The Emiratis woke up to a series of deadly explosions deep into their territory on January 17, as the Houthis launched cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and drones, targeting an oil depot belonging to the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ANDOC), as well as an area under construction at the capital’s airport.
Subsequently, the Houthi group bombed sensitive sites in the country, most notably the Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, which houses US forces, with Sammad 3 drones, and threatened to target the Expo 2020 exhibition, which is being hosted by Dubai. By doing so, the Houthis wanted to strike the UAE, whose role in the Yemen war has entered a new phase since the beginning of this year, and to send a message that the surprises of the war will continue as long as Abu Dhabi insists on intervening in Yemen.The UAE, in turn, resorted to logistical measures and pressure for more International sanctions against the Houthis.
Houthi missiles deep in the UAE
Last month's attacks were not the Houthis' first attempt to target the UAE depth. In 2017, the Houthis announced that they had launched a "cruise" missile at a nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi, but the UAE did not issue an official statement at the time to confirm the Houthi allegations.
Since the Emiratis joined the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis in 2015, Abu Dhabi's admission of receiving military strikes from the Houthis in January is the first of its kind.
The operation, which the Houthis called Operation Hurricane Yemen, was a warning shot against the UAE, whose support for the Yemeni "Giant Brigades" made it difficult for the Houthis to achieve the Houthi dream of seizing oil-rich Marib and the last foothold of the legitimate government in the north.
For weeks, the Houthis came close to invading Shabwa, which secures access to the Gulf of Aden and the liquid natural gas facility in Balkhaf, but the UAE's re-engagement by supporting its allies in the "Giant Brigades" and the fact that these brigades cut the supply lines from the Houthi forces dashed their hopes.
One of the chapters of Yemen’s fragile military balance began to emerge quickly in September 2019 when Saudi Arabia and the UAE arranged their efforts in support of anti-Houthi forces in Shabwa, thus witnessing the coordination of the forces they support with unprecedented tactical cooperation.
Abu Dhabi, which assigned a small military division the task of staying in Yemen after announcing its withdrawal in 2019, reinforced its support for the local Yemeni forces, which included air strikes and the repositioning of militia fighters who clashed with the Houthis and inflicted heavy defeats on them.
The Emirati strike represented one of the most severe military setbacks for the Houthis in the past three years. Just two weeks before the strikes, the Houthis were in a good military position, bringing them closer to controlling the main energy center in Marib, in addition to another important corridor for oil and gas production, then the situation on the ground changed. In a short time, a counter-strike led to the defeat of the Houthi front forces from Shabwa, and then their pressure on Ma'rib eased.
According to some reports, the UAE played an important role in facilitating the redeployment of major forces in Shabwa, and some militia leaders residing in the UAE were returned to Yemen with Saudi blessing.
Most of the Yemeni anti-Houthi factions were ready to fight, and they were given the money and ammunition needed for a sustainable positioning against the Houthis, and this aid began to flow directly to Shabwa via Ataq airport.
Eight brigades of the Giants forces, each brigade comprising between 1500-2000 fighters, were redeployed about 500 miles from the Red Sea coast. .
Yemenis know very well that the battles now taking place in Shabwa began with Emirati-Saudi efforts that succeeded in removing the control of the Islah party (the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood) in the city, and handing it over to the UAE-backed Congress Party.
Atiq Jarallah, the head of the Mocha Center for Strategic Studies, tells us, stressing that the two Gulf allies agreed to reduce the influence of the Yemeni Islah party at an Emirati request approved by Saudi Arabia. They also agreed to strike the Houthis in a way that does not serve reform in Yemen.
Then "Jarallah" added in his interview with
, saying, "This strategy is now a joint Emirati-Saudi aimed at empowering the Congress Party (the party of the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh)... As a result of this agreement, the Houthis and Iran felt that the UAE had begun to respond to the desires of Saudi Arabia," after it obstructed Its policies indirectly, the Saudi strategy, served the interests of the Houthis until last year.
Moreover, the trend towards reducing or subduing the Houthis began at the initiative of the new US administration, which threatened to return them to the list of terrorism, through the UAE, Saudi Arabia and some local Yemeni forces.
According to "Jarallah", this made the Houthis feel a clear threat to their influence, and therefore they rushed to anticipate events by targeting the Emirati depth and threatening the country's trade and economy.
Iran... Chaos outside Yemen's borders
"During the past three years, Abu Dhabi has tried to deceptively distance itself from the consequences of this devastating war." With these words, the Iranian newspaper "Tasnim" tried to find justifications for the Houthis to launch a strike on a country that derives most of its income from tourism and huge foreign investment.
And the report of the most famous newspaper in Iran shows that Tehran looks with suspicion at the role of the UAE-backed forces in the Yemeni conflict in recent weeks, especially what happened in the Shabwa battles, and even analysts and officials inside and outside the UAE go to the possibility that Iran is behind these very precise strikes, not the Houthi militia alone.
