The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.
On March 10, 2023, Saudi Arabia and Iran announced that they had reached an agreement on reviving relations between them, brokered by China. The agreement comes seven years after the two countries suspended relations. Although they have not yet drawn up significant agreements regarding points in dispute, such as the war in Yemen, some are assessing that following the agreement, the Yemen's Iran-backed Ansar Allah movement (the Houthis), will refrain from attacking Saudi Arabia.
However, it appears that so far, the Houthis are not acting in accordance with these assessments – on the contrary, they are stepping up their threats against Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, the U.S., and the U.K. – to the point where, on March 22, Houthi armed forces conducted wide scale military maneuvers that included drones, missiles, and infantry, and simulated attacks on a range of targets.
The maneuvers, called Steadfastness against the Aggression, were held to mark the ninth Houthi National Steadfastness Day, on March 25. This is the day that the Saudi-led Arab Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen launched an attack on Houthi forces in order to restore to power the Yemen government that the Houthis had deposed two months previously.
Houthi armed forces spokesman Yahyah Sari'a explained that the maneuvers were "a message to the forces of aggression, headed by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates" and added: "If you want peace, we are ready. But if you want war, we are ready [for that too] and are in the field."
While Houthi threats against Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are routine, the direct threats to U.S. armed forces in the region have escalated lately, against the backdrop of recent visits by top U.S. Army officials to Al-Mahra in southern Yemen with the aim, according to the Houthis, of establishing an American military presence in the region.
This report reviews the Houthi military maneuvers and Houthi threats to take military action against the "forces of the aggression," headed by the U.S.:
Widescale Military Maneuvers – A Message To The U.S., Saudi Arabia, And The Emirates
As noted, on March 22, 2023, the Houthi Ansar Allah movement conducted wide scale military maneuvers that involved infantry and combat support forces including antiarmor, engineering, air defense, drone, and missile units.
According to the Houthi statement, the maneuvers "simulated attacks on diverse targets... some mountainous, some desert, and some wooded, arrived at through open areas." It added that the forces participating in the maneuvers had managed to take control of the targets despite hostile air fire, fire directed at the fighters, and strong resistance from the enemy.
Houthi forces spokesman Yahyah Sari'ah, who was present at the maneuvers, tweeted in a video on March 23 that they were a message to the Yemeni people that the armed Houthi forces are willing to defend against and to respond to any aggression. He added that they were also a message "to the forces of the aggression, headed by America, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates" that if they sought peace, the Houthis were ready for peace, but if they sought war, "we are ready [for that too] and are in the field." He continued: "What will happen after the maneuvers is not what happened before them. All the units are ready for any battle launched, during or after Ramadan. The enemy faces two options: peace, which our people wants... or to continue its arrogance and stubbornness." Sari'ah also urged the enemies to understand that they will not manage to accomplish what they have not accomplished in eight years of "aggression."
Sari'ah also said that the maneuvers were a response to naval maneuvers which he claimed are being conducted regularly by the U.S., U.K., and Israel. In the video, he also warned that the statements made by Houthi leader Abd Al-Malik Badr Al-Din Al-Houthi the previous month, should be taken seriously, because when the leader says something, it is carried out (see Abd Al-Malik's statements below). He added that the Americans and the British must pay attention to Abd Al-Malik's call to them to leave Yemeni territory.
Top Houthi Officials: The U.S. Is Responsible For The War; Our Patience Is Running Out; We Have An Advanced Arsenal Of Missiles And Drones
Houthi leader Abd Al-Malik said in his February 23, 2023 speech, which marked the anniversary of the April 2018 assassination of top Houthi political figure Salah Ali Al-Sammad, who was chairman of Yemen's Supreme Political Council and the country's de facto president, that "the American or British military presence [in Yemen] is unacceptable. It is our right to treat this as aggression and as occupation of our land. We will not allow any American or British military presence – on the islands, in the airports, or in any governorate. As far as we are concerned, the Americans are an occupying aggressor and they must remove their troops from all bases on our territory. They must leave our land."
