In January 2022, for the first time in years, the Iran-backed Shi'ite Ansar Allah militia in Yemen – the Houthis – carried out a series of three missile and drone strikes against the UAE, beginning January 17. The attacks came in the wake of the Saudi coalition's victories against the Houthis, particularly those of the coalition-member UAE-backed Giants Brigades, earlier that month, that led to bitter defeats for the Houthis in the Shabwa and Marib regions in Yemen.
After the Houthi attacks on the UAE, Iranian spokesmen explained why the militia had chosen to attack the UAE at this time, and stressed that it might be attacked again. According to the Iranians, the change in the policy of Iran and its proxy Ansar Allah vis-à-vis the UAE is due to the changed circumstances in the region. The spokesmen said that the UAE had promised Iran that the Saudi siege on the Houthis would be lifted. However, following the Houthis' defeat in the successful Saudi attack in Yemen in January, Iran and the Houthis had responded with attacks on the UAE.
Stressing that the government of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is not conciliatory like the previous government, the spokesmen said that Iran no longer wants the role of "fireman" in the region to keep the Houthis calm. This, they added, is in light of the fact that the UAE is developing relations with Israel, to Iran's great displeasure.
The Iranian regime mouthpiece Kayhan stressed in several editorials that the Houthi militia in Yemen would continue to strike at the UAE, launching missiles and suicide drones at its centers of commerce, to negatively impact it militarily, economically, and psychologically. This, it said, was aimed at dissuading the UAE from participating in the battlefront in Yemen with Saudi Arabia, in accordance with Iran's interests.
Other spokesmen who are close to Iran, for example the speaker of the Iraq-based Iran-backed Shi'ite Hizbullah Brigades militia, also warned that the UAE centers of commerce will be destroyed. Still others were quoted by Iranian media as saying that the Houthis would also strike Israel.
Below are translated excerpts of these statements by Iranian and other spokesman on the Houthi strikes against the UAE.
Samam Mahour, Director-General Of "Rooz Plus" News Website: "The End Of The Era Of Immunity – Abu Dhabi Is Going Up In Flames"
On the Persian Gulf tension following the first Houthi missile attack on the UAE, on January 17, 2022, Samam Mahour, the director-general of the Rooz Plus news website and an expert on political affairs, published an article on Qudsonline.ir, which is affiliated with Iran's ideological stream. The article, titled "The End of the Era of Immunity – Abu Dhabi Is Going Up In Flames," called the attack a response to the UAE's breaking of its promise to Iran to lift the siege on Yemen and a way of encouraging it stop supporting the Saudi coalition forces. It added that the Houthi attack was also a response to the UAE's normalization of relations with Israel. The following are the main points of Mahour's article:
"What happened yesterday [January 17, 2022] made headlines in all the media in the region – Yemen's drone and missile attack on the UAE capital [Abu Dhabi]. This attack may be examined from three angles:
"The first [hypothesis about the reasons for the attack concerns the fact that] the attack was carried out after [a hiatus] of three years. Although there was a possibility, and legitimacy, to attack the UAE many times during those three years, such an operation was prevented each time by the previous Iran[ian government's] mediation [i.e. the government of President Hassan Rohani, which preferred a] utilitarian [approach] of [transferring] funds via [bilateral] channels and [also preferred] the issue of security with the UAE.
"The second hypothesis is [that the attack was aimed at showing] the empty power of the UAE as the first state to normalize relations with the Zionist regime, and to this day it has not received an appropriate response to this move. However, during the UAE intelligence chief's recent Tehran visit, it was promised to Iran that the siege on Yemen would be lifted – but the attack and the recent UAE support for the Yemeni front led to the temporary defeat of Ansar Allah [the Houthis] on this front, which violated the earlier UAE promise to Iran.
"The third hypothesis is that the small Gulf states' arrogance and interference were definitely displeasing to Iran. This Yemeni [i.e. Houthi] attack on the UAE showed that Iran was no longer interested in playing the 'fireman' in the region and preferred not to put out the fire, [as it had been doing] so that the balance of power in the region would not be upset.
"What was Ansar Allah's aim in carrying out this successful attack? The[ir] first message to the UAE was that the era of immunity was over, and that if we are talking about attacks, then [neither] missile defense [nor] Israel's security infiltration into this country [i.e. the UAE] will be able to stop these attacks.
Illustration depicting Houthi fighter overlooking UAE skyscrapers. Source: Qudsonline.ir, January 18, 2021.
