After the February 10th Iran-backed Houthi attacks at Abha airport, where 12 people were injured due to falling debris from a drone strike, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement that the US government would hold the Houthis accountable for the terrorist attack. They also said that they would help Saudi King Salman in defending its territory despite officially ceasing participation in Saudi’s offensive operations.
“The Houthis have claimed responsibility for this attack, and we will work with our Saudi and international partners to hold them accountable,” Sullivan said. “As the President told His Majesty King Salman yesterday, we are committed to supporting Saudi Arabia in the defense of its people and territory from these attacks. America will have the backs of our friends in the region,” the statement read.
This report comes after the Houthis, officially known as Ansar Allah, attacked a military target at Abha airport with a Qasef 2 drone. Injuries were sustained by Saudi citizens and nationalities from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. It was said that Shrapnel from the resulting drone attack fell inside the confines of the airport grounds and wounded these people. Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea had claimed responsibility for the attack.
Drone strikes aren’t new to the Kingdom as the Houthis have been bombing them since 2015 with drone strikes and missile attacks due to the Kingdom’s role in helping Hadi regain power. It can be remembered that the Saudi Arabian government, backed by the United States, intervened in Yemen to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government in an attempt to curb growing Iranian influence within the region. However, the terrorists had seized the capital of Sanaa, making Hadi flee to Saudi Arabia. Today, a bulk of Yemen’s northern territories, including Sanaa, remain under the control of the Houthis.
Its most recent attack, aside from the February 10 attacks, was its attack on the United Arab Emirates’ Al-Dhafra Air Base where British and American forces were based as well as integral petroleum tankers and fuel facilities, killing 3 and injuring 6. The United Arab Emirates, the world’s 7th biggest oil producer, is alarmed by the Houthis as their attacks can harm the business-environment-friendly atmosphere of the country.
The United Nations estimates that the Yemeni war has displaced 4 million of its population, with the 14.5 million people in the country not having enough food or water, leading to starvation and disease on a wide scale. As a result, the war has killed an estimated 377,000 people, with 70% of those deaths being children. About 20 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance in some form as well.
According to CSIS, in response to these killings and attacks, the Saudi government has intercepted more than 4,000 Houthi drones, missiles, and other weapons in the last five years. The United States has also supported Saudi and UAE in defending their territories through the purchases of multibillion-dollar missile defense systems such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD), with the US providing over 79% of Saudi Arabian weapons in use. This is not a surprise as the US has historically shared close ties with the oil-rich Kingdom, spending over $57.5 billion or 8.4% of its gross domestic product on military improvements.
Several members of the international community have strongly condemned the repeated drone attacks of the Houthi militia, some of which include the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Muslim World League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as countries like Qatar, Kuwait, Pakistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Mauritania, and Jordan.
Saudi-led Retaliation Against Houthis
It was reported that Saudi had launched a counter-attack on the Houthi militia, targeting and destroying a vital telecommunication system used to control their combat drones. The telecommunication system was said to be a ground station for satellites located in Northern Sanaa. The Houthi-led government had confirmed the facility’s destruction through its television network Al Masirah, leaving the TeleYemen telecoms building severely damaged.
The bombing was said to be a vital step to decreasing the Houthis’ capabilities to launch drone strikes as it has increasingly improved its UAV technology through advanced Iranian munitions, among others.
These weapons were said to be supplied directly by Iran, equipping the terrorists with Qasef UAVs, Misagh-2 man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS, Borkan-2H mobile short-range ballistic missiles, 122-millimeter Katyusha rockets, and various types of Quds missiles. Iran has also equipped the terrorists with cyber-weaponry such as destructive malware to render government technology useless, often targeting Saudi’s electronically controlled oil facilities to affect its economy internally.