Stopping Iran’s Missile War on Saudi Arabia

Nov. 10 2017

This weekend, Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a missile at Riyadh, which was successfully intercepted by the anti-missile system provided to the Saudis by the U.S. The strike is part of the bloody civil war in Yemen, in which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and their allies are trying to drive out the Houthis and their allies and restore the internationally-recognized government—thus preventing Yemen from becoming another satellite of Tehran. Michael Knights writes:

Since the Saudi-led intervention began in March 2015, Houthi rebels have fired hundreds of short-range tactical rockets and missiles into Saudi Arabia, along with at least 30 longer-range ballistic missiles. The vast majority of these strikes have . . . targeted Saudi border towns and military bases, resulting in thousands of civilians wounded or displaced. Other types of systems have also been used in large numbers, including unguided Qaher-1 free-flight missiles launched at targets up to 250 km inside Saudi Arabia, particularly King Khaled Air Base and the adjacent Khamis Mushait Military City. . . .

Iran has a long history of helping foreign militant allies with missile programs, providing Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad with expert support operatives and a series of rocket and missile systems. More to the point, Iran has openly acknowledged its military assistance to the Houthis. . . .

For Iran, providing missile and other military support to the Houthis is a no-brainer. At very little cost, its Revolutionary Guard can strengthen ties with a regional ally and demonstrate its ability to threaten Saudi Arabia, and perhaps the UAE and Qatar as well, where vital U.S. bases lie just outside the current range of Houthi missiles. And if the rebels manage to hit a crucial U.S. or allied target, the Iranians are confident that the Houthis will pay the price, not them.

At the tactical level, the Revolutionary Guard is well aware that every missile attack drains Saudi capabilities, since a Houthi missile costing at most $1 million must be intercepted by Patriot missiles costing $2-3 million each. Continued attacks could even force the Saudis to develop another axis of expensive missile defenses in addition to the set required to defend itself against Iran across the Persian Gulf. The Revolutionary Guard is also learning valuable lessons about how its own missiles might perform against U.S.-provided defenses. For all these reasons, the missile war needs to stop.

Knights suggests how the U.S. can help make this happen by tightening the arms blockade on Yemen, providing intelligence and air support to Saudi Arabia, and other measures.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank