Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah rebels said on Friday it had fired a long-range ballistic missile toward the Saudi capital Riyadh, just ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, but the claim could not immediately be confirmed.
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The Houthis launched a Burkan-1 missile, a statement by their official news agency said. It added that the missile was aimed at Riyadh but gave no further detail.
Reuters could not confirm the report and Saudi officials could not be reached immediately for a comment.
However, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV later said Riyadh-loyal coalition that intervened in Yemen’s civil war was “massively” bombing a missile base outside the Yemeni capital Sanaa, which is controlled by the Houthis.
Riyadh on Saturday will be the first stop on Trump’s first foreign trip since taking office in January. He is expected to conclude arms deals amounting to $US100 billion, a boon for the U.S. military-industrial complex. The United States has been the main supplier for most Saudi military needs, from F-15 fighter jets to command and control systems worth tens of billions of dollars in recent years. Washington also provides maintenance and training to Saudi security forces.
The Trump administration is also considering stepping up intelligence support for the Saudi-led monarchs’ coalition in Yemen, reversing a policy by ex-President Barack Obama who curbed the U.S. role due to widespread civilian deaths and a seeming disregard by royals for basic humanitarian norms. The Saudis have also been accused of backing Sunni jihadist groups like al-Qaida.
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Well over 12,000 people have been killed since the war was launched by Saudi royals in 2015, according to recent reports, while millions of people have been displaced and millions others lack access to clean water, food, or medical assistance.
The country is mired in malnutrition, famine and disease as a result of the war, and many fear that the now-unrestrained U.S. backing for the heavy bombardment of the country by Gulf forces could plunge the people of the country into a humanitarian abyss.
Fearing the spread of alleged “Iranian influence” in the Arabian Peninsula, Gulf Arab kingdoms are fighting to end Houthi influence among the people of Yemen, as well as their hold on main population centers. Many have accused the al-Saud monarchy and its junior partners of being motivated not only a sectarian obsession over alleged Iranian conspiracies, but an interest in diverting attention from mounting social problems and court intrigues at home.
Analysts have noted that the Yemen conflict may be the House of Saud’s Vietnam, a brutal quagmire from which there is little chance of gleaning success.