Did Iran Just Gain a Foothold in Yemen?

After protracted fighting, the Houthis, a heavily armed Shiite clan cum political movement with close ties to Iran, have seized control of the Yemenite capital and government institutions. Even as, elsewhere in the country, al-Qaeda remains very much alive, the Houthi takeover could have far-reaching regional consequences. Jacques Neriah writes:

The Yemeni conflict has an important strategic dimension. While over the last few years international attention has been drawn to the Iranian threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, public discourse has not been focused on the Bab al Mandeb Strait at Yemen’s southern tip, which serves as the outlet of the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. Iran has been positioning itself to build up its presence in the Red Sea region for many years. A Houthi-controlled Yemen could evolve into a full-scale Iranian stronghold in the future and threaten the freedom of movement within vital sea routes between Europe and the Far East.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Al Qaeda, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen


The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas