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Houthi terror attacks a test for Biden

Houthi fighters, Sanaa, Yemen, January 3, 2017. (Reuters)
Houthi fighters, Sanaa, Yemen, January 3, 2017. (Reuters)
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30 Jan 2021 10:01:38 GMT9
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri
30 Jan 2021 10:01:38 GMT9

The terrorist Houthi militias continue to target Saudi Arabia, threatening the Kingdom’s security and stability with ballistic missiles and drones aimed at residential areas as well as civilian airports.
Iranian-backed militias have always played this role on behalf of Tehran. They have been undermining security and stability in the region and beyond for four decades. Today, however, they possess greater destructive powers because of a terrorist network that is now present in more than one Arab country. The increased threat is that Iranian-sponsored militias, including the Houthis in Yemen, now possess Iranian weapons.

Contrary to their usual custom, the recent attacks on Riyadh were followed by a Houthi denial of responsibility, a change from previous strikes when they bragged about their actions. It seems that this time they want to test the new Biden administration, which they hear will review the decision to designate the Houthis as a terrorist organization. The question remains nevertheless: Why did these attacks take place amid a change in the US administration which sees Tehran and its allies as less threatening? It is clear that Tehran wants to test the Biden administration very quickly after launching attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad and on Riyadh as well.

Tehran will continue to repeat its attacks and provocations against the Biden administration and the countries of the region in order to test the limits of patience and reaction. Contrary to what was thought by Iran’s friends in Washington who denounced Trump’s policy at the time, the regime in Tehran did not welcome Biden with flowers nor did it celebrate the Democrats’ return to power.

The regime began to embarrass Washington by saying that Biden is not willing or capable of confrontation, and is thus now setting new rules for the game.

The statement by the US State Department denouncing the targeting of Riyadh with a missile or perhaps drones was made early and was an important, rapid, reaction against Iran. It was followed by the movement of US forces in the region to strengthen the US military presence. The negative response was to postpone by a month the decision to apply sanctions against the Houthis. The US, with its global political, military and diplomatic weight, will indisputably tip the balance in its favor along with its allies and partners in the region.

The situation will be most embarrassing for the Biden administration if it does not take the initiative in confronting the Iranian regime’s aggressive actions and if it makes concessions, such as lifting economic sanctions, which is what concerns Iranian leader Ali Khamenei. Iranian officials have expressed openly that they do not want to review or amend the nuclear agreement unless Washington backs down from its sanctions.

There is no solution to the Yemen crisis except through a real and effective response to the Houthis, as was the case with Daesh.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri

The statements that we hear today from the Biden administration pledge to amend the agreement to the satisfaction of its allies, while Tehran says it will not accept an amendment. How then will Biden create his new reality without using force or economic sanctions?

We have to remember that the Houthis’ most recent targeting of Riyadh was met with widespread international condemnation, including from the US. If such condemnation had been directed at the Houthis and Tehran when they launched their first ballistic missile and first drone, the danger from Tehran and the militia would not have increased in the region. Their actions would not even have advanced to disrupting international navigation.

Moreover, continuing with the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist militia is the beginning of the real solution to the Yemeni crisis and one of the ways to fight Tehran and its terrorist militias. There is no solution to the Yemen crisis except through a real and effective response to the Houthis, as was the case with Daesh. If that happens, security and stability in Yemen, and in the rest of the region, will be restored. Without it, Tehran will benefit from more time to blackmail the world, threaten global security and stability, and prolong Yemen’s acute humanitarian crisis.

  • Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri is a political analyst and international relations scholar. Twitter: @drhamsher7
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