Samuel Ramani writes in the Washington Post that the Houthi rebels targeting of Saudi oil facilities has more to do with internal Houthi issues than with any desire to retaliate against US sanctions on Iran.
Although Houthi drone strikes can be plausibly explained by Iran’s desire to retaliate against Washington’s exclusion of Tehran from global energy markets, this argument tells us only part of the story. My research on the Yemeni civil war suggests that these drone strikes can be partially explained by internal insecurities within the Houthi movement, as numerous Houthi officials have defected to Saudi Arabia in recent months. By targeting Saudi oil facilities, the Houthis can increase their popular support in northern Yemen. Houthi drone strikes play into the popular desire for revenge against Saudi Arabia’s alleged theft of Yemen’s oil wealth, showcase the Houthis’ ability to counter Saudi bombardments, and counter Saudi depictions of the Houthis as a terrorist group that targets civilians.