Archive for the ‘Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia’ category

Hizballah’s Firm Grip Over Lebanon Fuels Region’s Sectarian Strife

November 15, 2017

Hizballah’s Firm Grip Over Lebanon Fuels Region’s Sectarian Strife, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Yaakov Lappin,November 14, 2017

Chief Iranian proxy Hizballah has a firm grip over Lebanon, and its bloody intervention in Syria was instrumental in preserving the brutal Assad regime. Yet Hizballah’s meddling in other regions of the Middle East usually does not receive as much attention.

That changed drastically earlier this month, when Saudi Arabia publicly accused the Shi’ite terrorist organization of firing a ballistic missile at its capital, Riyadh, from Yemen.

Saudi Arabia is alarmed at the rapid expansion of Iran and its proxies. It is leading a coalition of Sunni states in a war against the Iranian-supported Shi’ite Houthi radical organization, Ansar Allah, which has taken over parts of Yemen.

“It was an Iranian missile, launched by Hizballah from territory occupied by the Houthis in Yemen,” charged Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. A Saudi air defense battery shot the missile down before it struck Riyadh’s airport, but the incident has seen Saudi- Iranian tensions, which were already high, spike.

A United States Air Force source has reportedly confirmed the Saudi information about the Iranian origins of the missile.

Iran denied the Saudi accusation, and played down its links with the Houthis. But this denial flies in the face of mounting evidence of an important Hizballah and Iranian role in assisting Ansar Allah in Yemen.

Some of this evidence comes from Hizballah itself, or more precisely, its unofficial mouthpiece in Lebanon, the Al-Akhbar newspaper. Editor Ibrahim Al-Amin published a boastful article in July 2017 detailing Hizballah’s spread across the region.

“In Yemen, Hizbullah has become a direct partner in strengthening the military capabilities of the Houthi Ansar Allah, who consider Hizballah to be their truthful ally,” Al-Amin wrote.

The same article proudly said that in Iraq, Hizballah’s “experts are present in the biggest operations rooms … [Hassan] Nasrallah serves as the commander of the Popular Mobilization Units [the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias] in Iraq.”

Hizballah’s activities around the Middle East have become a controversial topic in Lebanon, where a portion of the population opposes its monopoly on political and military power, its militant ideology, and Iran’s proxy control of the country.

Last year, Future TV, a station owned by the recently retired Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (who quit in protest of Iran’s takeover of Lebanon), broadcast what it said was a video of a Hizballah operative providing military-terrorist training to Houthi fighters.

“So I have (for example) the assassination, God willing, of the head of the Saudi Border Guard,” the Hizballah operative says in the video. “We take a group, a special unit, it goes in, assassinates, kills and plants a large bomb. This is what we call a special operation. I have a special operation in Riyadh”.

At this stage in the video, the Hizballah member briefing the Houthis is interrupted with a question: “[Is this] a suicide operation?”

He replies: “Possibly a martyrdom operation. We do not call it suicide. We call it a special operation.”

An examination of the flag used by Ansar Allah finds that its red and green colors are influenced by the Iranian flag, and more importantly, the motto etched on the flag: “Death to America, Death to Israel, A Curse Upon The Jews, Victory to Islam” is inspired by official Iranian mottos.

The Houthis have been influenced by Hizballah in more than one way, said Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel.

“The group’s use of militant anashid (jihadist anthems) in its videos further portrays it as more in line with Hizballah’s models of ‘resistance,'” he told the IPT. “Images depicting Houthi fighters with the sun as a background further draw a parallel to other Shi’ite jihadist groups, giving the Houthis spiritual legitimacy within the context of a Shi’ite jihadist organization.”

Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the current Houthi leader, delivers speeches in a style inspired by Hizballah’s Nasrallah, Karmon said.

Houthi leaders also appointed a prominent Iranian-educated religious figure with close links to the Islamic Republic as the top Islamic authority in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a.

A May 2015 Financial Times report, “Lebanon’s Hizballah and Yemen’s Houthis open up on links,” cited Hizballah members saying they have “played a more active role on the ground in Yemen. A Houthi official in Beirut said relations with the Lebanese movement span over a decade, while a Hizballah commander said Houthis and Hizballah trained together for the past 10 years in Iran, then in Lebanon and in Yemen.”

The report added that Hizballah helped create the Houthi Al-Masira television channel, which is based in Beirut’s southern suburbs, a district under Hizballah control.

Earlier this year, Karmon assessed that “[a] physical Iranian presence based on a strategic cooperation with the Houthis, both ground and naval,” in Yemeni ports on the Red Sea, as well as control over other strategic waterways “represent a direct threat to Israel’s security and interests.”The Houthi takeover of Yemen’s capital and other regions increased Shi’ite Iran’s influence there, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported.

