Yemen’s Iranian-Backed Houthi rebels are currently attacking the city of Marib. Should the city succumb to the rebels, it could have dire humanitarian consequences, as Marib is the UN-backed government’s last line of defence, and according to the UN’s humanitarian chief, attacking it puts around two million civilians at risk.
The Houthis, with Iranian support, have been fighting the Saudi-backed government which is led by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. However, the Houthis have fought fairly successfully, and now control a large area of Yemen. They have also been attacking Saudi Arabia with drones and missiles.
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The Saudis have been fighting to curb Iranian influence in the Middle East in what many describe as a sort of ‘Cold War’. In the Yemeni Civil War, they are backed by the United Arab Emirates, Britain, and France. The US, under Former President Donald Trump, had previously designated the Houthis as a terrorist organisation, though the Biden administration reversed this decision. Biden also stopped supporting Saudi Arabia, despite the threat that a more powerful Iran would pose to the world.
The city of Marib has seen intense fighting. It is the government’s last stronghold in the North of the country, and is also extremely rich in oil, making it a very valuable target for the rebels. Should they succeed in taking it, it will deal a devastating blow to Yemen’s government and the Saudi coalition, so the Saudis have stepped up airstrikes in an attempt to drive back the rebels. Dozens of people have been killed over the past few days.
The US has urged the Houthis to stop the attack for humanitarian reasons if they are serious about participating in negotiations, though many will see the Biden administration’s foreign policy as having empowered Iran an endangered a US ally, Saudi Arabia, which shares a border with Yemen. Saudi Arabia is the world’s second-largest oil producer, and the stronger the Houthis are, the more threatened Saudi Arabia is.
A victory in Marib would be huge for both the rebels and Iran, though the coalition is determined to retain control of the city. For the Yemeni government, which is trying desperately to cling onto power, losing Marib would be a devastating blow.
State Department spokesperson Ned price said that “The Houthis’ assault on Marib is the action of a group not committed to peace or to ending the war afflicting the people of Yemen.”