Armed Yemeni men raise their weapons as they gather near the capital Sana'a to show their support to the Shiite Houthi movement against the Saudi-led intervention on February 21, 2019. Mohammed Huwais/AFP via Getty Images)

Houthis’ Attack in Riyadh Left No Damage

Analysts say the attack was intended to send a political message and destabilize the atmosphere surrounding the Saudi-led ceasefire

Forces of the Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile that the Houthis launched from Sana’a toward Riyadh in the early morning of June 23.

“The attack is an extension of ongoing hostile and terrorist attempts by the Houthi militias, in a deliberate systematic operation to target civilians,” Col. Turki Al-Maliki, the Arab Coalition spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday.

He elaborated that the missile was the last in a barrage that began Monday evening, when the Houthis launched “eight booby-trapped drones and three ballistic missiles toward the kingdom,” which, he said, “were addressed and all failed.”

Suliman al-Ogaily, a Saudi political analyst and writer and a member of the board of directors of the Saudi Society for Political Science, told The Media Line that the Houthis’ attack was intended to send a political message to the UN Security Council, which was set to meet a few hours later in New York to discuss regional security matters and an extension of the arms embargo on Iran.

He said that the attack was a challenging message, given that “the American resolution to be discussed against Tehran will touch on Arab regional security in general and Saudi security in particular.”

The Houthis claimed that the attack was major, and media-outlets affiliated with the Iranian-backed militias reported that the targets were sensitive areas in the Saudi capital.

However, al-Ogaily confirmed that the attack resulted in no casualties and didn’t affect Riyadh on the ground at all, adding that the Houthis’ latest move would reflect negatively on Iran and would weaken the position of Tehran’s close allies. “The Houthis speak about fake victories, and if people believe all of their statements and lies, they might as well believe that they already occupied Riyadh by now. … Their declarations have no value.”

The Houthis speak about fake victories, and if people believe all of their statements and lies, they might as well believe that they already occupied Riyadh by now. … Their declarations have no value

Abdulmalik Alyosofi, an Abyan-based Yemeni political writer and activist, told The Media Line that the Houthis’ latest escalation was meant to ruin the Saudi-brokered ceasefire agreement between Yemen’s government and the southern separatist forces that was to have led to talks on implementing a peace agreement.

“Tehran and its supporters didn’t like that agreement. Therefore, an escalation was needed to shuffle the cards,” Alyosofi said, “and to pressure the Southern Transitional Council, especially since the attack on Riyadh coincided with another internal military escalation on the Dhale front.”

Alyosofi explained that the situation in Yemen was a pivot between the Iranian-Qatari axis and the Saudi-Emirati axis, “where the former has a clear expansionist agenda, while the latter represents a defensive front against Iranian incursion in the region, and for securing their borders and national security, as well.”

He added that the Houthis’ acts of killing and sabotage in Yemen were evidence of this, “while the Arab coalition’s spending of about $22 billion for relief operations in Sana’a, aside from the military operations, indicates at least its commitment to international humanitarian law.”

Moreover, Alyosofi pointed to the compatibility between Turkey’s and Iran’s positions on Yemen, “which explains the escalation by a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated force, called the ‘Reform Party,’ that aims to disrupt the atmosphere of the ceasefire.”

He added, “Turkey has a regional project that includes not only Yemen but also Libya, Syria, and Somalia, where Istanbul has a huge military base.”

The US Embassy in Saudi Arabia confirmed the “missile and drone” operation, referring to the attack on Riyadh, and the US mission’s statement on June 23 warned that if people heard explosions, they should take cover, and If they live in a building, they should go to the lowest place, farthest from windows and near load-bearing walls.

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