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The first US-Houthi confrontation

Do Houthi militias differ from al-Qaeda and ISIS?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

US aircraft have finally raided the sites and radars of Houthi militias on the Red Sea coast even though the Houthis had bombed US military ships twice before. International tolerance toward Houthi militias, despite the huge number of crimes committed against Yemenis for two years, has frightened locals of this extremist religious terrorist group. The Houthis took advantage of this leniency to assassinate political opponents and threaten maritime navigation routes many times. They even bombed an Emirati aid shipment last week.

Do Houthi militias differ from al-Qaeda and ISIS?

The difference is that the Houthis had never attacked American or Western targets before, and this is why they were not included on terror lists. However, the Houthi militia actually has the same characteristics as al-Qaeda, including the use of religion to target civilians and wage wars. Houthis’ political slogans do not differ from al-Qaeda’s. They both call for fighting the “infidel West” and kill those who are not of their religion. They imposed their religious rules on the Zaidis and Shafi’i Sunnis. The extremist organization has filled the cities’ streets with images of religious leaders, along with slogans calling for a war to be waged against the “infidel West” and the Yemenis who are at odds with it.

More recently, Houthis dared to wage battles against neutral parties; in Sanaa, they kidnapped an American teacher who works in an English teaching Institute and has lived in the Yemeni capital for many years. His fate remains unknown. On Sunday, Houthis bombed the US warship USS Mason, the Americans thought that it was a random bombing by the Houthis but the group did it again the following Wednesday and bombed the same ship, despite American warnings that followed the first bombing. The US Air Force raided the Houthis’ radars in Taiz and Hodeida. It was not a harmful sanction but rather a clear message in order to stop the attacks on the US Navy. These limited raids send a specific message to refrain from attacking the US Navy and do not necessarily suggest that the Americans are interested in the safety of navigation routes in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab strait in general. Battles are ongoing between legitimate government forces and the Houthis to seize control over this strait.

Al-Qaeda, ISIS or Ansar Allah must all be classified as terrorist groups rather than limiting terrorism to al-Qaeda because it raises its weapons against the West

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Over the past decade, international navigation may have suffered on the other side of the Red Sea, when Somali extremist pirates? spread terror. Thorough international coordination and the formation of multinational naval forces controlled the situation. History will repeat itself on the Yemeni side of the Red Sea if the world does not support the peaceful solution based on the same international resolutions which were disrupted when Houthis and former the Yemeni president orchestrated a coup and shared governance. The safety of maritime routes and the security in the region and the world require an international stance against harassment and militias, regardless of their religion, as long as they are carrying weapons.

The Houthi group, also known as “Ansar Allah,” was founded by the Iranians and trained by Lebanese Hezbollah. It is still receiving military, logistical and media support from there. It is similar to many armed groups founded by Iran in the region, whether from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Lebanon; they all have one mission: serve Iranian politics through armed force. Dealing with religious groups should be the same whether they are Shiite or Sunni. Al-Qaeda, ISIS or Ansar Allah must all be classified as terrorist groups, rather than limiting terrorism to al-Qaeda because it raises its weapons against the West.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Oct. 15, 2016.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed

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