Based on publicly available information, it seems safe to conclude that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps uses Hizballah to strengthen the Houthis militarily in Yemen, and to help Iran increase its influence over this poor, war-torn state, which is also experiencing a humanitarian disaster on a grand scale due to the ongoing conflict.

Hizballah’s role as a regional proliferator of terrorism, radicalism, and high-level operational capabilities is a constant threat to the Middle East and beyond.

Yaakov Lappin is a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He also conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks, and is the Israel correspondent for IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. His book, The Virtual Caliphate, explores the online jihadist presence.

U.S. General: Missile Targeting Saudi Capital Was Iranian

November 10, 2017

U.S. General: Missile Targeting Saudi Capital Was Iranian, Washington Free Beacon, November 10, 2017

Supporters of the Shiite Huthi movement raise their weapons during a gathering in the capital Sanaa, Yemen / Getty Images

The top U.S. Air Force official in the Middle East said Friday that the ballistic missile fired by Yemeni rebels and intercepted by Saudi Arabian forces late last week originated from Iran and bore “Iranian markings.”

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, who oversees the Air Force’s Central Command in Qatar, said an investigation of the Saudi capital-bound missile’s remains uncovered evidence proving “the role of [the] Iranian regime in manufacturing” the missile, according to CBS News.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said it also found similar evidence regarding Iranian manufactured missiles after a July 22 launch from Yemen.

CBS News noted French President Emmanuel Macron similarly said the missile was “obviously” Iranian earlier this week.

Harrigian made his comments during a news conference in Dubai on Friday following the most recent strike near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, but declined to mention any specifics on what type of missile they believe it was.

Saudi Arabia reported it shot down the missile on Nov. 4 near Riyadh’s international airport, the deepest location to date for a rebel missile to reach.

The country has long has accused Iran of providing weapons to the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and their allies.  In turn, Tehran has long denied supplying the missiles.

Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute For Near East Policy who previously worked in Yemen, said in an analysis Thursday that “it is not a stretch” to believe Iran is supporting Houthi rebels.

It is “not a stretch to believe that Tehran is supporting the Houthi missile program with technical advice and specialized components,” Knights wrote. “After all, the Houthis have rapidly fielded three major new missile systems in less than two years while under wartime conditions and international blockade.”

Iran threatens to hit Saudi, Abu Dhabi and Dubai air and sea ports, ships more missiles to Yemeni Houthis

November 8, 2017

Iran threatens to hit Saudi, Abu Dhabi and Dubai air and sea ports, ships more missiles to Yemeni Houthis, DEBKAfile, November 8, 2017

Our sources also report that Iranian experts have managed of late to lengthen the range of the ballistic missiles shipped to Yemen. The Burkan 2H, which Yemeni Houthis aimed at Riyadh airport last Saturday, Nov. 4 – and was intercepted – had a range of 1,000km.  The latest model of this missile has an extended range of between 1,500 and 1,600km. But it remains to be seen if Tehran is also providing the Houthis with the high-precision missiles delivered to the Lebanese Hizballah.

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Military tensions rise in the Gulf region amid Iranian threats and supplies of extended-range missiles to the Yemeni insurgents.

Tehran has warned Riyadh that unless the Saudi blockade of Yemeni ports is lifted, Revolutionary Guards missiles supplied to the Yemeni Houthi insurgents will be loosed against the seaports and airfields of Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The warning was forwarded to their governments through the Omani back channel.

The Iranians informed Riyadh that by cutting off Yemen’s lifeline, the oil kingdom exposed itself and its allies to retaliation in kind.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources add that, to give their warning sharp teeth, the Revolutionary Guards have been pumping fresh supplies of new surface missiles to Yemen by sea. Although the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates maintain fleets in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea routes of access around Yemen, none ran interference to the missile shipments. Such action would entail halting the Iranian freighters and confronting the missile-armed Iranian warships and submarines escorting them.

Our sources also report that Iranian experts have managed of late to lengthen the range of the ballistic missiles shipped to Yemen. The Burkan 2H, which Yemeni Houthis aimed at Riyadh airport last Saturday, Nov. 4 – and was intercepted – had a range of 1,000km.  The latest model of this missile has an extended range of between 1,500 and 1,600km. But it remains to be seen if Tehran is also providing the Houthis with the high-precision missiles delivered to the Lebanese Hizballah.

In an interview on Sunday, Nov. 6, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir charged that Hizballah officers posted to Yemen had actually fired the Burkan missile at Riyadh airport from northern Yemen. The Saudis have not disclosed details on how and at what point it was intercepted.