"The second Ansar Allah message [to the UAE] was that the warning period was over and that it could no longer make false promises of security [to Iran]. Thus, for example, last year Yemen sent several drones deep into UAE territory but carried out no operation – and only after this did the UAE straighten up and withdraw from a number of fronts.
"The third Ansar Allah message was that Iran-Saudi negotiations had nothing to do with them, and that Ansar Allah would get its demands met not by [achievements] at the negotiations but by [action] on the ground."
Kayhan Front Page: "The Yemeni Resistance Calls On Foreign Companies To Abandon The UAE's Commercial Towers – Houthi Missiles Are On Their Way"
On its front page on January 23, 2022, the Iranian regime mouthpiece Kayhan featured the threat issued by Houthi armed forces spokesman Yahya Saree against a backdrop of Abu Dhabi's skyscrapers. Saree called on foreign companies to abandon the UAE's commercial towers because the Houthi missiles are on their way. The text stated:
"The Yemeni Resistance Calls On Foreign Companies: Abandon The UAE's Commercial Towers / Houthi Missiles Are On Their Way
"The spokesman of [the Houthi] armed forces has recommended that foreign companies with investments in the UAE leave as soon as possible, because the small country is no longer safe for them after the latest crime committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and the killing of hundreds at [Yemen's] Sa'ada prison... Following the Saudi coalition's attack on Sa'ada prison, [the Houthi] armed forces once again threatened and warned the UAE that the Ansar Allah missiles are on their way to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and that foreign companies should leave the UAE as soon as possible.
"[Houthi] spokesman Yahya Saree emphasized in a statement: 'After the tragedies perpetrated by the air force of the Saudi-U.S.-UAE coalition against our precious ummah, we advise foreign companies in the small country – the UAE – to leave.' The statement also noted that 'so long as the rulers of the UAE continue their aggression against us, foreign companies are investing in a tiny state with no security..."
Front page of Kayhan featuring Houthi militia threat, January 23, 2022.
Regime Mouthpiece Kayhan: The Houthis "Carried Out Their Threat Against The UAE, Teaching That Country A Lesson"
The January 18, 2022 Kayhan editorial explained the "considerations [behind] Ansar Allah's drone attack on the heart of Abu Dhabi." According to the daily, the Houthi militia has been disciplining the UAE by physically damaging its economic and commercial infrastructure, with the goal of forcing it to act in accordance with Iranian interests and cease its involvement in the war in Yemen. The editorial stated:
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"...The repercussions of the [January 17 Houthi attack] (on the politics, economy, security, and even the honor [of the UAE]) will be gradually revealed. The Yemeni revolutionaries [the Houthis] finally ran out of patience after repeated warnings and months of patience – and so, on Monday, January 17, they targeted Abu Dhabi's infrastructure in an operation that was precise, astounding, complex, and efficient, to the extent that, according to some experts in the region, the UAE was completely surprised. Thus, they [the Houthis] carried out their threat against the UAE and taught that country a lesson. I shall explain why we call it 'a lesson'...
"According to the latest reports, the Yemenis [Houthis] used drones to target two important Abu Dhabi sites. One was the Al-Mussafah industrial zone (southwest of the capital) – one of the most important economic centers in the UAE, home to a large number of international companies, showrooms, and maintenance centers for international automotive brands. [The second was] Abu Dhabi's international airport, reportedly the oldest airport in the country.
"The Al-Mussafah zone includes five important industrial areas... The targeting of one of the most vital economic centers in the UAE sends an important message... We must not forget that the UAE is one of the most important countries in the region in terms of foreign investments, and that for such a country, insecurity means heavy damage to the economy... This industrial area is home to large automotive companies such as Audi and Bentley, according to the RT [the Russia Today news agency] yesterday [January 17].
"The UAE is one of those wealthy countries that are less than 5% the size of Iran but have nevertheless managed to play an active role in international economy, politics, and areas because of their petrodollars and natural gas, and their reliance on 'money diplomacy.' One might say that the UAE is more like one large trading company than a country.
"A few misunderstandings led [the UAE] to embark on this adventure, and in one case, yesterday [on January 17], it saw the consequences of such adventures.
