Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Are a Threat to America’s Allies and Interests

Jan. 22 2021

In one of his final acts as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo designated Ansar Allah, better known as the Houthis—an Iran-backed Yemeni guerrilla group—as a terrorist organization, thus imposing sanctions. Jonathan Spyer explains why:

The Yemeni interior consists largely of sand and rock. But the country abuts a strategic choke point of global importance. This is the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea, . . . a vital route for oil and natural-gas shipments passing from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea and on to the Suez Canal. Around 9 percent of total global petroleum products pass through the strait. Had the Houthis captured the area in 2015, they would have given their patron—Iran—the ability to choke off the Strait at will, and thus to hold the world economy ransom. The Saudis and their allies, [who have intervened to prop up the government the Houthis want to overthrow], failed to reconquer the entirety of Yemen from the pro-Iranian forces. But they did protect Bab el-Mandeb. Similarly, the intervention prevented the main port of Yemen, al-Hudayda, from falling under the complete control of the Houthis.

The result is that Yemen, like a number of other Arab countries, is now subject to de-facto division and ongoing conflict.

Iran uses the territory in Yemen controlled by the Houthis for the launching of missiles on Saudi Arabia. The Houthis also provide a convenient, ostensibly independent address, at which Teheran can “park” acts for which it prefers not to claim responsibility. For example, the Houthis claimed responsibility for the very significant, extensive and sophisticated attack on Saudi oil facilities . . . in September 2019. The attack involved the use of drones and cruise missiles, and was far beyond capabilities that the Houthis could have mustered independently.

From Yemen, Iran and its allies can also fire rockets at Israel.

Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Mike Pompeo, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy