The Iran-backed Houthis doubled the number of attacks on civilian targets in Saudi Arabia during the first nine months of this year compared to the same period in 2020, according to a report published by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
And it has been Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force and Lebanon’s Hezbollah that have played a “critical role in providing weapons, technology, training, and other assistance to the Yemen-based Houthis,” the report said.
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Recommending that the US increase its aid to Saudi Arabia to defend itself, the report looked at over 4,000 Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, inside Yemen and other maritime attacks in the Gulf from January 2016 until October 21, 2021.
From January to September last year, the Houthis carried out an average of 38 attacks per month. In contrast, attacks have increased to an average of 78 per month. That is a total of 702 this year alone, the report said.
The uptick was a direct result of the continued Houthi offensive on Marib, one of the Yemeni government’s last strongholds in the north.
According to CSIS, August of this year saw 133 total attacks, the highest number of Houthi attacks in one month since 2016.
“In fact, the total number of attacks in the first nine months of 2021 were higher than the entire year of 2020,” the CSIS report said.
Data also showed that there had been a decline in the number of Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia in 2019 and 2020 before increasing this year.
This shows that the Houthis continue to have the ability and desire to conduct stand-off attacks, the report said.“Second, the Houthis are utilizing more advanced weapons, such as cruise and ballistic missiles, which suggests that their capabilities are improving. Third, the Houthis continue to complement their actions in Saudi Arabia with military offensives in some areas of Yemen, including in Marib Province,” CSIS said.
Upon analyzing this data, CSIS found that the Houthis were increasing their “irregular warfare campaign” against Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries in a sign of escalating violence in Yemen.
“Despite Saudi successes in shooting down Houthi missiles and drones, Iran and the Houthis have demonstrated a persistent ability to threaten Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Gulf,” the report said, citing Saudi ground and air forces shooting down around 90 percent of drones and missiles launched from Yemen.
The report recommended that the US and its allies conduct a “more aggressive campaign to publicly highlight” Iranian and Houthi activities.
“Not only has there been a rise in the number of attacks against Saudi Arabia over the past year, but Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah continue to provide the Houthis with increasingly sophisticated weapons systems.”
Short-term goals of the Houthis include maintaining influence and power inside Yemen and on the international stage, CSIS said.
“In the long term, the Houthis seek the establishment of a theocratic Yemen under Houthi leadership,” the report said.