By Arab News
By Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami*
Since 2014-2015, when the Houthis overthrew the internationally recognized Yemeni government in Sanaa, they have been systematically targeting Makkah, with the Saudi air defenses succeeding in shooting down many ballistic missiles aimed at the holy city.
At the start of this period, with the first wave of Houthi attacks on Makkah and the surrounding areas, I wrote several times that the missiles were specifically targeting Makkah rather than Saudi military bases like the one in Taif, as the Houthis claimed. I noted that this first wave of Houthi attacks marked a dangerous development regarding the targeting of sensitive locations deep inside Saudi territory.
As the Houthi attacks have continued in recent years, the Saudi air defenses have again managed — by the grace of God — to shoot down dozens of ballistic missiles. The concerned entities have reiterated that these missiles have all been of Iranian origin and have targeted Makkah. We have seen the angry domestic, regional and broader Islamic response to the reckless behavior of this militia.
As I have previously stated on this matter, the Houthis’ attacks targeting Makkah are not accidental but rather are an integral part of their belief system. Here, I will attempt to clarify this for the broader readership, especially for my Western audience.
For two main reasons, I am quite certain that these ballistic missiles specifically targeted Makkah rather than any other city or location in the Kingdom. The first of these two reasons is ideological and is related to the belief held by some Shiite extremists in Iran that the reappearance of the “hidden imam” will not be achieved unless killing and devastation spreads throughout Makkah.
For example, in a study titled “Akhir Al-Zaman,” published on an Iranian website focusing on ideology and theology, a researcher wrote: “Among the conditions for the reappearance of the Mahdi is that the stage is set in Makkah. The reappearance of the Mahdi will not be achieved unless chaos unfolds across Hijaz, because the existence of a powerful and harmonious government that is hostile to Shiites and the Mahdi is a major impediment to bringing together the Mahdi’s followers. The honorable narratives indicate that unrest will unfold across Hijaz, which will prompt the reappearance of the Mahdi. It could be said that this chaos will not unfold if there is a powerful central Makkah.”
This quote enables us to understand two crucial points. First, it underlines the necessity, from the Iranian regime’s viewpoint, to create the conditions that it believes will bring about the Mahdi’s re-emergence — namely the spread of chaos and killings in Makkah. Secondly, such attacks target the Kingdom’s ruling government and aim to undermine it to enable “supporters of the Mahdi” to unite, as claimed by the Iranian regime.
A more dangerous threat than this appeared in a film named “313,” which is about the Mahdi and the omens foretelling the signs of his imminent reappearance. The film alleges that the signs will include “the shedding of blood on the Kaaba in Makkah before the world knows that Mahdi has reappeared.” Such a claim is self-explanatory and consistent with the Iranian regime’s Twelver Shiite doctrine, which seeks to achieve political objectives under a cloak of religious piety.
Even if those who adopt this belief constitute only a minority (or at least we sincerely hope they are a scant minority), the ambition of domination that preoccupies the minds of the ruling elite in Tehran, the leaders of the hard-line movement and the IRGC leads us to the conclusion that literally everything and anything is possible under the rule of such hard-line mindsets.
The second reason for the Houthis specifically targeting Makkah is their innate irrationality, with their reckless acts leading to much devastation and chaos throughout the region.
The irrational nature of these militias and terrorist groups — whether the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Popular Mobilization Units and its affiliates in Iraq, Al-Qaeda or Daesh — and those who adopt their ideology makes predicting their next steps impossible. For this reason, I emphasize the danger of allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons, because such weapons can easily be transferred in one way or another to pro-Iranian militias that will not hesitate to use them when threatened. Typically, the Iranian regime will condemn and denounce, but this will be after further chaos and destruction flares up in the region, unleashed by Tehran and its proxies.
The ballistic missiles fired toward Makkah by the Houthis in Yemen confirm our legitimate fears — that those who seek to target the holy city will not hesitate to take further steps.
I think it is wrong, however, to blame the Yemeni militia alone. Such groups are merely proxies acting on behalf of others. Instead, the finger of blame should be pointed firmly at the Iranian regime, focusing on the fact that the Zelzal-3 or Burkan-1 missiles used to target Saudi territory — as acknowledged by both Iranian and Houthi media outlets — originated from Iran. These straightforward and well-documented truths further expose the Iranian regime’s continual denials of its smuggling of weapons to the Houthis in Yemen and highlight once again that Tehran poses a real and grave threat to Saudi Arabia and the entire region.
More importantly, the Arab coalition should take steps at the Arab, Islamic and international levels to solely hold the Iranian regime accountable for the consequences of any reckless actions that the Houthis in Yemen may take against the Kingdom, as they act solely on Tehran’s directives. And we should bear in mind that the firing of any Iranian missile deep into Saudi territory is considered a proclamation of war by Iran on the Kingdom.
On the battlefield, the military response to any threats to the Two Holy Mosques must be sufficiently powerful to ensure that the Houthis never again dare to even think of repeating such heinous acts.
- Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is President of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami