Houthis attack on UAE


    In Context 

    The Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the drone attack on three petroleum tankers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

    Why did the Houthis target the UAE?

    • The UAE joined the Saudi campaign in 2015 and has been deeply involved in the conflict ever since, despite announcing the formal withdrawal of its forces in 2019 and 2020.
    • This is not the first time the Houthis attacked the UAE.
      •  In 2018, when the UAE-backed forces were making advances in Yemen, the Houthis claimed attacks against the Emirates.
    •   In recent months, Giants Brigades, a militia group largely made up of Southern Yemenis (backed by the UAE) and the Joint Forces (the militia led by a nephew of the slain former President Saleh) turned their guns against the Houthis. 
    • They inflicted major damages on the Houthis on the Arabian coast and have, with government troops, pushed into the Houthi territories in al-Bayda and Marib.

    About Yemen Crisis

    •  Yemen has been devastated by a near seven-year civil war, which started after Houthis captured the capital Sana’a, following which Saudi-led forces intervened and fought the rebels with the aim of ending Iranian influence in the region and restoring the former government. 
    • The conflict is also seen as part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.


    • Origin
      • The roots of the Houthi movement can be traced to “Believing Youth” (Muntada al-Shahabal-Mu’min), a Zaydi revivalist group founded by Hussein al-Houthi and his father, Badr al-Din al-Houthi, in the early 1990s. 
      •  The Zaydis are named after Zayd Bin Ali, the great grandson of Imam Ali, Prophet Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law who Shias, Sunnis and Zaydis revere. 
        • Zayd Bin Ali had led a revolt against the Ummayad Caliphate in the eighth century. He was killed, but his martyrdom led to the rise of the Zaydi sect. 
        • For centuries, the Zaydis were a powerful sect within Yemen. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, the Zaydis would establish a monarchy (the Mutawakkilite Kingdom) in the country. But their dominance would come to an end in 1962 when the Egypt-backed republicans overthrew the monarchy
    • The Houthis, officially known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), are an Iranian-backed, Shiite Muslim military and political movement in Yemen.
    • Its members, who subscribe to the minority Zaidi sect of Shiite Islam, advocate regional autonomy for Zaidis in northern Yemen.
    • They fought a series of rebellions against Saleh during the previous decade and took advantage of the new president’s weakness by taking control of their northern heartland of Saada province and neighbouring areas.



    • How did Saudi Arabia get involved?
      • The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from power in the capital, Sanaa.
      • The coalition received logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK and France.
    • The coalition troops were able to drive out the Houthis from the south of Yemen, but have failed to remove them from most of the northwest region.
      •  Tens of thousands have been killed in the process, in what is widely considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
    •  Both sides have been accused of committing countless war crimes and targeting civilians.

    Houthis response 

    • In retaliation, the Houthis have also targeted several locations across Saudi Arabia, including airports and oil facilities.
    • In the past six years, the Houthis have launched multiple attacks on Saudi cities from northern Yemen in retaliation for Saudi airstrikes. 
    • The Houthis have established a government in north Yemen.


    • After six months of fighting, the warring parties agreed on a ceasefire at talks in Sweden.
    • The Stockholm agreement required them to redeploy their forces from Hudaydah, establish a prisoner exchange mechanism, and address the situation in Taiz.
    • The UN hoped the agreement would clear the way for a political settlement to end the civil war, but in January 2020 there was a sudden escalation in hostilities between the Houthis and coalition-led forces, with fighting on several front lines, missile strikes and air raids.
    • Saudi Arabia announced a unilateral ceasefire in April 2020 due to a coronavirus pandemic but the Houthis rejected it, demanding the lifting of air and sea blockades in Sanaa and Hudaydah.

    Implications On

    • Yemen: The city’s fall could also lead to a humanitarian disaster, as vast numbers of civilians displaced from fighting elsewhere have sought refuge in the area. 
      • Around 140 camps have sprung up in the surrounding desert to provide basic shelter for up to two million displaced.
    • World: It can greatly exacerbate regional tensions. It also worries the West because of the threat of attacks – such as from al-Qaeda or IS affiliates – emanating from the country as it becomes more unstable.
      • Yemen is also strategically important because it sits on a strait linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which much of the world’s oil shipments pass.

    Image Courtesy: EIA

    • India: One of India’s most important shipping routes passes through the Gulf of Aden, accounting for imports of $50 billion and exports of $60 billion every year.
      • Indian nationals, including Hindus, Muslims and Parsis, have lived in Aden since the mid-1880s.
      • 8 million ex-pats living in the region with more than $80 billions of incoming remittance annually.
      • Therefore the crisis in Yemen can affect remittances and destroy the shipping routes.

    Steps were taken by India for Yemen 

    • Operation Rahat: It was launched by the Indian Armed Forces to evacuate more than 4,000 Indian citizens and other foreign nationals from Yemen during the 2015 military intervention by Saudi Arabia and its allies. The 11-day evacuation by sea started on April 1, 2015, from Aden port.
    • India has provided food and medical aid to Yemen in the past and thousands of Yemeni nationals have availed of medical treatment in India over the past few years.