CAIRO --- Yemen’s Houthi rebels have accelerated missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, highlighting the kingdom’s military vulnerabilities in defending itself against an Iranian ally amid a crisis in U.S.-Iran relations.
The Houthis have executed 10 missile or drone attacks since April on Saudi airports, a desalination plant, a major oil pipeline and other targets, escalating fighting on a key front in the regionwide confrontation between U.S. and Iran. The Houthi attacks have occurred around the same time as the tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman that the U.S. has blamed on Iran.
U.S. officials and analysts say Iran has deepened its cooperation with the Houthis as the country seeks ways to harass its American and Saudi adversaries. Iran denies controlling the Houthis and says it wasn’t responsible for the tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman.
The Houthi attacks have put a spotlight on the missile defenses of Saudi Arabia. The country’s military is one of the best equipped globally thanks to the world’s third-largest military budget, with hundreds of billions of dollars spent on fighter planes, tanks and other military hardware. But the kingdom’s American-made Patriot missile-defense system has a mixed record when it comes to intercepting projectiles from Yemen and isn’t primarily designed for repelling drones.
“The recent events show that we are exposed in terms of our defense,” said one Saudi official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
A spokesman for the Saudi military coalition against the Houthis didn’t respond to a request for comment on the strikes. (end of excerpt)
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