The lack of arms control in Yemen – over the past few decades – represents a danger to the country's stability and security. Weapons were previously considered to be a source of pride to the Yemenis; however they have now crossed the line and these are no longer "Jambiyaa" [traditional Yemeni dagger] but rather guns, anti-tank missiles, surface-to-air missiles, mortars, bazookas, etc. The recent war between the government and the Huthi rebels reflects the danger that the influx of weapons into the country represents, and this has allowed the Huthi rebels to continue their insurgency against the state.
With the official talk from Yemen initially disparaging the strength and potential of the Houthis everybody expected the Yemeni government to resolve this crisis in a few short days. However the Houthi insurgency surviving for this length of time leaves no room for doubt that what was being seen on the surface with regards to the Houthi [military] preparations was nothing more than the tip of the iceberg, and accurate information about the Houthis military arsenal, internal organization, and external links are lacking. Events have clarified the enormity of the Huthi problem, which is not confined to the Yemeni border, but has now stepped over the line to include Yemen's northern neighbor, Saudi Arabia. This was seen in Houthi militants creeping across the Saudi border to attack border guard stations, and threaten residents of nearby villages. The Huthis embarked upon this campaign after they failed to convince anybody of their claim that the Saudi Arabian Air Force was attacking them in coordination with the Yemeni army.
I am confident that the Houthis have committed a grave mistake by expanding their military operations onto Saudi Arabian soil, and this will exact a heavy toll from them. Despite Saudi's awareness of the danger that the Houthi rebels represent, and the slogans and ideology that they believe in, and the position that they adopt, Saudi Arabia previously regarded the Houthis merely as an internal Yemeni issue. However the Huthis transgressing upon Saudi territory has filled the Saudi Arabians with firmness and determination which will cost the Huthis a heavy price. Every inch of Saudi territory that the Huthis advance represents Riyadh, Mecca, Dammam, Ha'il, Jizan and Abha, and the security and stability of one region of Saudi Arabia is the security and stability of Saudi Arabia as a whole. The Houthis failed to understand this, and failed to appreciate the consequences of crossing into Saudi Arabia. They believed that crossing into Saudi Arabia would gain them media hype, but they gained noting but the loathing of the world and the disgrace of defeat.
*Published in the London-based ASHARQ ALAWSAT on Nov. 9, 2009.