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Iran-backed Houthis and defense of Saudi Arabia

Houthis, Yemen, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Saudis

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Iran-backed Houthis and defense of Saudi Arabia

The Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen have been attacking Saudi Arabia for years, sending rockets and drones to hit airbases and oil installations. Writes Hugh Fitzgerald

The Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen have been attacking Saudi Arabia for years, sending rockets and drones to hit airbases and oil installations. Now, in January, they have started to hit targets in the UAE. This escalation comes at a bad time. The Biden administration has this year removed its most advanced missile defense systems from Saudi Arabia, a sign of the Bidenites’ displeasure over civilian casualties in Yemen attributed to Saudi airstrikes, and anger over the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Joel Rosenberg thinks it is time the Israelis offered to help the Saudis defend themselves. His proposal is detailed here: ”Israel should help Saudi Arabia’s defense in exchange for peace – opinion,” by Joel C. Rosenberg, Jerusalem Post, January 23, 2022:

Over the past five years, Houthi terrorists in Yemen have launched more than 4,100 violent attacks against Saudi Arabia. This includes more than 1,000 ballistic missile and drone attacks against Saudi cities, airports, and other civilian population centers. More than 100 Saudis have been killed in these attacks, and hundreds more have been wounded.

While the Houthis are directly responsible for launching these attacks, they are being armed, advised and encouraged by the terrorist regime in Tehran. When I was last in Saudi Arabia in September 2019, the Iranians directly attacked Saudi oil refineries with deadly drones launched from Iranian soil.

Yet rather than stand solidly with the kingdom – one of America’s most important allies in the Middle East – President Joe Biden came into office calling the Saudis a “pariah state” and ordering the Pentagon to stop selling military equipment to the Saudis to fend off, much less defeat, the Houthi terrorists….

Just as the Houthis were increasing attacks on the Kingdom, in a series of weapons withdrawals, the Bidenites removed the Patriot anti-missile batteries from Saudi Arabia. In September, they also removed what is apparently “its most advanced missile defense system,” including the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense unit, or THAAD. This left the Saudis with no defense system capable of stopping Houthi, or Iranian, missiles.

WITH THE Saudis feeling increasingly vulnerable not only to Iranian-built missiles and drones but potentially to an arsenal of Iranian nuclear weapons – especially if the Vienna talks break down or lead to a lousy deal – it is time for the Israelis to step in.

Over recent decades, the Israeli military has built a state-of-the-art air defense system capability that has become the envy of the world. The multilayered system includes defenses against long-range, medium-range, and short-range missiles, as well as drones and rockets….

Israel has built a multilayered anti-missile defense system that rivals even what the largest countries –including the United States– possess. These systems can be used, too, against rocket and drone attacks, which lately have been used more frequently by the Houthis.This is exactly what Saudi Arabia now needs, since the Bidenites have left it to fend for itself.

Of course, with Senator Rand Paul holding up the funding for Israel to replace the Iron Dome missiles it used in the Gaza war, it’s not clear when Israel will be able to have enough on hand to supply the Saudis with Iron Dome batteries. But it has other parts of its “multilayered defense system” that are ready right now for delivery, should the Saudis decide to cut a deal with the Jewish state.

For years Israel has shared its intelligence on Iran with the Saudis. But now the Saudis need more – they need defensive weapons from Israel, to protect their airbases and, especially, their oil wells an oil refineries. Biden has shown just how great is his antipathy to the Saudis, so great that he is willing to pull out our anti-missile defenses, leaving the Kingdom largely unprotected from Houthi and Iranian missile and drone attacks. Fortunately, Israel is ready, wiling, and able to replace the kind of defenses that Biden has pulled out.

Prime Minister Bennett knows how long, and how usefully, Israel and Saudi Arabia have already been cooperating on intelligence; why should they not take the next step? Bennett should make, privately, a proposal to MBS to take the security cooperation further, and offer to sell the Saudis the defensive weapons they most need. And with the Saudi money Israel receives, it will have the wherewithal to produce still more advanced weapons, defensive and offensive, both for itself and for the Kingdom.

The deal could also include production facilities so both countries could build their own interceptors and not have to rely on the Biden administration, or other future American administrations that refuse to fund or provide urgently needed defense systems, or drag their feet in doing so.

I doubt that the Saudis are capable, now or in the near future, of building their own interceptors, or indeed any advanced defense systems. But Rosenberg thinks that with Israel as its instructor, the Kingdom might eventually be able to do so. Meanwhile, as long as Israel — that does have the technological wherewithal to produce advanced anti-missile systems but has always been limited by budgetary constraints — is willing to keep supplying the Saudis with them, the Kingdom will be relatively secure. And it no longer need worry about waning support in Washington.

Once implemented, the deal could be expanded to allow the Saudis and Israelis to help other moderate Arab states in the region build far more advanced air defense systems of their own. This past week’s missile and drone attacks on the United Arab Emirates reveal that the Emiratis are far too vulnerable and need such a system. The Bahrainis also do, among others….

The Emiratis certainly need some protection, now that Iran has apparently given the Houthis the go-ahead to attack. Two strikes on the Emirates by the Houthis within one week is enough to get their attention. As the first Arab member of the Abraham Accords, the U.A.E. has already entered into a defense deal with the Israelis; they will jointly develop unmanned military vessels.I suspect that after the second Houthi attack, the Emirates has now started discussing with Israel about buying Iron Dome batteries. As for Saudi Arabia, last September, just after Biden had pulled out the remaining Patriot missiles and THAAD missile defense from the Kingdom, there were stories about a possible sale to Riyadh of Iron Dome batteries; where things now stand is unknown. Certainly If the U.S. continues to delay the one billion dollars in funding for Israel to produce more Iron Dome missiles, the deep-pocketed Saudis can easily come up with the money.

Recently the quasi-official Saudi newspaper Okaz published a piece denouncing the Palestinians, noting that they had sided with Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait, and had urged him to press onward into Saudi Arabia; more recently, the Palestinians have been supported by Tehran and in turn have supported Iran and the Houthis in Yemen. And they took these anti-Saudi positions despite having received $6.5 billion over the years from the Saudis. The author suggests that it is time that the Kingdom completely cut its ties to the ungrateful Palestinians. Such an article could only have appeared with the approval of the Saudi government – that is, the approval of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. This is likely the opening salvo in a campaign to convince the Saudi public that the country has nothing to lose by cutting the ungrateful Palestinians loose, and much to gain from becoming the fifth Arab member of the Abraham Accords. The Kingdom can now be kept secure — as secure as is possible — from Iranian and Houthi attacks by Israeli-supplied defensive missiles and drones. Unlike the Americans, the Israelis live in the same neighborhood as both Saudi Arabia and Iran; they know what is at stake.

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Blitz’s Editorial Board is responsible for the stories published under this byline. This includes editorials, news stories, letters to the editor, and multimedia features on WeeklyBlitz.net

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