February 17, 2022
Houthi threat to Middle East means US must respond
Yemen’s Houthi movement threatens the security of the Middle East, and the U.S. must do more to stop the danger. Houthi rebels control much of northwestern Yemen, benefit from an alliance with Iran, and have targeted the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
Just last month, the Houthis launched two attacks on Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, and have warned of more aggression to come. The UAE and Saudi Arabia responded with airstrikes, targeting Houthi forces in Yemen.
This escalation between the Houthis and the Emiratis is part of Yemen’s civil war, which has dragged on for eight years and helped create one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
At the same time, the ties between the Houthis and Iran have deepened.
Houthi leaders share revisionist principles with Iran, such as dissatisfaction with a regional order dominated by the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.
Iran and members of its informal alliance, known as the Axis of Resistance, have provided the Houthis with media, political, diplomatic, and military assistance that has helped the Houthis in Yemen.
Iran’s interests are broader than Yemen and the Gulf, however, and include contesting Israel and those who signed the Abraham Accords with Israel, including the UAE.
Israel is also facing the reality of the Houthis’ longer-range capabilities.
The Israeli Defense Forces have already repositioned missile defense batteries in southern Israel to defend against potential Houthi strikes.
And in April 2021, Israel targeted an Iranian ship in the Red Sea that was providing the Houthis and others with intelligence and logistical support.
Successive U.S. administrations have tried to manage the Houthi problem through a ceasefire with Saudi Arabia or an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, yet peace remains elusive.
The Biden Administration says it is considering re-designating the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization, but sanctions alone are unlikely to succeed in resolving the conflict.
The United States needs to pay more attention to the Houthis’ challenge from Yemen. So long as the Houthis remain in power with support from Iran, they threaten the security of the Middle East.