Peace may be in the air for Yemen after years of war. Saudi Arabia intervened in the large West Asian country in 2015 to stop the Iran-backed Houthis from conquering a swath of it. Since the intervention, the war has stalled and now a Saudi-Omani delegation seeks to forge peace with Sanaa in Yemen. This would end eight years of war.
This is a good year for Yemen; it comes amid new Iran-Saudi ties. Iran and Saudi Arabia may be reopening embassies, and a peace deal for the country would mean the reopening of ports and aid flowing in.
According to media in the Gulf, the Saudi-led Arab coalition has lifted an eight-year old restriction on imports for Yemen’s ports. “This follows the easing of restrictions in February on commercial goods entering the Houthi-held western port of Hodeidah, the country’s main seaport,” reports Al-Arabiya.
Houthis stockpiled weapons
The Iran-backed Houthis now have a massive stockpile of weapons – including ballistic missiles and drones – that they will not be able to use against Saudi Arabia. Iran will be able to shift the weapons and funding for the Houthis to other fronts.
It is possible that the Houthis and Iran may now seek to focus threats on Israel. This could mean an increase of threats to shipping off the coast of Oman. In the past, Iran has targeted commercial ships with drones far off the coast.
The Houthis have long sought to knit their conflict into other conflicts in the region. They support Hamas and Hezbollah and their official slogan includes the words “curse the Jews; death to Israel.” The Houthis have been putting out messaging for years saying they want to be involved in operations to help the Palestinians and defend “al-Aqsa.” They also have dangerous advanced weapons.
In 2021, Iran even sent long-range kamikaze drones to Yemen. The Houthis were the testbed for many Iranian drones, including technology for drones that are now used by Russia against Ukraine.
This illustrates the dangerous nature of the Houthis and also the ramifications that may come with a peace deal in Yemen. The Houthis may not be ready to end their war. They also have weapons that could be transferred to Syria or other fronts. Iran may also use resources it was sending to Yemen on new fronts.
This week, the US warned about the possibility of growing Iranian threats in the Middle East. It may be that the Yemen peace deal that is coming will also enable Iran to concentrate attacks elsewhere. Having sealed a deal with Saudi Arabia, Tehran may now seek to focus on threats against Israel and the US, which Iran has long viewed as the two countries against which it wants to “resist” in the region.