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Friday, August 7, 2020

Beware unintended consequences of yemeni uprising

by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

Illustration by Guillermo Munro Colosio

hen the world’s eye is focused on the uprisings in Egypt, Syria and the President of Yemen’s agreement to step aside in favour of his deputy, the spotlight has been diverted from the threat posed by Yemeni Houthi Zaidi Shiite, pro-Iranian rebels.

The Houthi anti-government rebellion has been waged to one degree or another since 2004 from their base in the north on the Saudi Arabian border. With over 100,000 armed fighters, by some estimates, they harbour not only an expansionist agenda but the will to topple the government and impose their own brand of Shiite religious law on the entire country and beyond – a type of Shiite Caliphate presided over by their spiritual head Abdul Malik Al-Houthi. They have made territorial claims to a number of Saudi villages and in 2009 they battled with Saudi forces.

For the Houthis, the Yemeni armed forces’ preoccupation with maintaining security on the street has been a gift. Over the past ten months they have succeeded in expanding their territorial control of their home base of Sa’ada into four Yemeni provinces and hold sway over the main crossing points into Saudi. Their success is mainly because opposing tribes in the region, backed by the besieged outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have been deprived of material support during the turmoil.

Until now a landlocked people, the Houthis are currently concentrating their attacks on the Hajjah governorate which crucially offers access to the Midi Seaport. Some Yemeni officials believe securing the port is the first step in the Houthis’ wider strategy; that of opening-up a Red Sea route to import heavy weapons and supplies with which to attack the Yemeni capital Sana’a and attacking the Saudi border to infiltrate Saudi Arabia.

It‘s worth remembering that in 2009 Saudi Arabia accused Iran of supplying arms to the Houthis and instituted a naval blockade of the northern Yemeni coastline. At a time when Yemen is vulnerable to malign interior and exterior influences this threat must be taken very seriously.

The Houthis’ hatred of Saudi Arabia is well-known and it is my belief that they have hatched a plan with the Iranian ayatollahs to sneak weapons and terrorists over the border into Saudi to launch terrorist acts aimed at destabilizing the Kingdom as soon as they get the green light from Tehran to attempt the destruction of our peaceful GCC societies.

Like Hezbollah aided by Tehran and the Allawite rulers in Damascus, the Houthis are being used as Iran’s proxies to infect the region with a regressive and repressive ideology at the point of a sword. Simultaneously, Iran is inciting Shiite minorities in Saudi and other GCC countries to cause trouble.

In recent days, Shiites have been demonstrating against the Saudi government in the city of Qatif in the oil-rich eastern region, where anti-Royalist slogans have been scrawled on walls. The Kingdom’s Mufti has pointed his finger firmly at Iran for the unrest and the hostility against the royal family, which is credible when Iranian clerics are calling for an end to the Al-Saud ruling dynasty. The Kingdom’s Interior Ministry has in the past blamed a foreign power for stirring -up “seditious residents” – a couched reference to Iran’s interference. Unfortunately, a section of Shiite minorities is allowing itself to be used as Iranian pawns. The most glaring example of this trend is, of course, the violent events in Bahrain.

Bahrain’s Shiite community was an inherent and respected part of Bahraini society until a segment saluted marching orders from Tehran and tried to overthrow the King. Many just went along with the herd but, to my mind, their ringleaders who’ve been whipped-up by Iranian spies are traitors to their homeland. They had to be stopped in their tracks and I’m grateful for the intervention of the Saudi military.

Bahrain’s government had to act decisively to keep the country free from irreparable harm but it’s been blasted by human rights groups for so doing.

Gulf peoples and rulers respect everyone’s freedom and dignity; that is until our own rights are breached by planted traitors out to create divisions. Those foreign-bought traitors who betrayed Bahrain got away easily in my opinion. They deserved to be tried and hanged as a lesson to others seeking to rob a nation of its security and peace.

I was surprised and disappointed at the ‘findings’ of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Investigation into the uprising and the government crackdown, headed by Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni – an Egyptian national UN war crimes expert, appointed by the King.

It was so heavily biased in favour of demonstrators’ claims and so critical of the government’s human rights record that it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. Bassiouni has unwittingly or purposefully failed to see the big picture; he has blinded himself to the virulent and orchestrated Iranian infection creeping all over the Gulf and parts of the Middle East. We’re being surrounded and infiltrated from all sides, which is why the GCC, currently caught-up with the problem of Syria, must be vigilant. With Iranian proxies gaining strength in Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain and Iraq, I recommend the GCC to take the following urgent steps:

  1. If Yemen’s military is unable to protect the Red Sea, the GCC’s Rapid Reaction Force should assist the Yemeni government to secure its coastline and ports.
  2. The GCC should support the Iraqi opposition, Iraqis who are true Arab patriots, not pro-Iranian figures whose loyalties lie elsewhere.
  3. GCC States should close their countries’ borders to suspect groups working on Iran’s behalf and make use of cutting-edge technologies to monitor their movements.
  4. Gulf intelligence services and security forces should go all out to eradicate traitors from our midst even if this requires turning a deaf ear to complaints from foreign capitals.

In the meantime, the Houthis are congratulating themselves on having a free hand. Their resurgence can easily turn into another nail in the coffin of the Gulf’s stability and security unless our leaders decide to cut off this arm of Iran before it can get a grip.

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