Thu - 20 Jan 2022 - 01:31 AM

written by : Khairallah Khairallah Writer Archive -

More than anything else, the terrorist targeting of the United Arab Emirates has revealed the extent of the blow suffered by the Houthis (Ansar Allah group) in the Yemeni governorates of Shabwa and Marib.

In fact, it was a severe blow altogether to the Iranian project in Yemen. The forces of the Giants Brigade, which are mostly from Yemen’s south, were able to bring about a major change on the ground after the city of Marib itself was on the verge of falling into the hands of the Houthis, that is, into the hands of Iran.

It is certain that the air force of the Arab coalition played a major role in defeating the Houthis in Shabwa and in achieving breakthroughs in the Marib governorate itself. Instead of searching for a peaceful solution for the havoc it has wreaked on Yemen, the Ansar Allah group confirmed, through its missile and drone attacks on the Mussafah Industrial Area and Abu Dhabi Airport, that it is simply bent on escalation.

Moreover, the attacks showed that it is holding on to the belief that the Iranian project in Yemen is still alive and well. The Houthis seem to think they are able to transform an area extending from Marib to the port of Hodeidah on the Red Sea, without forgetting Sana’a, into a swathe of land serving as a base for the missiles and drones of the “Islamic Republic.”

Their terrorist act is perhaps the most potent indication that the mullahs’ regime cannot change its aggressive nature. It can pretend to be moderate, here and there, such as by expressing readiness for dialogue with Saudi Arabia.

But in reality, the Iranian regime always needs to export its crises beyond its borders, including to the UAE, a peaceful country, that is looking for zero problems with all countries of the world, including Iran.

Only a few weeks ago, UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed was in Tehran. It seems clear that Tehran says something in public and does the opposite in secret.

Regionally, the targeting of the UAE is a dangerous development which has to be seen from two perspectives. The first relates to the Houthis themselves, who cannot engage in any peace project. This was confirmed by their rejection of the Saudi peace initiative of last March. That dismissal was expressed by the late Iranian High Commissioner in Sana’a, Hassan Erlo, who quickly tweeted, “The initiative of Saudi Arabia in Yemen is a project of permanent war and of war crimes, not an end to the war.” The Houthis had no choice but to obey the will of Erlo, the Iranian “Revolutionary Guard” officer.

The second perspective relates to Iran itself. In light of its upping the ante with the UAE, one realises all manoeuvres by the Islamic Republic aim to promote its expansionist project, whether in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen … or in the Vienna talks.

It is unfortunate that Iran only ever provides evidence, again and again, that it cannot be a normal country among others in the region nor is it able to establish good relations with its neighbours.

The Iranian aggression against the UAE, an aggression carried out by Houthi proxies, showed that the problem with Iran is not in its nuclear programme as much as its behaviour outside its borders. That problem stems from its sectarian militias, missiles and drones.

What Iran has done in Yemen proves that all it wants is to consolidate its role as the regional hegemon, even if this is at the expense of certain Arab countries and their well-being. In Yemen, for example, one sees no other Iranian project outside Tehran’s attempt to convert part of its territory into a base for Iranian missiles and drones which are used to blackmail the countries of the region and the world.

The Houthis do not have any civilisational project which they can offer Yemen. The most dangerous manifestation of this state of affairs is the disastrous shape of education in Yemen today. Hundreds of thousands of children are on the streets. If they were ever taught anything, it was myths and slogans which do not bring food to the table. Instead of preparing these children for the future, the Houthis have plunged them into pointless wars under extremist slogans that perpetuate the culture of death.

In the end, the UAE will prove, as usual, that it is not a country that can be subjected to blackmail. The Emirates will respond in the appropriate manner, as it possesses the means of responding in Yemen where it has only done good deeds. One remembers that Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, may God have mercy on him, was behind the rebuilding of the Marib Dam, which was inaugurated in 1986, so that the Yemenis had water to remain on their land. The UAE was behind the Marib dam while Iran was behind the Marib wars, which must end some day.

* Khairallah Khairallah is a Lebanese writer and columnist who was formerly Annahar's foreign editor (1976-1988) and Al-Hayat's managing editor (1988-1998).

The article was originally published by the London-based The Arab Weekly newspaper on Wednesday, 19 January 2021. The views expressed represent the author alone.