The Iran-backed Houthi militia is one of the main factors of regional insecurity and instability. It is the cause of the uncontrollable spiral of the situation in the Yemeni regions that fall under its control, which represents an opportunity for extremist terrorist organizations, like ISIS and al-Qaeda, to return to Yemen and reestablish their influence in the country. To add insult to injury, there is evidence that the Houthis are in fact cooperating and coordinating with these organizations given the intersection of their interests at the current stage. Furthermore, the Houthi militia continues to violate international law, targeting Saudi cities and civilian facilities, such as airports and oil facilities, through the intensive use of drones and ballistic missiles. Statistics and data published a few days ago by the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen revealed the extent of violations committed by the Houthis over the last few years and the risk these violations pose on security and stability in the region: the group launched 372 ballistic missiles and 659 booby-trapped drones toward Saudi Arabia, in addition to 75 explosive-laden boats, 205 naval mines, and 96,292 projectiles. This is a clear sign that the Houthis own an advanced and varied weapon system that they acquired with obvious Iranian support as many UN reports show that these weapons, especially missiles and drones, have similar characteristics to Iranian-made weapon systems.
Another danger posed by the Houthi militia is its periodic disruption of maritime traffic and international trade in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait through explosive-laden boats, in a deliberate effort to harm the international economy and in a blatant violation of international charters and laws. According to the latest report of the US Energy Information Administration, the Red Sea is of particular importance to world economy, with about $700 billion worth of international trade crossing its waters every year. It is also home to the Bab al-Mandab Strait, the second biggest in the world, through which most Gulf oil exports (nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil and refined petroleum products a day) find their way to Europe, the US, and Asia. Therefore, any threat to maritime traffic in the Red Sea could engender catastrophic damage to international trade and global energy security.
Moreover, the Houthis failed the test of peace and squandered the various chances given to them over the last few years. Today, it has become clear to everyone that the group is but a tool in the hands of its Iranian puppeteer, which strives to achieve its agenda in the region and uses the group as a bargaining chip in its nuclear negotiations with the US. Perhaps this explains the Houthis’ rigid positions on the various cease-fire and political settlement initiatives.
The Houthis responded to the efforts made by UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths to reach a cease-fire agreement with disdain and superiority, reiterating their prerequisites regarding the opening of Sanaa Airport to commercial flights or the entry of fuel shipments to the port city of Hodeidah. The group also disregarded international calls made by numerous countries demanding an immediate halt of destabilizing acts and a constructive engagement in the political process to end the crisis in Yemen. Thus, the Houthis confirmed their disregard for peace and for the interests of Yemeni people, who are facing dire conditions on all aspects.
The international community must not ignore and stand in silence before the increasing threat that the Houthi militia poses on regional and international safety and security. Such inaction not only encourages the group to persist in its aggressive practices, but also sends the wrong message to sectarian and armed militias scattered in many countries in the region and pushes them to adopt similar behaviors; violating international law and disregarding the national sovereignty of states, which could only lead to an exacerbation of the chaos and instability in the region.
The time has come for the international community to deal with the Houthi militia from another perspective and take action to exert real pressures on it, or even include it in lists of terrorist organization and impose sanctions. This has to be done until the group submits to political solution initiatives and halts its aggressive behavior. Otherwise, the cost of continued silence on Houthi violations and practices will be high for the region’s security and stability.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, UAE daily newspaper al-Ittihad.