- The Houthis in Yemen attacked cargo ships and opened fire on Israel
- Because of its concern about the escalation, Riyadh has expressed its satisfaction with the American response so far
- The Houthis discussed their role in the Tehran meeting – Al-Masdar
RIYADH/DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has asked the United States for restraint in responding to Yemeni Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea, as Riyadh seeks to contain the repercussions of the crisis, two sources familiar with Saudi thinking said. Hamas and Israel war.
The Iran-aligned Houthis have waded into the conflict that has spread across the Middle East since the outbreak of war on October 7, attacking ships in vital shipping lanes and launching drones and missiles at Israel itself.
The group, which rules much of Yemen, says its attacks are a show of support for the Palestinians and has vowed to continue them until Israel stops its assault on the Gaza Strip, more than 1,000 miles away from their seat of power in Sanaa.
The Houthis are one of several groups in the Iran-aligned “axis of resistance” that have been attacking Israeli and American targets since the conflict began on October 7, when their Palestinian ally Hamas sparked the war by attacking Israel.
Their role has increased the regional risks of the conflict, as it threatens the sea lanes through which a large part of the world’s oil passes, and raises the concerns of the countries bordering the Red Sea with Houthi missiles and drones flying towards Israel.
Riyadh, the world’s largest oil exporter, is watching with concern the launch of Houthi missiles over its territory.
With the Houthis escalating their attacks on ships over the past weeks, two sources familiar with Saudi thinking said that the message of restraint that Riyadh sent to Washington aims to avoid further escalation. The sources added that Riyadh is happy so far with the way the United States is dealing with the situation.
“They put pressure on the Americans about this and why the conflict in Gaza should stop,” one source said.
The White House declined to comment.
The Saudi government did not respond to an email request for comment on the discussions.
While Saudi Arabia pushes for a ceasefire to stop what it calls a “brutal war” in Gaza, its diplomacy reflects a broader policy aimed at promoting regional stability after years of confrontation with Iran and its allies.
With its focus on expanding and diversifying the Saudi economy, Riyadh this year normalized relations with Tehran and is seeking to exit the war it has been waging with the Houthis in Yemen for nearly nine years.
The sources said that Saudi Arabia is seeking to advance the peace process in Yemen even as the war rages in Gaza, for fear that it will be derailed. Yemen has enjoyed more than a year of relative calm amid direct peace talks between Saudi and Houthi officials.
The Houthi attacks during the war between Hamas and Israel strengthened their position in the camp allied with Iran, which also includes Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah, and Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.
The Houthis have emerged as a major military force in the Arabian Peninsula, with tens of thousands of fighters and a huge arsenal of ballistic missiles and armed drones.
Prominent sources in the Iran-aligned camp told Reuters that the Houthi attacks were part of an effort to pressure Washington to get Israel to stop the attack on Gaza, a goal that Iran shares with Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region.
One of the sources, based in Tehran, said that Houthi representatives discussed their attacks with Iranian officials during a meeting in Tehran in November, and agreed to carry out actions in a “disciplined” manner that would help end the war in Gaza. . The source was informed of the matter.
Another source said that Tehran is not seeking “an all-out war in the region” that would risk being drawn directly into it.
A Houthi spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. Iran denied involvement in the attacks. Iranian officials did not respond to a request for comment on the Houthi attacks.
The destroyer shoots down the drones
The United States and Britain condemned the attacks on the ships and blamed Iran for its role in supporting the Houthis. Tehran says its allies make their decisions independently.
In one of the latest incidents, three commercial ships were attacked in international waters on Sunday. The Houthis said they opened fire on what they said were two Israeli ships. Israel denied any connection to the ships.
The US Navy destroyer Carney shot down three drones while responding to distress calls from ships that the US military said were linked to 14 separate countries.
The Pentagon said on Monday that Carney took action when a drone was heading toward it, but it was unable to assess whether the warship was the intended target.
Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh stopped short of using language that could indicate any imminent US retaliation against the Houthis. Asked whether the United States might respond, Singh said: “If we decide to act against the Houthis, it will of course be at a time and place of our choosing.”
An Iranian diplomat said that Tehran and Washington have exchanged messages through intermediaries regarding Houthi attacks since the start of the war between Hamas and Israel. The diplomat who participated in the exchange of messages said that both called for restraint.
Iran on Tuesday denied any role in attacks or actions against US forces.
Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Washington. Writing by Tom Perry. Edited by Alison Williams
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
“Unapologetic tv specialist. Hardcore zombie trailblazer. Infuriatingly humble problem solver.”