In his speech to mark National Steadfastness Day, on March 25, 2023, the Houthi leader stressed the U.S. intervention in and responsibility for the ongoing war and said, "The primary American role in the aggression against our country is clear and obvious [and may be perceived] in the admissions and statements from senior American officials. This is clear intervention. Most of the weapons that kill our people are American, the bombs that dismembered our children, killed our people in the various governorates of Yemen are for the most part American and were dropped from American planes, with American training and American supervision. Even the targets were determined by the American side. Its role is clear and obvious and cannot be concealed…"
According to Abd Al-Malik the U.S. goal is "to occupy our country, to take control of its water and its islands, its ports, airports and its oil resources and of its strategic sites in order to transform them into military bases…" He noted that despite the Saudi knowledge that its country is losing the war, that it is causing it damage and undermining its economy and its security, it continues to fight due to pressure from the U.S.
After thanking Iran, Hizbullah, and the free people of Iraq for their support, Abd Al-Malik warned that, "In the ninth year [of the war] we come with a devout and organized army that has amassed experience in the field over eight years… We come with a tremendous arsenal of long range accurate missiles with enormous destruction capability that can hit all the enemies' facilities – which they depend on to finance their aggression – and with the help of Allah we can crush the cow udders that nourish America and Britain and we can amputate the hand that milks. We come with an assortment of advanced drones that penetrate the airspace of the attackers, evade all their defense systems, reach their targets, and can make accurate hits and cause extensive damage. We come with excellent maritime capability and land-sea capability that can hit every target in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, and in all the islands…"
On March 22, 2023, at the graduation ceremony for a Houthi military unit, Yemeni Minister of Defense, Muhammed Nasir Al-A'tifi said, "We will not agree to a stranglehold on the economy… And not to the continuation of the blockade on our ports. If necessary, we will adopt the equation of a port for a port. Our patience is beginning to run out. If the countries of aggression continue to ignore [our position] they should be prepared for a painful response."
Quoted on a Hizbullah website, Murad Al-Kudsi, a senior member of the Houthi armed forces stated, that they took advantage of the ceasefire – which was signed in April 2022 and expired on October 2, 2022 – between them and the internationally recognized Yemen igovernment which is supported by Saudi Arabia, in order to prepare for the next campaign. He added that, "The fragile ceasefire had no influence on the preparedness of the armed forces. Moreover, the leadership of the Defense Ministry and the Chief of Staff made use of this period to carry out more training and exercises, [to hold] courses and live-fire maneuvers in all the military units and regions. Our armed forces are at peak readiness to contend with all the possibilities… The armed forces are demonstrating patience toward the violations of the aggression, in accordance with instructions from the supreme military and political leadership, but this patience is about to expire and then the enemy will be very sorry because our response will be harsh and very painful and will conclude only with the liberation of all the occupied territory of Yemen… We know that the enemy is exploiting the fragile ceasefire in order to improve its hand and we know its intentions well… The forces of aggression must understand that the patience of the Yemenis will not continue for a long time and that they are monitoring all their movements.
In an interview he granted to the Houthi Al-Masira television channel, Abdul Malik Al-Ejri, a member of the Houthi national negotiating team said, "The waiting [period] won't go on [for long]. If the war recommences, the rules of the game will change… Saudi Arabia will be a strategic target for operations. Long-range missiles will play a bigger role than they have in the past in our equation to lift the blockade… Disrupting the Yemeni aviation, the maritime traffic, and the pressures brought to bear by the countries of aggression constitute a clear and serious escalation. We will not continue to be in a situation of perpetual observation…"
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 10522 In Saudi Press, Cautious Optimism Follows Saudi-Iranian Renewal Of Relations, March 13, 2023.
 Twitter, March 23, 2023.
 Telegram, March 22, 2023.
 Twitter, March 23, 2023.
 Al-Sammad was killed April 19, 2018 in a drone attack by the Saudi-led coalition.
 Al-Thawra (Yemen), February 23, 2023.
 Telegram, March 26, 2023.
 Telegram, March 22, 2023.
 Alahednews.com.lb, March 27, 2023.
 Telegram, March 25, 2023.
The full text of this post is available to subscribers.
Please login or register to request subscription information from MEMRI