The Houthis released details of the weapons-for-cash agreement a week after unveiling four new long-range air defense systems

Houthis reveal details of ex-President Saleh's deal to destroy air defenses for US cash

Houthi authorities accused former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his nephew Ammar Mohammed Saleh of destroying the Yemeni army's air defense missiles under pressure from the U.S. more than a decade ago, according to Houthi-run Saba new agency in Sana’a.

U.S.-based explosives firm Runco destroyed more than 1,260 missiles, including surface-to-air missiles (SAM), Man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) and 103 missile batteries or launching systems, an anonymous security official told Houthi-run Saba.

The destruction of the missiles took place in two batches in Marib governorate–the first in the Al-Jed’an area in 2005 and the second in 2009 at Wadi Halhalan military base–both at the behest of the U.S. out of fear the missiles could end up in the hands of Al-Qaeda.

The anti-aircraft missiles could have helped Yemen defend against Saudi-led coalition airstrikes since 2015, minimizing massacres on women and children, the security official told Saba.

On Thursday, the Houthis' Al-Masirah TV channel showed documentary footage of the rockets being destroyed. 

Former President Saleh, referred to as a “traitor” in the Saba report, signed the U.S. agreement to demolish the anti-aircraft missiles in exchange for financial compensation from the U.S.

A 2004 U.S. diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks details the exchange between Saleh and Lincoln Bloomfield, then-assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs, who served in George W. Bush administration. 

According to the U.S. embassy cable, President Saleh said he was in possession of 1,435 MANPADS, which he would agree to destroy at a cost of $1 million for each missile. It was noted in the cable that the market rate for the missiles at the time was about $2,000 each. 

The Houthis revealed the details of the agreement a week after unveiling four new long-range air defense systems–Thaqib-1, Thaqib-2, Thaqib-3 and Fatar-1–which they claim were manufactured in Yemen with local expertise. The group stressed that these missiles will change the course of the battle against the Saudi-led coalition and the Yemeni army.

On Feb. 22, the Houthis said a number of Fater-1 missiles repelled Saudi and Emirati warplanes from the 40 kilometer battlefront in Nihm district east of Sana’a, which has been the site of violent clashes since the start of the year. 

Between June and August last year, the Houthis announced the downing of two U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drones as well as a number of coalition drones, suggesting the group may have acquired more sophisticated missile defense systems.

In mid-February, the Houthis shot down a Tornado fighter jet belonging to the Royal Saudi Air Force in Al-Jawf governorate. The Saudi warplane was shot down by an advanced SAM, Houthi spokesman Yahya Sarea said, adding that Yemen’s skies are no place for picnics and the enemy should think again before violating their airspace.

A recent report by the United Nations Security Council detailed the Houthis' missile development capabilities and use of long-range drones capable of striking targets deep inside Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Missile and drone debris collected at attack sites point to the use of equipment and parts used in Iranian replicas, the panel found. The commercially available parts were smuggled into Yemen in violation of a Security Council’s arms embargo.



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