"One highly important aspect of yesterday's operation by the Yemeni revolutionaries [the Houthis] was the manner in which it was carried out. Naturally, a country that is home to a company the size of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), with a reserve of 137 billion barrels – one of the largest oil companies in the world – and in which the average per capita income [in Abu Dhabi] is often higher than that in wealthy, industrialized Western countries, and which maintains close ties to the U.S. and the Zionist regime, etc. – surely [such a country] has powerful defensive systems [obtained] from the East, the West, and the Zionists. This point alone highlights the importance and magnitude of yesterday's operation by the Yemeni revolutionaries.
"So how is it possible that the UAE, with hundreds of Eastern and Western military advisors and some of the costliest military and surveillance equipment in the world, failed to stop such a [drone] attack? The answer is simple: The operations that were carried out against all that equipment and advisors were more sophisticated and more powerful, and the military technology that was used [in them] was superior and much more precise.
"We must wait [to see] the political and economic consequences of this operation. In addition to the operation's deterrent effect, it will stop the UAE from repeating adventures similar to the one it undertook in Yemen's Shabwa province [in early January 2022]. Clients who purchase such equipment will, from now on, be more skeptical of such armaments and of those who sell it.
"Of course, it is possible that the Saudi coalition will retaliate in response to what we have termed the [Houthi] 'deterrence' operation. But if they do, they [the Saudis and the UAE] will, according to Ansar Allah, face an even bigger operation.
"They [the Saudis and the UAE] may also try to downplay the importance [of the operations] by using the media power at their disposal. For instance, they may say that the operation caused little damage, just as Saudi Arabia tried to claim following the great 2019 Yemeni [Houthi] revolutionary operation against Aramco – but they failed to stop the publication of photos documenting the Aramco destruction. (Some in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia likened the operation against Aramco to the 9/11 attacks.)
"Over the past few days, Western and Arab media outlets, such as the German Deutsche Welle and the Saudi Al-Arabiya, have reported that the UAE and Saudi Arabia had joined together to retake Sabwa province, following Ansar Allah's seizure of their [the UAE's] ship full of weapons [on January 2, 2022]. No matter how true these reports are, Ansar Allah's response has shown that the Emirati people came to the aid of the Saudis in Shabwa province, thereby ignoring the warnings issued by the Yemeni revolutionaries [the Houthis].
"After the UAE entered the conflict in Shabwa, political leaders in Yemen warned this sheikh [UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan] that the [Houthi] missiles and drones are aimed at the heart of the UAE. Not three days after that warning, [yesterday's] operation was carried out, teaching the UAE a lesson! A military group's ability to make good on its threats within a three-day period is another important point, of which military experts, more than anyone else, are all too aware.
"The next point which must not be ignored is that in this war, the Yemeni revolutionaries [the Houthis] are not only facing a wealthy microscopic country with new, costly equipment – they are also fighting a coalition of African and Arab countries, and of course, pilots and military advisors from the West and Israel.
"The fact that the Americans maintain a serious presence in Yemen, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia, that they are hard at work in war rooms, and that the bombing of the Yemenis was carried out by 40 Zionist pilots is no secret. This means that yesterday, not only did Ansar Allah deliver a slap in the face to the UAE, but that [the slap was] also to Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and the Zionist regime, with drones that travelled 1,300 kilometers.
"This operation can impact the fate of the war in Yemen, including the form it takes and its duration, for several reasons. As of today, the two battlefronts in Shabwa and Marib are at crucial moments, and their outcomes will be very important. Yesterday [January 17], it was reported that the Americans themselves entered the battlefield, due to fear that the UAE-Saudi coalition would be defeated in Marib. The reason for this was that they [the Americans] recognized the importance of the time element.
"The aim of announcing the Yemeni attack on Abu Dhabi was to pressure the UAE to withdraw [from the fight against the Houthis], and it did, for some time, at least that was what it declared. If the UAE withdraws from Yemen, and [taking into account] the positive psychological effects that yesterday's operation has had for the [Houthi] revolutionaries and its devastating effect on the Saudi coalition, we can from now on consider Marib province liberated. In particular, a page has been turned in Shabwa province; mere hours after the media reported the drone operation against Abu Dhabi, the Yemeni revolutionaries dealt the Saudi coalition heavy losses and retook areas of Shabwa that had been lost. The coming days in Yemen will see important developments – developments that may determine the fate of Yemen's seven-year war."
