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Flashpoint / Global

Bab al-Mandab, Yemen

I. Why it Matters

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia began a military intervention in Yemen against a coalition of forces affiliated with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Huthi rebels that had seized power from President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi two months earlier. Riyadh views the Huthis as Iranian proxies, and was deeply alarmed when they and Saleh’s forces subsequently moved south and captured Aden, Yemen’s second largest city. (Saleh split from the Huthis, who then killed him, in December 2017). Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are rising as the Huthis launch missiles towards Saudi at a growing tempo, using technology and knowledge likely provided or enhanced by Tehran. The U.S. has declared its intent to push back against Iran’s regional influence, and has offered limited but important assistance to the Saudi-led coalition’s military campaign against the Huthis. An escalation in Yemen – including a successful Huthi missile strike on a Saudi or Emirati city – could lead to an escalatory cycle between Riyadh and Tehran and even act as a trigger for a direct U.S.-Iranian confrontation.  

II. Recent Developments

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