Airstrikes in Yemen Are ‘Extremely Unlikely’ to Deter Houthis, Experts Say


The Houthis have long built their legitimacy on hostility toward the United States and Israel, and support for the Palestinian cause. Part of the group’s slogan is “Death to America, death to Israel, a curse upon the Jews.” Before the strikes on Friday, the group’s leaders had welcomed the prospect of war with the United States.

Strikes are therefore “extremely unlikely” to stop the group’s Red Sea attacks, Ms. Porter said.

“The Houthis are very comfortable operating in a wartime environment,” she said. “They are more successful as a military group than they are as a government.”

The strikes could also help the Houthis with domestic politics, providing “another ‘foreign enemy’ pretext to distract the public from their failing rebel governance that does not deliver services,” said Ibrahim Jalal, a Yemeni nonresident scholar at the Middle East Institute, a Washington-based research organization.

Some American allies in the region, including Qatar and Oman, had privately warned the United States that bombing the Houthis would only deepen regional tensions.

But U.S. officials and those from allied Western governments said the Houthis’ continuing attacks left them with little choice but to respond. Pentagon officials said that they were still assessing whether the strikes were successful, and emphasized that they had sought to avoid any civilian casualties. A Houthi military spokesman said that five of the group’s fighters had been killed.

Still, for Yemenis living under Houthi control, the bombardment was a reminder of years of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, many of which were carried out with American weapons and assistance.

Ali Abdullah Al-Sunaidar, a Yemeni photojournalist who lives in the Old City of Sana, said his family was “terrified and anxious.” They opened the windows as soon as the strikes began, knowing from experience that nearby bombings can damage old mud-brick dwellings if the windows are closed.

“We hope that the war in general will end once and for all,” said Mr. Al-Sunaidar, the father of 2-year-old twin girls. “We’ve been living in tension, dread, and horror for the last nine years.”

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