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Houthis Attacked Riyadh

  • 01 Mar 2021
  • 4 min read

Why in News

Recently, a ballistic missile attack by the Houthis on the Saudi capital Riyadh was destroyed by the Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen's Iranian-aligned Houthi group.

Key Points

  • Reasons for Recent Attack:
    • Taking Advantage:
      • The Houthis are winning, they have made significant advances on the ground, especially in Jawf province along the Saudi border.
      • They are now poised to attack the city of Marib, the last stronghold of the Yemeni government in the north.
    • Iran's Support:
      • Iran is involved in Houthi decision making. Tehran (capital of Iran) undoubtedly wants the Saudi kingdom to remain embroiled in the Yemeni chaos.
      • Saudi Arabia and Iran have been engaged in proxy wars with each other for 40 years, since the Iranian revolution. Yemen is now among the victims of that conflict.
  • Background:
    • Yemen Conflict:
      • Since 2014, Yemen has been facing a multi-sided conflict involving local, regional, and international actors.
      • The Houthis, a group of Zaidi Shia Muslims who ruled a kingdom there for nearly 1,000 years, used widespread anger against President Hadi's decision to postpone long-awaited elections and his stalled negotiations over a new constitution.
      • They marched from their stronghold of Saada province to the capital Sanaa and surrounded the presidential palace, placing Hadi under house arrest.
    • Saudi Arabia's Intervention:
      • A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen in March 2015, at Hadi's request, after the Houthis continued to sweep the south and threatened to conquer the last government stronghold of Aden, prompting one of the world's worst humanitarian crises ever.
    • Ceasefire:
    • Resurgence of Houthi Attacks:
  • Concerns:
    • Yemen is strategically important because it sits on a strait linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which much of the world's oil shipments pass.
    • It also worries the West because of the threat of attacks - such as from al-Qaeda or IS affiliates-emanating from the country as it becomes more unstable.
    • The Houthis have escalated cross-border attacks on the kingdom even after the United States delisted the rebels as terrorists and stepped up efforts to de-escalate the six-year conflict.
    • The conflict is also seen as part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.
  • India’s Interest:
    • For India, it is a challenge which cannot be washed away taking into consideration the oil security and 8 million expats living in the region with more than USD 80 billion of incoming remittance annually.
  • Indian Initiatives:
    • Operation Rahat:
      • India launched a massive air and sea operation to evacuate over 4000 Indian nationals from Yemen in April 2015.
    • Humanitarian Assistance:
      • India has provided food and medical aid to Yemen in the past and thousands of Yemeni nationals have availed of medical treatment in India over the past few years.
      • India also continues to facilitate education of a large number of Yemeni nationals in various Indian institutions.


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