Kayhan Front Page: "Second Night of Uncertainty For Dubai and Abu Dhabi / Israel Is On The Waitlist"
On January 24, 2022, following another Houthi attack on the UAE, Kayhan published another threat, in an editorial titled "Second Night of Uncertainty For Dubai and Abu Dhabi / Israel Is On The Waitlist." The daily also quoted statements by Houthi officials published in the Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily, which is affiliated with the Iranian axis, warning that Israel will be their next target because it participates in attacks on the Houthis. The editorial stated:
"If the UAE thought that renewing the slaughter of the Yemeni people would lead to compromised security for Abu Dhabi and Dubai, it would not have reverted to its aggressive anti-Yemen policy. The UAE microstate, which is more like an 'economic factory' than a state, cannot withstand large crises because of various constraints. This country is 100% dependent on foreign investments, and without security, no [company] will be willing to continue investing in it. Ansar Allah also understood this, and attacked Abu Dhabi and Dubai last week, to stop the small country from continuing its aggression. This attack apparently represents the beginning of a long process, because the UAE and Saudi Arabia were again targeted by Ansar Allah's missiles and drones on Monday morning [January 24]."
Kayhan Editor Saadollah Zarei: "Launching Rockets From Yemen To Abu Dhabi Expose The UAE's Trade Route To Attack"
Kayhan's January 24 editorial, penned by Kayhan editor-in-chief and international affairs expert Saadollah Zarei, accused Israel of interfering in the war in Yemen. Warning the UAE and Saudi leaders that Israel will not assist them in the war, he wrote that it will lead to the disbanding of the Saudi coalition. The following are the main points of the editorial:
"After seven years of war against the oppressed people of Yemen, and their consecutive defeats, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have asked their masters for one more week to turn the conditions in the field in their favor! But they seem to have forgotten that superior weapons and international support are not enough to defeat a resisting nation. This week, [they] poured a great deal of fire on the Yemeni people, slaughtering hundreds, and ultimately announced that they had ceased their attacks to spare civilian lives. However, the fact is that the attacks were not halted, they were rendered ineffective...
"The UAE and Saudi Arabia have joined forces again after several years of disagreement over the handling of the security and political developments in Yemen, which led to the fall of Mansour Hadi's government and the [Shi'ite] south's control of Aden. The outcome was a heavy humanitarian toll on Yemen's people, which according to some reports, involved the deaths of several hundred. Concurrently, there were reports of heavy traffic by Israeli security and military elements and Pentagon elements in Abu Dhabi. An examination of the intense confrontations of the past week between the [Saudi] coalition of aggressors and the Yemeni people, and a comparison of these with previous operations shows a 'qualitative difference.' This qualitative difference lies in the combination of ground and aerial warfare, so that the bulk of the work is carried out by the air force while infantry plays a complementary role.
"There are serious hypotheses that the combination of Saudi, Israeli, and UAE forces were involved in the past week's confrontations, and that Israel's plan was center stage, with the use of guerrilla forces on the ground and advanced warplanes in the sky. This operation focused on the three provinces of Marib, Al-Jouf, and Shabwa, but centered on Marib. In practice, [these forces] retook two counties in Al-Jouf, a few villages in Marib, and areas of Shabwa's desert, none of them of any military or strategic use. It can be said that in this arena, the Saudi and UAE forces acted as the infantry of the criminal Israeli regime.
"The UAE recruited the takfiri [Sunni] forces known as the Giants Brigades for its war on the oppressed people of Yemen. The Giants [Brigades] are Salafis in southern and northern Yemen... who operate with the aim of dismantling the capabilities of the Zayids [the Houthi regime]. The UAE has grown close with them over the past few years, organizing approximately 20,000 men in 12 divisions. It was these forces that attacked the coastal province of Al-Hudeida in 2019 and took control of 120 kilometers of coastline... The tactic they used consisted simultaneous operations in three provinces, in which they committed terrible crimes alongside Saudi fighters. Approximately 30,000 trained soldiers and 2,000 armored vehicles were used in that war, as foreign media reported on significant developments in Yemen. At least 800 of the Giants Brigades forces were killed, and at least 200 military vehicles belonging to the aggressor coalition were destroyed, while large quantities of arms were captured by Yemen's fighters...
"Saudi Arabia and the UAE have reached another impasse in the military arena. Ansar Allah defended Marib province, and maintained its great successes in the two northern counties of Al-Jouf and eastern Shabwa, despite suffering human losses in that arena. Ansar Allah, which had taken no action against the UAE in the past three years – leading to speculation that the two had arrived at an agreement – was forced to deter [the UAE], and therefore it launched missile attacks on Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Ansar Allah caused especially heavy damage to Abu Dhabi, bin Zayid's capital city. The UAE's situation is clear. Its entire identity is dependent on its commerce and its competition with other Arab countries in that region.
