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TIP Senior Fellow: Capture of Critical Red Sea Port Crucial to Deterring Yemen’s Iran-Backed Rebels

An end to the conflict in Yemen can only be found through the capture of the port of Hodeidah by Coalition forces, after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels failed to attend peace negotiations in Geneva, TIP Senior Fellow Julie Lenarz argued in an op-ed published in Reaction on Thursday.

“Iran’s use of Yemen as a southern gateway to attack Gulf states via Houthi missile attacks, primarily aimed at the UAE and Saudi Arabia, has been one of the most concerning developments of the conflict,” Lenarz said. “Their ability to wage proxy war on the region, which has seen nuclear power plants, civilian airports and oil tankers all targeted, may well be curtailed by the capture of Hodeidah.”

The Coalition offensive in and around the strategic port has restarted in earnest, following a hiatus in fighting to allow UN peacekeeper Martin Griffiths a chance to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis. According to Lenarz, it is now clear that the Houthis used the grace period to “significantly strengthen and further entrench their forces” in Hodeidah.

“Ending Houthi control of Hodeidah must be a first priority to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people and provide new momentum for finding a long-term solution to the conflict,” Lenarz observed. “With the failure of peace talks, critics of the offensive have yet to suggest an alternative.” She explained that 70% of Yemen’s aid is channeled through the port, as well as illicit weapons shipments from Iran.

“The removal of the Houthis’ ability to illegally import arms and heavy weaponry from Iran via the port will add a further incentive for the Houthis to finally take peace talks seriously, ending a military lifeline that has enabled them to prolong the fighting,” Lenarz charged. “Only the retaking of strategic Houthi positions in and around Hodeidah by the Coalition can force their hands, finally bringing the rebels to the table and in time end this destructive conflict,” she concluded.

Since taking control of the port city in October 2014, “the insurgency group has been found time and again to mismanage vital humanitarian deliveries in order to serve their selfish political ends,” Joshua S. Block, CEO & President of TIP, wrote in an op-ed published in The Jerusalem Post on August 18.

He noted that the Iranian-backed rebels have blocked aid deliveries, threatened volunteers and blocked the transfer of wounded civilians in what Block called “a cynical infringement of basic humanitarian law.” Block added: “It is therefore imperative for the UN to take this lifeline out of Houthi control.”

[Photo: France24 / YouTube ]