Attack on Saudi Arabia calls for a firm stance

The scourge of Iran's scramble for hegemony must be confronted by a united world

Debris from a missile fired at Riyadh by Houthi rebels in Yemen on March 25, 2018 fell through the roof of a home and killed an Egyptian worker. Fayez Nureldine / AFP
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A volley of missiles targeted Saudi Arabia on Sunday, their origin Houthi-controlled Yemen. Their objective was to bring death to the streets of Saudi Arabia, which has been leading an Arab coalition to restore the legitimate government of Yemen, toppled three years ago by Iran-backed Houthi militias. Riyadh, which has been targeted before, successfully intercepted the missiles, but at least one person was killed and two others injured when shrapnel fell on a residential area. This represents a grave escalation. As Turki Al Maliki, the spokesman of the Arab coalition, said: “The firing of multiple ballistic missiles towards cities is a serious development.” While Riyadh takes steps to protect its citizens, there has been global condemnation of the attack. The UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said it “underscores the need for a firm stance” and urged the international community “to confront this serious scourge to ensure stability in the region”.

The rest of the world should follow its lead by throwing off any vestiges of apathy towards a destablising influence in the region. The Iranian regime is the reason Houthi militias are a potent threat today. It is Tehran that armed, financed and equipped the Houthis – and numerous other proxy gangs and militant organisations – in its monomaniacal pursuit of regional dominance. The projectiles that landed in Saudi Arabia on Sunday are facsimiles of Iranian ballistic missiles. The US government has in the past provided incontrovertible proof of the Iranian provenance of missiles in Houthi possession. Now a meticulous new report by the UK’s Conflict Armament Research traces the transfer of weapons from Iran to the Houthis to January 2013.

As world powers were busy negotiating with Iran to hammer out the nuclear deal, its leaders were furtively shipping arms to the Houthis. Those who believed they were reining in Iran with the nuclear deal were, it turns out, being grossly misled. The heightened threat to the security of the Arab world and the worsening humanitarian situation in Yemen are among the most baleful consequences of this charade that was supposed to moderate Iran’s behaviour. The Houthis have failed in every aspect of governance, from providing basic infrastructure to healthcare. There are more than a million cases of cholera and diphtheria is on the rise, but aid is often blocked or looted at Houthi checkpoints. Residents in Houthi-run areas are forced to pay taxes on essential items to finance the Houthis’ reign of terror. The UN’s Children Fund has warned that, under the prevailing circumstances, another outbreak of cholera is inevitable when the rainy season begins a few weeks from now. It is now clear that Yemen’s destruction was always part of the Iranian regime’s scramble for hegemony. Relief to the Yemenis will come only when it retreats. But Tehran is delusional if it believes that missiles will deter the Arab coalition from continuing its fight on Yemenis’ behalf.