Yemen’s Houthi rebel leadership called for an end to the country’s four-year civil war, promising to halt attacks on Saudi Arabia and expecting the same in return. Mehdi al-Mashat, head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, said on Friday, September 20 that his side would stop targeting Saudi Arabian territory with ballistic missiles and aerial vehicles just a week after the rebels claimed credit for a massive coordinated strike on two major Saudi oil refineries that caused a spike in global crude oil prices.
“We affirm that the continuing the war is in nobody’s interest, and may lead to dangerous developments which we do not want to happen. We are certain that the greatest resulting harm will not be inflicted upon us, but rather on the aggressor nations directly,” al-Mashat said, according to the rebels’ al-Masirah news agency.
“We are awaiting a reciprocal response, or a better one, to stop all forms of targeting and bombardment, and we reserve the right to respond if there is no reply to this initiative,” he said. Al-Mashat also signaled willingness to cooperate politically with the Yemeni government and urged an end to the blockade of Sana’a airport and the strategic port of Hodeidah.
Both the United States and Saudi Arabia have blamed Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran for the attack on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities, saying the operation was beyond the Yemeni insurgents’ capabilities. Iran has denied the charge, but tensions remain high. The Houthis have repeatedly struck Saudi territory with mobile ballistic missile systems in retaliation for the Saudi-led bombing campaign over north Yemen.
The US accuses Iran of arming Yemen’s Houthis, as well as Shia militias in Iraq and Syria, as part of an ambitious expansion of its influence across the Middle East.
The Houthis’ announcement came one day after Hezbollah supreme leader Hassan Nasrallah warned that Iran will “destroy” Saudi Arabia in “all-out war” if Iran is attacked in retaliation for the strike on Saudi, and said that peace is achievable if Riyadh’s war effort in Yemen is halted.
“This is it. The Saudis have to take this opportunity to end the war. They’re not going to get a better chance than this,” Hannah Porter, an independent researcher focused on Yemen and the Gulf, told The Defense Post.
“The US wants Saudi out of Yemen,” she said. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have shown signs of fatigue with the war against the Houthis. The UAE began a troop drawdown from the country earlier this year. Last month, fighting broke out between Hadi government loyalists and the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council over control of the de facto capital Aden, threatening to open a wound in the anti-Houthi alliance.
Yemen’s Zaidi Shia Houthi rebels, known formally as the Ansar Allah movement, have seized control over much of the country’s north since the outbreak of the conflict in 2015. In response, Saudi Arabia has led a coalition including the Hadi government and southern militias, mostly backed by the United Arab Emirates, but has made little headway after years of heavy bombing campaigns, which the UN has described as “indiscriminate.”
Under the direction of US ambassador to Yemen Christopher Henzel, the US sought direct talks with the Houthis for the first time last month in Oman in an effort to end the war, The Wall Street Journal reported. The United Nations has accused all sides of possible war crimes, and considers the conflict to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. A spokesperson for the Yemeni embassy in Washington, DC did not return requests for comment by publication time.