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Al-Houthi created an effective fighting force
He made his name as a tough battlefield commander
Its terrorists have attacked Saudi Arabia, UAE
Houthis say Red Sea attacks are in protest against Gaza war
By Michael Georgi and Aziz El Yacoubi
DUBAI/RIAH, Jan 12 (Reuters) – Abdul Malik al-Houthi, the mysterious leader of Yemen’s Houthi fighters, whose attacks on Red Sea shipping have infuriated American and British forces, has challenged world powers with the ragtag militia. Have created a rebel army to give. Sandals.
Many shipping lines have suspended operations or taken the longer route around Africa due to the campaign by the Houthis, who rule much of Yemen after overcoming difficult odds in the war against forces backed by powerhouse Saudi Arabia. .
Iran-backed militants have vowed to maintain pressure on global shipping trade, which could hit the world economy, unless Israel stops bombing Gaza to eliminate Hamas, which is also backed by Iran. .
The Houthis said they would retaliate after US and British warplanes, ships and submarines struck Yemen overnight in retaliation for attacks on Red Sea shipping, which has escalated regional conflict over the Gaza conflict and what some analysts say The Houthis’ hard work may be weakened. Fought for domestic gains.
“They have been able to survive for the last eight years, they have expanded their power, but now they are inviting airstrikes from the most powerful military in the world,” said Tobias Bork, Middle East Security Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. Have been.”
Al-Houthi had established a reputation as a fierce battlefield commander before emerging as the head of the Houthi movement, mountain fighters who have been fighting a Saudi-led military coalition since 2015, killing thousands, in Yemen. It devastated the U.S. economy and left millions dead. hungry.
Under the direction of al-Houthi, who is about 40, the group has amassed thousands of fighters and a vast arsenal of armed drones and ballistic missiles. It has used them to repeatedly attack strategic Saudi infrastructure despite years of bombardment of its territory.
In January 2022, the Houthis raised the stakes with a missile attack on the United Arab Emirates, a Gulf tourism and commercial hub like Saudi Arabia, a key US ally.
“He (al-Houthi) managed to transform a mostly rural militia engaged in insurgency tactics into one of the most resilient non-state armed groups in the region,” said Ludovico Carlino, principal analyst at Country Risk, Middle East and North Africa. Its market.
In a speech in 2022, al-Houthi said his goal was to be able to attack any target in Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, both major OPEC oil producers that provide Iran and its proxies for power in the Middle East and beyond. Seen as major security threats. ,
shrouded in mystery
Al-Houthi is known for rarely staying in one place, never meeting the media, and extreme reluctance to make scheduled public appearances.
A source familiar with the matter said, since the beginning of the Yemen war – which is widely seen as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran – foreign officials dealing with al-Houthi have never met him personally. Have not met.
Many wishing to attend the meeting were asked to travel to the Houthi stronghold of Sanaa, where a Houthi security convoy would escort them to safe houses and undergo a security check before being taken to an upstairs room where they could only be seen on a screen. Will give.
The Houthi movement was formed to fight for the interests of Zaidi Shiites, a minority sect that ruled Yemen for a 1,000-year empire until 1962 but felt increasingly threatened by the 1990–2012 regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Iran’s support for the Houthis, who forced Yemen’s Saudi-backed internationally recognized government into exile in 2021, has helped Tehran expand its regional proxy network, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iraq and Syria. Militias are involved.
Yemen experts say the Houthis are primarily motivated by a domestic agenda, although they share political ties with Iran and Hezbollah. The Houthis deny being puppets of Tehran and say they are fighting a corrupt system and regional aggression.
‘axis of resistance’
Iran supports the Houthis as part of its regional “axis of resistance” – a group of Iran-backed groups – and the movement has adopted elements of Tehran’s revolutionary ideology.
Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse Iran of arming and training the Houthis, allegations Tehran denies. Analysts say the Houthis are more independent than Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Peter Salisbury, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said, “He (al-Houthi) is less beholden to the Iranians than to Hezbollah. In other words he has not been told to do x, y and z and he does “
The Houthis, like other parties in Yemen’s politics, operate in a field of shifting alliances.
In late 2017, he assassinated former President Saleh in a roadside RPG attack after he switched sides to the Saudi-led coalition. They have also created a military state to consolidate their hold.
“The Houthis also rely on a very brutal internal intelligence apparatus to suppress any kind of dissent,” said analyst Carlino.
In pre-recorded speeches and sermons, al-Houthi, who traces his lineage to the Prophet Mohammed, has claimed that his movement is under siege solely because of its religion.
“We must focus on preserving the authenticity of our Islamic affiliation and identity,” he said in a speech denouncing the ‘soft war’ of influence to weaken Houthi morale. “The most dangerous war we face today.”
(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper in London, Writing by Michael Georgi; Editing by Philip Fletcher)