Iran’s Presence in Yemen Poses a Strategic Threat to Israel

January 10, 2020 | Uzi Rubin
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As recent attacks on American positions in Iraq have shown, the Islamic Republic maintains a significant arsenal of rockets, which play an essential role in its military doctrine. And in typical fashion, the Iranian-made missiles that killed an American contractor on December 27 were fired by one of Tehran’s many proxy militias, which it has supplied amply with such weapons. The ayatollahs have also armed Hizballah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen with numerous missiles, some of them quite sophisticated. Their aim, writes Uzi Rubin, is to surround the Jewish state with a “ring of fire”:

At present, the Israeli heartland is threatened by Iranian-supplied rockets and missiles from the north (Lebanon) and the southwest (Gaza). [Reportedly], Tehran has [also] begun to supply its affiliated militias in Iraq with missiles that can reach Israel. . . . Iran can hit Israel with missiles from within its


own territory and has no need to base them in Iraq, but its proclaimed “no first strike” policy prevents it from threatening Israel directly unless it is first attacked by Israel. [However], Iranian missiles in Iraq—repainted and rebranded as “Iraqi-developed”—would not need the excuse of justified retaliation to be employed against Israel and would allow Tehran to maintain a smokescreen of deniability.

[In addition], there is already a covert Iranian missile force masquerading as a “Yemeni-developed” arsenal in Houthi-controlled Yemen, and it is directed against Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies. This arsenal has been used over the past four years to strike deep into Saudi Arabia, including eight attacks on the capital city of Riyadh. . . . The Iranians may now be striving to extend the capability of their missile force in Yemen to cover Israel, too.

Yemen lies southeast of Israel, a direction from which no strategic threat has been envisaged to date. Deployment of Israel-range ballistic and cruise missiles in Yemen would force Jerusalem to dilute its existing north- and southwestern-facing defenses in favor of a southeastern-facing defensive shield, or to invest heavily in additional early-warning and active-defense systems to close the gap.

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