Opinion

Why America shares blame for the attack on Abu Dhabi

Why America shares blame for the attack on Abu Dhabi

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The deadly terrorist attack on Abu Dhabi on Monday by the Houthi militia in Yemen, despicable as it was, came as no surprise to those of us in the region — especially here in Saudi Arabia — who are already familiar with how low these terrorists can sink.

Enabled by their backers in Iran, the Houthis have launched waves of drone and missile attacks targeting civilians and key infrastructure in the Kingdom, from Jazan in the southwest to Riyadh itself.

Yes, there is a war going on in Yemen, and wars have inevitable consequences. Some people will say the UAE and Saudi Arabia must have expected that civilian casualties would be one of them.

Non-combatants, including innocent people in Yemen, have died — although it is important to point out that there is no moral equivalence here. When the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen causes civilian casualties it does so by accident, it investigates, and it apologizes; the Houthis kill innocent people deliberately, then brag about it.

What the UAE and Saudi Arabia could not have expected, however, was that the US under the Biden administration would turn its back on them — long-time allies and partners — in the way that it has, by revoking the Trump-era designation of the Houthis as a terrorist group, and withdrawing Patriot air-defense batteries even as the Kingdom was coming under attack from Houthi missiles.

Iran is currently not the only enabler of these terrorists; they would never have dared to strike had they not felt empowered by the Biden administration’s failure to support its allies

Faisal J. Abbas

These actions were unexpected not just because of the history and the strategic logic behind the alliance, but because America has seen at first hand what the Houthis are capable of.

Not only is the group’s official motto “Death to America,” but it also attacked the US Navy on three occasions in late 2016 at a time when Barack Obama was trying to appease Iran.

The US says it revoked the Houthi terrorist designation because it was hampering the flow of aid to Yemen, an argument that convinces no one. As Adel Al-Jubeir, the Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, told Arab News in an interview last year, the Taliban, Daesh, Hezbollah, Al-Shabab and Boko Haram are all on the US terrorism list, but that does not impede the flow of aid into Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Somalia or the Sahel.

As for the withdrawal of the Patriot batteries, the US says it had been planned for some time as part of a strategic regional reorientation, and was not intended against Saudi Arabia specifically —  although if that were true, why could the decision not simply be reversed when Washington can see that the Kingdom continues to come under missile attack? Not only that, but in behavior that defies logic, while some misguided US legislators continually try to block US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, some media commentators have the audacity to criticize the Kingdom for turning to other countries to secure weapons with which to defend itself.

The war in Yemen is not going the Houthis’ way. Coalition forces have driven them out of Shabwa and made military gains in the battleground province of Marib. Wounded animals lash out, so the attack on Abu Dhabi was in many ways predictable. However, sad to say, Iran is currently not the only enabler of these terrorists; they would never have dared to strike in such a way had they not felt empowered by the Biden administration’s failure to support its allies and partners.

It was reported by Bloomberg on Monday that the UAE would ask the US to reinstate the Houthis on its terrorist list. Acceding to that request is the very least America can do.

  • Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News. Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

Calls grow to restore Houthis to US list of terrorist groups

Fighters of the anti-Houthi group Giants Brigade patrol at the Harib junction of Bayhan district in Yemen’s Shabwa governorate. (AFP)
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Updated 20 January 2022

Calls grow to restore Houthis to US list of terrorist groups

  • World must deal with their ‘criminal acts,’ Yemen’s prime minister says

AL-MUKALLA: Demands grew on Wednesday for the US to restore the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen to its list of designated terrorist groups.

The government in Yemen joined calls for the reinstatement by authorities in the UAE after Monday’s Houthi drone attack on Abu Dhabi in which three people died.

“These criminal acts require designating the Houthis as a terrorist organization,” Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed said. “The international community has to deal with this group.

More pressure needs to be applied to stop these terrorist crimes that threaten regional and international peace and stability.”

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization on Jan. 16, 2021, a few hours before the Trump administration handed the White House over to Joe Biden.

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The new administration quickly reversed the move, paused a ban on financial transactions in Houthi-controlled areas on Jan. 25, and fully revoked the terrorist designation on Feb. 16.

The revocation was followed by a barrage of drone and missile attacks by the Houthis targeting civilians and energy infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.

On the ground, the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy escalated airstrikes on Houthi military sites and reinforcements on Wednesday as government troops repelled the militia’s attempts to seize control of new areas.

"We are carrying out a large-scale military operation to paralyze the Houthis' capabilities in a number of governorates," the Coalition said in a statement carried by El-Akhbariyah TV. "We are monitoring the terrorist leaders responsible for targeting civilians.|"

Earlier on Wednesday, Coalition warplanes destroyed military vehicles carrying Houthi fighters in Marib and struck Houthi gatherings and locations in the province. Thick smoke and large balls of fire billowed over targeted locations in southwestern Sanaa, including Attan Mountain, which hosts a ballistic missile depot.

The coalition said it had carried out 19 airstrikes in Marib that killed 90 Houthis and destroyed 11 of their vehicles.There was heavy fighting between government troops and the Houthis south of the strategic central city of Marib. Rashad Al-Mekhlafi, a military official at Yemen’s Armed Forces Guidance Department, told Arab News the Houthis had mounted several counterattacks on government troops around Al-Balaq Al-Sharqi mountain range in a bid to break a siege on pockets of their fighters on the strategic mountain.

The Houthis failed to achieve their goal of reaching the mountain and were forced into stopping their attacks after suffering heavy casualties. “They have to either surrender or die,” Al-Mekhlafi said. Loyalist Giants Brigades troops also engaged in heavy fighting with the Houthis south of Marib.

In the western governorate of Hodeidah, Houthi weapons storages at the naval forces camp were also targeted, the Coalition said early Thursday.

It said the port was being used by the Houthis as a military barracks to threaten regional and international security. Houthis reportedly transferred the weapons from the port to the military camp under commercial cover.

Houthis had also been accused of engaging in sea piracy, attacking civilian ships passing along the Red Sea.

The US special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, began visits on Wednesday to the Gulf states and the UK. “The special envoy and his team will press the parties to deescalate militarily and...participate fully in an inclusive UN-led peace process,” the State Department said.

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