Countering the Rise of the Houthis in Yemen

  • Lieutenant Colonel Brian Albon

Iranian supported Houthi rebels are the primary destabilizing factor in Yemen. Iranian provision of money, training, and lethal aid to this quasi-Shia minority empowered them to oust the internationally recognized government of Yemen and plunge the impoverished nation into civil war. This Houthi-caused strife precipitated a significant humanitarian disaster by creating over one million internally displaced people that greatly exacerbated preexisting food, water, and fuel shortages. The Houthis also expanded the fighting into Saudi Arabia in retaliation for the Saudi-led coalition fighting to return ousted Yemeni President Hadi to power. Iranian armed Houthi fighters could easily threaten global shipping passing through the Bab el-Mandab Strait in which 4.7 million barrels of oil transit daily. Lastly, the Houthi-generated civil war disrupted U.S. counterterrorism operations targeting Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, arguably one of the most dangerous extremist groups attempting to target the U.S. homeland. U.S. intervention through diplomatic dialogue and economic incentives to persuade Iran to abandon their lethal aid and decrease financial support to the Houthi rebels would likely revert the Houthis to a localized danger vice a regional threat.