Yemen Houthis' threats to attack UAE and Saudi Arabia 'come from Iran'

Rebel leader's threats another attempt by Tehran to destabilise region, Yemeni government official says

The head of the revolutionary committee of Yemen's Shiite Houthi rebels, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi speaks to a reporter during an interview with Associated Press in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday Mar. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

The Yemeni government said threats repeated by the leader of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels to attack Abu Dhabi and Riyadh were part of Tehran’s response to the US cutting waivers for countries importing oil from Iran.

“Our missiles are capable of reaching Riyadh and beyond Riyadh, to Dubai and Abu Dhabi,” Abdulmalik Al Houthi told the rebel-run Masirah TV.

He said the attacks would be launched if there was any escalation in fighting in the port city of Hodeidah, in which the rebels have breached a UN-led agreement for a ceasefire hundreds of times.

But Hamza Al Kamaly, Yemen's deputy minister of youth, told The National on Tuesday that the threats came from Tehran, which was again trying to destabilise the region.

“This is an Iranian threat that is projected through the Houthis,” Mr Al Kamaly said. “The US and the international community needs to take this very seriously because Iran is attempting to retaliate to Washington’s cancellation of Iran’s sanction waivers.”

Iran has been interfering in Arab states in an attempt to “destablise and terrorise” the region, Mr Al Kamaly said.

The rebels regularly fire missiles into southern Saudi Arabia and occasionally aim at its capital or assets of the state oil company, Saudi Aramco.

Most of the missiles are intercepted by the Saudi Arabian military.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE intervened in Yemen at the request of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi to fight the Houthis after they seized control of the Yemeni capital Sanaa in 2014.

The UN is struggling to implement a pact agreed to at talks last December in Sweden that would result in a ceasefire and troops withdrawal from the three ports of Hodeidah.

It was the first major breakthrough in peace efforts to end the war that has killed tens of thousands and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

The deal was a trust-building step aimed at avoiding an assault on Hodeidah by the Arab Coalition trying to restore the internationally recognised government of Mr Hadi, and paving the way for political talks to set up a transitional government.

Last week, the UN Security Council urged the warring parties to withdraw forces from Hodeidah "as soon as possible".

Meanwhile, the Houthis' Interior Minister, Abdulhakim Al Maori, died at the age of 60 on Monday.

Al Maori was receiving treatment for a chronic disease in a Lebanese hospital.

Lebanon is the home of the Iran-backed militia group Hezbollah, whose members are fighting alongside the Houthis.