"The firing of missiles from Yemen on Abu Dhabi exposes the UAE's trade route [to attacks], clarifying the heavy price [paid] by the UAE for confronting Ansar Allah. This may have been the reason why, two days after the missile attack on Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the Giants Brigades announced the end of its military operations against this country [Yemen].
"Ansar Allah's operation worried elements in the UAE as well as international commerce [elements], who consider the UAE's ports vital to the movement of goods and funds. The 1,500-km range of the missiles and technology used by the Yemenis shows that they can torch the entire northern coast of the UAE and Saudi Arabia. [Moreover], the Zionist regime announced, after the missiles were fired, that the Yemeni fighters might [also] target the military areas of southern Palestine [i.e. Israel], meaning the vast desert of the Negev [in the south]... [and] Eilat, which is in itself a reason for the Zionist regime's participation in the conflict in Yemen this past week.
"The swift takeover of the areas conquered during the heavy aggression of the coalition of aggressors has shown that Ansar Allah and the Yemeni people are neither exhausted nor emptyhanded. Even though the war is damaging and difficult for the Yemeni people, they are largely stopping it.
"Therefore, while the aggressor coalition may imagine that a one-week period [will end the war in Yemen], the fighters of Ansar Allah can envision resistance without end. [The coalition forces] must therefore understand that continuing the war is impossible for them, and [they should] consider making their exit, based on the logic of the past seven years of Yemeni resistance, and especially based on the attempts of the past week.
"The Yemeni people did not choose war, but they must continue the war until all the aggression is repelled, which places them in a superior position, morally, politically, and militarily, over the aggressor coalition. Those who are defending their home do not tire, while those who enter the arena [of war] out of greed cannot ignore their constant failures.
"The coalition's use of takfiri forces is a double-edged sword. Now, after their defeat at the hands of Ansar Allah, there are rumors of conflict between the Giants Brigades commanders and the leaders of the UAE. They [the former] say: Why did you involve us in the project of [conquering] the north [of Yemen] when our agreement was to [conquer] the south?
"The final defeat of the invading forces will surely cause strife amongst them. The leaders of the UAE and Saudi Arabia must be reminded that the presence of Israel in the conflict zone will not only fail to bring about miracles, but will lead to the military and political collapse of the [Saudi] coalition. By bringing in the burned-out Israeli regime for an operation in Yemen, and by serving under its command, they will no longer be able to blame others."
Houthi Ambassador to Iran: "The Aggressive Countries Will Be Attacked Like They Never Imagined"
Houthi Ambassador to Iran Ibrahim Al-Dailami also threatened the UAE. On January 29, he told the Al-Masira TV channel in an interview that Ansar Allah is prepared to continue attacking the hostile countries and that it will continue to pressure the UAE to change its position in the Yemen crisis. The following are the main points of his interview:
Houthi Ambassador to Iran Ibrahim Dailemi. Source: ISNA, January 29, 2022
"The results of the [Houthi] attacks and activity against the UAE are clear, but the Emirati people and the Americans behind them are continuing their deception, by taking a new position [i.e. by withdrawing the UAE army that was in Yemen and by attacking the Houthis via its Giants Brigades proxy]. We are prepared to continue to target the aggressor countries, including the UAE, and such decisions have shown the bravery of our command...
"The UAE found itself in a humiliating position after the recent attacks on the country, which may change the equation. If we do not see, first and foremost, the invading forces withdrawing [from Yemen], the issue of prisoners resolved, damages paid, and the sanctions lifted, the aggressor countries will be attacked in a way they never imagined..."
Iraq's Hizbullah Brigades Military Spokesman Jaafar Al-Husseini: "The Children Of Bin-Zayid And Their Ilk Must Understand This Message"
Iran issued threatening statements against the UAE via another of its affiliates, Jaafar Al-Husseini, the military spokesman of the Iraq-based Hizbullah Brigades, who said: "The time has come. We have prepared the bullets and filled the earth with calls of 'we will not submit to humiliation.' The time has come to complete our victory... Therefore, the children of bin Zayid and their ilk must understand this message..."
The statement, posted on the Hizbullah Brigades channel on Telegram, Kaaff_ir on January 21, 2022, included a graphic depicting the Burj Khalifa in flames.
Graphic posted on the Hizbullah Brigades channel Kaaff_ir showing Burj Khalifa in flames, January 21, 2022.