News Analysis |
Saudi Arabia has stated that its air defense batteries have taken down missiles over the Mecca province which were allegedly fired by Iran backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The state media reported that missiles were shot down over the western cities of Jeddah and Taif as one of the projectiles was heading toward the Holy city of Mecca.
“Royal Saudi Defense Forces spotted aerial targets flying through restricted areas in the provinces of Jeddah and Taif and dealt with them as required by the situation,” a spokesperson of the Saudi coalition said. Houthi rebels have categorically denied the claims terming it an attempt to rally support for the ongoing coalition bombing campaign of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against the Houthi insurgents.
The Houthi rebels do not see themselves as Iranian stooges, rather a revolutionary force fighting against the tyrant and corrupt nexus within and outside the country.
Saudi Arabia, with the support of 9 Middle East and African countries, launched a major aerial operation, subsequently known as “Decisive Storm”, against the Houthi rebels who had taken control of the capital Sanaa in 2015, ousting pro-Saudi President, Abdul Mansoor Hadi. Since then, aerial strikes, logistically facilitated by the United States of America, have been carried out to reinstall the pro-Saudi regime in Yemen.
Houthis, due to their Shi’ite beliefs were seen as the proxy force which can be utilized against the Saudi regime by Iran. Due to the historic sectarian predisposition of rival ideologies between both Saudi Arabia and Iran, the conflict has no end in sight as Yemen is currently the largest humanitarian crisis which needs to be addressed as per the United Nations.
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Houthis Deny any Link with Iran, but the Reality Seems Contrary to the Claim
The Houthi rebels do not see themselves as Iranian stooges, rather a revolutionary force fighting against the tyrant and corrupt nexus within and outside the country. However, Houthis’ road to power has been paved by Iranian backed Shi’ite militia active in Lebanon, called Hezbollah.
The same group has been blamed by the United Nations of supplying arms and missile to the rebels which have shot more than 100 missiles into the Saudi territory in response to indiscriminate aerial bombings from Saudi coalition. None of the ballistic missiles have been successful to hit the intended target due to the U.S made advanced anti-ballistic missile defense system PATRIOT PAC-3, Saudis have in service.
Although, not the entire stockpile of the Houthi missiles is Iranian made, as it includes the confiscated Scud-B/C and Hwasong 5/6 missiles which Yemen procured from the Soviet Union and North Korea respectively back in the 1990s, but the fragments of missiles shot down over Saudi airspace have been identified as Iranian made Zelzal-3 ballistic missile.
The current military coalition is primarily composed of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with logistical support from the United States of America and nominal support from relatively small Middle Eastern and African countries.
In the last few days, it appears that Iran has upped the ante as multiple attacks have taken place against the Saudi Oil Corporation Aramco’s assets in open seas as well as within Saudi Arabia. It can be traced as an attempt on Iran’s part to use its proxies in the Middle East against the U.S and its allies who are collectively attempting for a regime change in Iran.
The Sentimental Value of Holy Cities
Unlike in the past, where videos caught on cell phones of missile interception were part of the news stories in case of the attack from Houthi rebels, no evidence has been presented in this case except few mentioned accounts of eyewitnesses in the state media. The current military coalition is primarily composed of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with logistical support from the United States of America and nominal support from relatively small Middle Eastern and African countries.
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Rest of the Muslim countries, even those who are the part of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, have decided to stay neutral in the campaign. But it could change if a general perception prevails that the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina are under threat. It is a well-known phenomena on both sides hence Saudis can use it to their advantage while Houthis would try their best to distance themselves with any such prospect.