Abu Dhabi attack proves Houthis want no peace, say experts

Act of terror backfired as international community has come together to designate Houthis as terrorist organisation, expert says.

by Anjana Sankar

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram


Reuters file photo shows Houthi rebels riding on the back of a truck.
Reuters file photo shows Houthi rebels riding on the back of a truck.

Published: Tue 18 Jan 2022, 8:25 PM

The seven-year war in Yemen that the Saudi-led coalition forces are fighting came closer to home in the UAE on Monday when Houthi rebels launched attacks on the country’s capital, Abu Dhabi.

But the ‘desperate’ attack by the Iran-backed group that suffered setbacks in the oil-rich Shabwa province at the hands of the UAE military recently, has put the spotlight back on the group as a terrorist organisation, political analysts say.

Mohammed Baharoon, Director General of Dubai Public Policy Research Centre, B’huh, said the act of terror has backfired as the international community has come together to designate them as terrorist organisation.

“They (Houthis) miscalculated it. There are already international voices to put them back on the list of international terrorist organisations. When we see a terrorist attack, we should be able to recognise it as a terrorist attack,” said Baharoon.

The United States, under the Biden administration, officially removed Houthi militia and its leaders from the terror list in February 2021 claiming the move would promote dialogue between the two warring groups in Yemen.

But the Iran-backed Houthis that now control a vast majority of Yemen’s north, have launched multiple missiles and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, the latest being the deadly attack on the Aramco oil facility in November last year.

US made a mistake, Houthis should be on terror list

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Hamzah Alkamaly, Yemen’s Deputy Minister for youth and sports, said the recent attack on Abu Dhabi airport and ADNOC’s fuel tanks prove that the US “made a mistake.”

“The US should have never removed the Houthis from the FTO (Foreign Terrorist Organisation). They should be put right back there.”

Alkamaly said the Houthi militia has proved that they are not just a threat to Yemen or Saudi Arabia. “We have been saying from day one that they are an international threat. They are the most dangerous terrorist organisation in the world that uses any form of violence against soft targets,” said the minister.

Toeing the line, Dr. Ian Ralby, founder and CEO of I.R. Consilium, a US-based Think Tank, said the Houthis have repeatedly shown with their actions - regardless of their words - that they do not want peace.

“This provocation of the UAE through an attack on ADNOC in the peaceful capital of Abu Dhabi is their latest cry for attention and effort to inspire hostile aggression,” said Ralby.

According to him, the recent attack is a strong affirmation from Houthis that they are willing to take the war beyond Yemen’s border.

“They've done so both in Saudi Arabia and in the maritime space quite successfully over the last few years. Attacking sovereign territory of UAE is also not new. In fact, they did so when they attacked a vessel on January 2 this year in the Red Sea, but doing so in the capital is a different story. And it shows that the regional dynamics are shifting, and the will and mindset of the Houthis is becoming more aggressive.”

On February 2, the Houthis seized a UAE-flagged ship called "Rawabi" off the Yemen coast triggering international condemnation.

Desperate retaliation act

The Yemeni civil war began in 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa, 120 kilometres (75 miles) west of Marib, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene to prop up the government the following year.

The protracted war in Yemen fought between the coalition forces and the Houthi rebels, has triggered an unprecedented humanitarian crisis pushing millions into poverty. Despite the UN efforts to bring the warring factions to the negotiating table and a brief de-escalation in 2020, the conflict has intensified again.

In Marib, coalition forces had dealt severe losses to Houthis in air strikes in October last year, and claimed to have killed 700 rebel fighters.

Adam Baron, political analyst and an expert on Yemen, said the attacks on Abu Dhabi come in the wake of significant losses for the Houthis in the strategic province of Shabwa.


Saleh Al Batati, a senior journalist based in Aden, Yemen said the recent attacks show Houthis are taking even bolder steps that “nobody even imagined.”

“Houthis believe that have nothing more to lose, and that that’s why they crossed the ‘red line.’ These attacks are to boost the morale of their fighters. In other words, they want to compensate for their losses,” said Batati.


Anjana Sankar

More news from