The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels acknowledged that they have launched attacks on Saudi Arabia targeting both oil facilities owned by the state-run Saudi Aramco company as well as military sites.
The Houthis, the rebel group trying to take over Yemen, said that they launched attacks on Thursday against the King Abdulaziz military base in Dammam and other military sites in Najran and Asir. They also said they targeted Aramco facilities in Ras al-Tanura, Rabigh, Yanbu, and Jizan.
The Saudi Defense Ministry and the Saudi Energy Ministry said that the missile attack on Jizan hit an oil distribution facility and set fire to one of the terminal’s tanks, but didn’t cause any casualties. The Saudis have built a new port facility and oil refinery in Jizan, which is located on the Red Sea about 600 miles from the capital of Riyadh.
The Saudis vowed to respond to these latest attacks.
The war in Yemen, on the south of the Saudi kingdom, appears to have no end in sight. The Saudis are determined to prevent the Houthis from becoming a Hezbollah-like Iranian proxy group on their southern border.
This led the Saudi-led coalition to intervene in the Yemen Civil War in 2015. The Saudi coalition conducted airstrikes against the Houthi rebels, who had pushed interim President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of the capital of Sanaa. At the time, the Saudis had said the operation would take six weeks. Six years later, the fighting and the political situation have only grown worse.
Yemen is not only split between the Iranian-backed Houthis and the internationally recognized government backed by the Saudis. Rather, several other armed factions with their own political agendas, control different parts of the country. This further adds to the misery of the people. The U.S. decision to end support for the Saudis and remove the terrorist designation of the Houthis was supposed to clear the path for humanitarian aid to flow into the country. Yet, this didn’t take into consideration any of the other factions and warlords reigning over large areas of the country. Washington doesn’t and won’t be recognizing them, so aid distribution will suffer.
The fighting has killed over 130,000, of which about were 13,000 civilians in targeted attacks. Yemen is considered the world’s worst humanitarian disaster by the UN with tens of thousands of children having died of disease or starvation.
After the U.S. cut off offensive military aid to their coalition, the Saudis had offered the Houthis a ceasefire and conceded to allow the opening of the Sanaa International Airport, which is a vital economic link to the outside world. They also eased the naval blockade and allowed four fuel tankers to dock at the port of Hodeidah.
The Saudi concessions also call for the revenue generated from taxes and fees in Hodeidah’s port to be placed in the Yemen Central Bank from where both the Houthis and the national government can access it to pay for government workers.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had praised the move as a first overture toward peace. He additionally urged the Houthis to stop targeting the Saudi oil refineries.
Nevertheless, the Houthis’ answer to this olive branch was to launch attacks on seven different Saudi facilities.
The Houthis aren’t going to negotiate because they believe that they are winning the war on the ground. Yet, they, and their advisers from Tehran, know that the revenue from the oil-rich Marib fields in the country’s north is needed to carry on the war. This is why they continue to attack both the city of Marib and the surrounding oil fields.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are arch enemies and Tehran would love a Hezbollah-like proxy flush with Iranian missiles to be perched on the Saudi border.
The Houthis sent an ambassador to Tehran two years ago and last year Iran reciprocated, sending Hasan Irlu, an official in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, as its ambassador to the Houthis.
In December, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned Irlu for continuing to foment instability in Yemen.
“The appointment of an IRGC-QF official as an envoy to the Houthi rebels in Yemen demonstrates the Iranian regime’s indifference to resolving the conflict, which has led to the widespread suffering of millions of Yemenis,” said then-Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin had said.
The Biden administration’s envoy to Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, has been working to end the war and bring foreign aid to the long-suffering Yemeni people. Nonetheless, the Houthis and Iran will no doubt stall any efforts to that end because they feel they’re winning the war.
They want to be the only state in Yemen and will not be sharing power.