The seven ballistic missiles which were fired by the Houthis towards four Saudi cities confirm that it was right to wage this war. The incident also validates all these warnings against Iran’s threats in the region, as it is Tehran that is smuggling missiles to Yemen and managing their launch towards Saudi Arabia.
Sunday’s attack marked the largest attack on Saudi Arabia ever since Iran sought to control Yemen three years ago. Seven missiles were launched towards the kingdom but despite this number of missiles and the distance they crossed, the operation was nothing more than a show. The four missiles in Riyadh’s skies resembled fireworks. It’s no coincidence that these missiles were fired on the third anniversary of the military campaign launched to confront the coup staged by the Houthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s forces and their seizure of Yemen. All seven missiles failed to hit any vital target and actually helped the Saudi government remind everyone that the war against the Houthis and those allied with them is a war of necessity.
The Houthis currently control around one fourth of Yemen. However the Houthis are governing these areas, including their stronghold Saada, with great difficulty. The Houthi militias had seized the entire of Yemen all the way to Aden in the South forcing the legitimate government led by President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee from Aden to Oman and then to Saudi Arabia. If the military campaign had not been launched, all of Yemen, and not just one fourth of it, and its ports and airports, would have been under Iran’s influence.
In that case Iran would have been able to launch thousands of ballistic and traditional missiles towards Saudi Arabia.
Political efforts are not enough
Those who condemn the military campaign on its third anniversary must imagine if Yemen, or most of Yemen, is still under the control of the Houthis and the other insurgents. The situation would be horrific! It would be worse and more dangerous for both Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and it would have led to war on a wider scale, bigger than what we witnessed in the past 36 months.
A political solution that grants the Houthis or others tutelage over some Yemeni areas, or lets them keep their arms, or allows them a larger political stake, cannot be justified.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Launching the seven missiles towards Saudi Arabia was a propaganda show; however, it does not prove that the Houthis have any superior capabilities and rather proves their incapability to use these missiles as they want. It also proves that the quarter of the territories in North Yemen must be militarily liberated and it’s not enough to just rely on political efforts. These areas in the North are densely-populated mountainous and rugged areas where the insurgents use civilian neighborhoods to shield themselves from airstrikes.
The missile attack, which killed one and injured two others, confirms that Saudi Arabia, along with the coalition, must resume the path to Sanaa, liberate Yemen from the Houthis’ control and restore Yemen as a state with a central authority led by a legitimate government. All the attempts to convince the coalition to halt military operations and activate a political solution were proven wrong and that they can lead to dangerous consequences. The Houthis and the Iranians are currently struggling to smuggle missiles. The number of these missiles is limited due to the ongoing battles. The seven missiles recently launched and others launched before them were mostly randomly fired as a result of the coalition’s military activity that purses the Houthis in areas they control.
Any perception of political negotiations that halts or decreases military work actually achieves what the Houthis want to rearrange their situation on the ground and get arms and fuel supplies. Iran has condemned itself, via its Houthi proxy, before the UN’s new envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths. Due to the missile attack on Saudi Arabia, Griffiths now sees that a political solution cannot be based on granting the Houthis any political concessions outside the framework of the original political project, which calls for participating in governance only under the legitimate government and calls for withdrawing all arms in the possession of warring parties that are not part of legitimate forces.
A political solution that grants the Houthis or others tutelage over some Yemeni areas, or lets them keep their arms, or allows them a larger political stake, cannot be justified.
This article is also available in Arabic.
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.