Within range of the extended-range missiles are the UAE’s Khalifa Port, Zayed Port and Mirfa Port, the backbone of the emirate’s free trade zone and the main source of its prosperous economy. With the rising military tension in the Gulf region in the last few days, air defense missile batteries have been deployed at those ports and the UAE air force, one of the largest in the Gulf, placed on high alert.

Saudi Arabia intercepts ballistic missile over capital

November 4, 2017

Saudi Arabia intercepts ballistic missile over capital, CNN, November 4, 2017

Yemen’s air force targeted King Khalid International Airport in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Saturday with a ballistic missile, according to Yemen’s Houthi-controlled Defense Ministry.

But the missile was intercepted over northeast Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement carried on Saudi-backed Al-Arabiya television.

Yemen’s Defense Ministry said the missile attack “shook the Saudi capital” and the operation was successful. It also said the attack was conducted using a Yemeni-made, long-range ballistic missile called the Burqan 2H.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of states against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who toppled Yemen’s internationally recognized government in 2015.

The missile attack represents the first time the heart of the Saudi capital has been attacked.

“We previously warned that capitals of countries attacking Yemen will not be safe from our ballistic missiles,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed AbdulSalam said. “Today’s missile attack comes in response to Saudi killing innocent Yemeni civilians.”

The Riyadh airport tweeted that it hadn’t been affected.

“Travelers across King Khalid international airport in Riyadh, we assure you that the movement is going on as normal and usual, and trips going according to time,” the airport said in Twitter.

CNN’s Bijan Hosseini contributed to this report.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels threaten to attack Israel with missiles

October 1, 2017

Yemen’s Houthi rebels threaten to attack Israel with missiles, DEBKAfile, October 1, 2017

While Israel has no reason to fear an Iranian missile attack on its soil by Yemeni insurgents as yet,  its Red Sea shipping is definitely vulnerable to the P-20 (Chinese Silkworm) shore-to-ship weapon, a kind of cruise missile, which the Houthis have available for shooting at the Israeli war fleet and merchant vessels sailing in the Red Sea to and from the Gulf of Aqaba.

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Israel heard a new threat this week from an entirely new quarter, Yemen’s rebel Houthis. Their military spokesman, Col, Aziz Rashid, said Sunday, Oct. 1, in reference to Israeli bases in Eritrea: “Israel’s military bases in Africa are within range of Houthi missiles,” adding, if necessary, “Our forces would soon have missiles capable of reaching Israel itself.”

He did not need to spell out where those missiles come from. It is no secret that the Houthis are amply armed and supplied with intermediate range ballistic missiles from a single source, their sponsor, Iran.

Interestingly, the spokesman mentioned missiles able to cover the 1,720km distance between northern Yemen and the Israeli port of Eilat. However, according to DEBKAfile’s military sources, the Yemeni insurgents don’t have missiles with that sort of range. Tehran has given them Borkan-1 and Borkan-2 tactical ballistic missiles, whose ranges are respectively 800km and 1,400km. Both are short of the distance to Israel.

In the past year, the Houthis fired a number of missiles into neighboring Saudi Arabia, leader of the coalition fighting their insurgency. Some were aimed at the capital Riyadh. Two fell short near the Yemeni border and one hit a military target outside the Saudi capital. But most of the others were either intercepted by Saudi anti-missile defenses or exploded on open ground far wide of target.

While Israel has no reason to fear an Iranian missile attack on its soil by Yemeni insurgents as yet,  its Red Sea shipping is definitely vulnerable to the P-20 (Chinese Silkworm) shore-to-ship weapon, a kind of cruise missile, which the Houthis have available for shooting at the Israeli war fleet and merchant vessels sailing in the Red Sea to and from the Gulf of Aqaba.

Exactly a year ago, a Houthi missile struck a United Arab Emirate warship and set it on fire. Ten days later, on Oct. 10, they launched missiles against the USS Mason destroyer and drew an American retaliatory blow to their missile batteries.

More recently, on September 14, the Houthi leader, Abdulmalek Badruddin Al-Houthi, declared that the UAE is within his forces’ missile range. He noted that he spoke from experience after a successful test launch at the oil emirates, which is 1,500km away. He did not say when the test took place or which missiles were fired. But he went on to boast that his army possessed drones capable of cruising through Saudi air space.

The Houthi spokesman’s threat Sunday of a missile attack on Israel was the second time in a month that the Yemeni insurgents had referred to new Iranian long-range missiles for attacking a nation accused of siding with Saudi Arabia.

They claim Israel has become involved in the Yemen war by providing the Saudis with intelligence from its reconnaissance fleet which is based at the Eritrean port of Assab just 97km across the sea from the Yemeni coast.

Israel has never acknowledged those bases, but foreign sources began reporting in 2012 the discovery of Israeli war ships and submarines in permanent berths at Assab port, as well as an early warning station built there.