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What if Yemen fell into the hands of the Houthis?

Since last February, the Houthis have been waging a military campaign to seize the governorate of Marib, the last stronghold of the Yemeni government in the north, to tighten their grip on the country.

The Iranian-backed Houthis have significantly escalated their attacks in recent weeks, and the areas around Marib have witnessed fierce battles and missile strikes in the past few days, in which civilians were killed.

The Houthis are advancing towards the city, which is rich in oil and gas, from the south, while also besieging it from the north and east. As of Thursday, the rebels were stationed in the Serwah district, less than 48 kilometers west of the city of Ma’rib, according to government officials.

The question that observers ask: What is the future of the region and the world if the Houthis succeed in controlling the city and Yemen completely?

important paper

Yemeni political analyst, Abdul Sattar Seif, believes that the fall of Yemen completely into the hands of the Houthis means its fall into the hands of Iran, noting that it will be an important card in Tehran’s hand when negotiating with the West.

In statements to Al-Hurra channel, Saif added that the Houthis’ control means Tehran’s control of the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait, and thus it can influence Egypt and the Suez Canal.

In the event that they control Yemen, Saif continues, the Houthis’ next step will be to attack the southern borders of Saudi Arabia, and threaten the security of the Gulf, noting that they have the manpower to do so.

Saif says that the fall of Yemen into the hands of the Houthis will make it the strongest Arab card in the hands of Tehran, and more important than Iraq and Lebanon. He attributed this to the country’s distinguished geographical location, and its location on the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, in addition to the fact that the cost Iran paid in this war was much less than what he believed in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

If the Houthis and Tehran succeed in controlling Yemen, Seif asserts, the interests of the West and the United States will be at risk, adding that Iran will be arrogant in any negotiations with the West: “Iran will treat the West as an empire, not an ordinary country.”

He pointed out that they will help strengthen Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and will finance it, as is currently happening.

But Saif stressed that the victory of any party in the battle would take a long time, and ruled out its occurrence, noting that whoever controls the oil and gas fields in Ma’rib and Shabwa, and the Bab al-Mandab strait will control Yemen completely.

For seven years, Yemen has been witnessing a conflict between the internationally recognized government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, and the Iranian-backed Houthis, which has killed tens of thousands of people, including many civilians, according to several humanitarian organizations.  

The war has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the United Nations, with about 80 percent of Yemen’s population of 29 million people dependent on aid and 13 million facing the threat of starvation.

About 3.3 million people are still displaced, while 24.1 million people, or more than two-thirds of the population, need assistance, according to the United Nations.

worst case scenario

For his part, the former American diplomat, David Schenker, believes that if the Houthis defeat the Yemeni army in Maarib and control the energy center in Yemen, they will win the war, and this is for Riyadh, Yemenis and the world “the worst scenario.” 

Even if the war were to end, the humanitarian situation would remain critical, with two-thirds of Yemen’s 30 million people still facing starvation and dependent on the United Nations World Food Program for food, Schenker, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said in an article in Foreign Policy. their daily strength. 

Meanwhile, Iran’s proxies will control another Arab country, and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states will remain vulnerable to missile and drone attacks from their southern neighbor, Schenker said.

In his article, he points out that Yemen will become another problem for the US administration, as Washington will face the challenge of a failed state led by a radical Islamic organization similar to Afghanistan.

He adds that if the Saudi coalition loses the Yemeni city of Hodeidah and the rest of the Red Sea coast, the Houthis could also disrupt more than 6 million barrels of oil and petroleum products per day, which pass through one of the world’s major passages, the Bab al-Mandab Strait. 

In addition, the Houthis refused to allow the repair or disposal of the old Yemeni oil tanker, which was moored as a floating oil storage five miles from the coast, a disaster that threatens the environment. 

Schenker explained that if the 45-year-old ship sank, a million barrels of oil could leak into the Red Sea, restricting access to ports, affecting desalination plants and the freshwater supply of up to 10 million people, and threatening fishing in this region. It exacerbates the humanitarian crisis.

“After the possible end of the war, it will be the duty of the United States to contain Iranian mischief in Yemen, maintain the safety of shipping in the Red Sea, and undermine the Houthis’ regional ambitions in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

The Saudi analyst, Mubarak Al-Ati, says that “the Houthis’ control over Yemen means allowing every armed organization to overthrow the national state and the control of terrorism over the south of the Arabian Peninsula, which is filled with a human reservoir dominated by tribal and sectarian tendencies and where weapons and tribes are spread, which will make Yemen a safe haven for all terrorist organizations.” Because of the demographic structure, low education, and a willingness to split.”

Ati added, in statements to Al-Hurra website, that “the control of Houthi terrorism over Yemen means the victory of the Persian-Iranian project, the rooting of Iranian expansion in the Arab region and the siege of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

He pointed out that this also means “Iran’s control of important waterways and straits, which will make the entire world under the threat of terrorism and the whims of the mullahs’ regime.”

Prepare for this scenario

Since US President Joe Biden took over the White House, he has prioritized ending the war in Yemen in the right ways. He announced for the first time the appointment of a special envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking.

The US Special Envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, is visiting the Middle East these days to continue talks with the Government of the Republic of Yemen, representatives of Yemeni civil society, senior regional government officials, and other international partners. 

The Special Envoy and his team continue to focus on the need for the Houthis to stop their attack on Marib and their repeated attacks on civilian areas, which are exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. Lenderking will also reaffirm the US government’s commitment to working with the international community to pressure the parties to implement critical economic reforms, secure imports, regular fuel distribution, and resume commercial flights to Sanaa airport.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday in a press conference: “The Houthis are the cause of the suffering of the Yemeni people, and any sympathy with them is unjustified,” in response to a question about the statements of a Lebanese minister about the Houthis.

In anticipation of this scenario, Schenker called on Washington to strengthen Saudi Arabia’s defense system, renew its arsenal, including the Patriot anti-missile batteries and anti-aircraft missiles used to target incoming drones, in addition to reclassifying the Houthis as a “terrorist group.”

He called on Washington to establish a multilateral security mechanism in the Red Sea to intercept illegal arms shipments, stop human and other trafficking, and prevent shipping harassment, including by laying mines, at the southern tip of the Red Sea. 

Perhaps most importantly, he said, to prevent Iran from completing its entire project to re-establish a Hezbollah-like entity on Saudi Arabia’s southern front once the Houthis take control, the Biden administration will need to reactivate the 2015 UN arms embargo on Yemen, as well as enforce The ban on air traffic to prevent smuggling of advanced Iranian military equipment.” 

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