What Did The Houthis’ Attempted Bombing Of Israel Aim To Achieve?

The Houthis’ attempted bombing of Israel is a major move because it was arguably approved by Iran, which authorized this attack despite the risk that it could worsen relations with Saudi Arabia.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels recently released footage purporting to show the drones and missiles that they claim to have launched at Israel. Their spokesman’s full-throated support for Hamas was wrongly interpreted by some social media users as a declaration of war against Israel by the Yemeni state, the perception of which was rubbished by its internationally recognized government’s Ambassador to Russia. The self-professed Jewish State also downplayed it too and said that it isn’t at war with Yemen.

This group’s attempted bombing of Israel took place a few days after Beirut-based Al Mayadeen claimed without evidence that the Houthis had earlier attacked an alleged Israeli base in Eritrea, which the latter’s Minister of Information denied. This analysis here argues that the purpose behind that report was to boost the Iranian-led Axis of Resistance’s morale amidst Hezbollah’s reluctance to wage all-out war against Israel in support of Hamas by opening up a second front to distract it from Gaza.

Since then, the Houthis actually did try to attack Israel, albeit directly instead of via third countries like Eritrea where there’s no credible reason to believe that it even has a base. In hindsight, Al Mayadeen’s report either pressured that group to do something tangible or it was designed to precondition their targeted audience of Resistance Axis supporters to expect the aforesaid after being tipped off about it. Speculation about that outlet’s motives aside, it’s now a fact that the Houthis have joined the fray.

This naturally leads to the question of what they aimed to achieve by doing so. First and foremost, they likely wanted to signal to their ideological allies that they won’t sit aside while the latest Israeli-Hamas war rages in Gaza. At the very least, this group felt obligated to send a few projectiles towards the conflict zone out of solidarity. It’s unclear whether more will be forthcoming, but the point is that this attempted bombing sought to reinforce their credentials as reliable members of the Resistance Axis.

Secondly, there’s no doubt that the Houthis also wanted to put pressure on Saudi Arabia seeing as how their projectiles had to have traveled through its airspace en route to the self-professed Jewish State. This risks ruining their ongoing peace talks, but the group seemingly calculated that showing solidarity with their allies takes precedence over all else, including the chance that this rekindles their mostly frozen conflict with the Kingdom, whether deliberately or by miscalculation.

The abovementioned observation suggests that: 1) their peace talks might have stalled so the Houthis have stopped exercising self-restraint, possibly as a tactic for coercing concessions from Saudi Arabia; 2) they want to provoke the Saudis into intercepting those projectiles in Israel’s defense (whether on their own prerogative or at Israel’s request) and thus damaging their reputation in many Muslims’ eyes; and 3) the Chinese-brokered Iranian-Saudi rapprochement could be imperiled by this latest development.   

The last of these three observations leads to the final goal that the Houthis might have sought to achieve via their attempted bombing of Israel, which was either to unilaterally exacerbate the security dilemma between those two that’s improved over the past year or do so at their Iranian ally’s behest. Neither motive can be known for sure, but the first scenario suggests that this group is going rogue while the second suggests that Tehran is willing to risk its relations with Riyadh as part of opportunistic power play.

The former is a lot less likely than the latter, however, which raises serious concerns for regional stability since any subsequent deterioration of bilateral ties would have far-reaching reverberations. Apart from the worst-case scenario of large-scale hostilities recommencing in Yemen, their restored rivalry could: 1) impede BRICS’ multilateral efforts to accelerate financial multipolarity processes; 2) pressure Russia and China to take one’s side at the other’s expense; and 3) see the return of proxy warfare between them.

Considering the enormity of what’s at stake, it can therefore be concluded that the Houthis’ attempted bombing of Israel is a major move because it was arguably approved by Iran, which authorized this attack despite the risk that it could worsen relations with Saudi Arabia. This throws the Kingdom into a dilemma since intercepting these projectiles and/or militarily retailing against that group in Yemen might be exactly what those two want it to do but not responding at all also entails some risks to its interests too.

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