In fact, the fact that the Houthis do not launch attacks on other countries with drones or ballistic missiles without permission from Tehran, their current main source of armament, cannot be ignored. Build an arsenal that includes ballistic missiles and drones, and a confidential United Nations report stated that “it is likely that the source of the thousands of rocket launchers, machine guns, sniper rifles and other weapons seized by the US Navy in the Arabian Sea in recent months is a single port in Iran.”
Perhaps Iran wants such an escalation to send a message to the international powers that it is not satisfied with the course of the nuclear talks that have taken place since Biden came to the White House, especially with the growing opposition to restoring the old nuclear agreement among American lawmakers, and that it will spare no effort to preserve Its strategic positions that it built over the past two decades in the region, specifically in Yemen since the outbreak of its revolution, especially given its important location on the Red Sea.
Ahmed Ayed, editor-in-chief of the Mareb Press website, agrees with this vision, stressing that targeting the UAE is a warning message, not from the Houthis, but from Iran, which categorically refuses to change the balance of power in Yemen.
Ayed explained in an interview with "
" that "Iran views the battle of Marib as an obstacle to completing its effective proxy control over a fourth Arab country... as the repercussions of the last month, the most important of which was the restoration of large areas inside Shabwa and then areas in Marib, turned the scales against what it desired." Tehran".
The most likely possibility remains that Abu Dhabi will avoid an overt military escalation with Iran for fear of harming its economy, and limit its response to Yemen itself.
In this context, "Jarallah" believes that Tehran will seek to absorb any strikes against its presence in Yemen, and push the Houthis to enter into political talks in order to preserve what they have achieved throughout the war at least.
He stressed that the Iranian position will be measured by the strength of its counterattack from the Saudi-Emirati axis, and if the Gulf response is modest, it will respond to the attack by attacking the land of Yemen. Time to rearrange the rows.
Abu Dhabi options
"The missile defense system owned by the UAE and developed by the US military intercepted a ballistic missile on January 23, during a deadly attack launched by Houthi fighters on Abu Dhabi, which is the first known use of that defense system in a military operation."
(The Israeli newspaper "Jerusalem Post")
After the attack launched by the Houthis, the Emiratis hinted that they had used a sophisticated defense system to intercept the attack without mentioning its name, but intelligence reports highlighted that the American-made “THAAD” defense system was used to protect the UAE during the attacks of last January .
At a time when the Houthis are moving towards other attacks on Emirati territory in order to pressure Abu Dhabi, undermine its military role in Yemen and threaten its economy, it is likely that the UAE and Saudi Arabia will try to increase military pressure on the Houthis with the help of the United States, as American forces intervened weeks ago to help the UAE thwart an attack A missile was launched by Yemeni rebels on an air base where about two thousand American soldiers are stationed.
Intelligence reports have highlighted that the US-made THAAD defense system was used to protect the UAE during the January 2022 attacks.
"Adel Al-Masni", a researcher in international relations, stresses that the recent military transformations of the Gulf coalition have raised many concerns about activating the option of military resolution in Yemen, adding that "the liberation of Shabwa Governorate is a dangerous indicator (for the Houthis) that aims to change the military balance on the ground to hold Al-Houthi militias to make concessions in the context of a Western-backed political solution.
Al-Masni pointed out that the intensification of air raids and the intensification of battles in Marib led to the opening of other fronts of strategic value, as happened in the governorates of "Taiz" and "Saada", which increases the pressure on Al-Houthi.
In parallel with the UAE's military moves, whether in its territory or in Yemen, Abu Dhabi aspires to gain more diplomatic support against the Houthis, especially from the United States.
Emirati calls have already begun to reclassify the Houthis as a terrorist group, which Biden canceled upon his arrival at the White House as part of his efforts to resolve the Yemeni crisis diplomatically.
Adel Al-Masni said that the coalition countries seek to use their diplomatic relations to influence the international community, and to employ the Houthi attack on the UAE diplomatically and in the media to achieve their goals.
In turn, "Jarallah" saw that the UAE has two options: the first is for the UAE to swallow the shock of the strikes, relieve pressure on the Houthis, and then enter into settlements with Iran to preserve its gains and its role in southern Yemen, leaving the north to the Houthis, a choice that has several incentives, including fear for Its interests and security stem from renewed attacks that may target more vital sites such as Burj Khalifa, and its unwillingness to lose influence among a number of political actors in Yemen.
The second option is to fully align with Saudi Arabia under the umbrella of US support to tighten the noose around the Houthis, in the hope that they will accept peace talks that lead to a serious settlement.
So, with the Yemen war entering its eighth year, it seems that the latest developments on the battlefield are no longer confined to Yemen, and that the Houthi attacks exceeded penetrating the Saudi borders from time to time, and that they generally target the security of the Gulf regional system, including Saudi oil sites and centers of economic power Inside the Emirates.
The only way to achieve lasting peace in Yemen and the Gulf remains a breakthrough between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a breakthrough that may be stimulated by a Saudi-Houthi settlement that seems still far-fetched, and its threads are also intertwined with other settlements between the two most prominent rivals in the Gulf region on the one hand, and between Iran and the powers On the other hand, internationalKeywords: