Yemen desperately needs peace, but it is hard to see any negotiated end to the fighting in north Yemen as Al Houthi fighters flagrantly disregard any norms of war and are also deliberately provocative in their timing. The latest missile attacks on the civilian populations in Saudi cities happened two days before the ongoing Arab Summit in Jordan and seem designed to remind the world that Al Houthis retain their open supply channels from their Iranian backers, and are following Iranian orders in refusing to seek any peaceful settlement of the war.
This week, Saudi forces intercepted four missiles fired by Al Houthis in Yemen, which were aimed at the two cities of Khamis Mushait and Abha close to the Yemeni border. Only two weeks earlier, on March 16, at least 22 members of pro-government forces were killed in a missile attack on a mosque inside a military base in Yemen. Two missiles fired by Al Houthi militia hit the mosque in Sirwa, western Marib province. The first missile struck during prayers, while the second followed as rescue efforts were under way.
The timing that was so close to the Arab Summit was clearly on the UAE’s mind when the Foreign Ministry issued a statement after the attacks that “firing ballistic missiles against Saudi cities clearly indicates that the militias seek to undermine the political efforts aimed at ending the crisis”. It is hard to see any accommodation with forces that are prepared to use force so ruthlessly as they are steadily beaten back from their conquests.
But the further issue of continuing Iranian malevolence was highlighted by the UAE’s next sentence when the Foreign Ministry said: “The attacks also signify the involvement of regional parties to trigger conflicts and the continuing instability in the region to serve their own agenda.”
The missiles have been supplied to Al Houthis by the Iranians and they must have transited through the port of Hodeidah on the Red Sea coast controlled by the militia. The Saudi-led coalition fighting Al Houthis, in support of the legitimate government of Yemen, has mounted a naval blockade in the Red Sea and is ready to start an assault on Hodeidah. It has rightly asked for the port to be put under United Nations’ supervision to stop arms smuggling and improve the provision of humanitarian aid to Yemen’s starving civilian population.