian-supported Houthis have since lost much of the territory they occupied — and have very little support to speak of inside Yemen and virtually none in the international community — they continue be completely disinterested in helping bring the conflict to an end. Not only do they continue to demonstrate, in both word and deed, a total disregard for the safety and wellbeing of the people of Yemen, they continue to violate international laws related to the conduct of war in a flagrant fashion.
On Sunday, the Houthis decided to usher in a dangerous and, from the perspective of Saudi Arabia, unacceptable phase in the conflict. This clear escalation was in the form of seven missiles that were launched against civilian targets, including airports, inside Saudi Arabia. Three missiles targeted the capital Riyadh.
This latest egregious violation of international laws and United Nations resolutions related to the conflict make two realities clear: The Houthis have no interest in bringing the conflict in Yemen to an end, and Iran continues to support the Houthis by providing them with missiles, technology and launchers that they simply did not possess at the beginning of the conflict, nor did they have the technological knowhow to deliver.
According to Saudi, American and other officials, Iran is supplying these weapons most likely for the sole purpose of launching them against Saudi targets. The Saudi leadership, especially Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the minister of defense, has made it clear that Iran will not be allowed to continue to destabilize the region by turning the Houthis into yet another militant group that seeks to impose its will by force on an entire Arab country, the way Iran did in Lebanon with Hezbollah.
Following Sunday’s late-night missile launches, Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesperson for the Coalition Forces to Support the Legitimate Government in Yemen, stated that, according to the Coalition Air Defense Forces, seven ballistic missiles were fired into the Kingdom from within Yemeni territory. Speaking in a fairly detailed manner, Al-Maliki said the seven missiles had various targets in different regions of the Kingdom. Three were fired in the direction of Riyadh, one toward Khamis Mushait in the southwest, one along the southern border targeting Najran, two aiming for the southern city of Jizan, and “one was randomly launched with the intent of hitting a densely populated civilian area.” He also confirmed that all seven missiles were intercepted and destroyed.
The Tehran-backed Houthi rebels’ missile attacks are not an indication of an ascendant power but rather a desperate attempt to suggest their defeat is not imminent when, in reality, they simply cannot survive given their isolation both in Yemen and globally.
The spokesperson added that the interceptions resulted in fragments raining down on a few residential neighborhoods, leading to the death of an Egyptian resident, as well as material damage to civilian areas.
As I have argued before in the pages of this publication, Iran and its client militant, non-state actors have shown repeatedly that they will not adhere to the norms, conventions and laws of the international community. While Iranian officials, especially Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, routinely pay lip service to respecting international agreements and periodically even feign interest in multilateral arrangements to help bring stability to the region, Iran’s actions always bely its words. On the other hand, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir has famously and repeatedly said there are two issues over which Saudi Arabia will not compromise: “Our faith and security.”
Under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia has shown that it does not engage in empty rhetoric, especially when it comes to its security. The Houthi rebels’ attacks on Sunday are not an indication of an ascendant power but rather a desperate attempt to suggest their defeat is not imminent when, in reality, they simply cannot survive given their isolation both domestically and globally.
It is Iran that is keeping them from collapsing completely, but that too is not sustainable. The Saudi leadership has issued several clear warnings to Iran not to continue its destabilizing activities in the region and not to think it will be allowed to threaten the security of the Kingdom by its continued support of the Houthis. It is only a matter of time before Iran regrets its nefarious activities. Much like its client Houthis, its destructive policies will come to an end sooner or later.
- Fahad Nazer is a political consultant to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington and an International Fellow at the National Council on US Arab Relations. He does not represent or speak on behalf of either organization. Twitter: @fanazer