The dramatic rebel assault on Sanaa and subsequent truce brought out smiles in Tehran, tears in Doha, silence from Riyadh and a wait-and-see attitude from Washington. The pieces on the Middle East chessboard continue to move. For three years, Iran’s rook and bishop in Syria and Iraq had been seriously threatened, when suddenly, in Yemen, a king was checkmated, with the Saudi-led bloc and the Turkish-Qatari alliance losing a stronghold unlike any other in the region.
The Bab al-Mandab, the strait on the west coast of Yemen, serves as the gateway to the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. Iran’s Shiite allies in Yemen, the Ansarullah, or Houthis, took control of Sanaa and handed the key to Tehran, which, on the other side of the peninsula, already controls the Strait of Hormuz, the gateway to the Persian Gulf. The Houthis' invaluable gift makes Iran the gatekeeper of the Middle East’s strategic waterways.