Iran is sending advanced weapons and military advisers to Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement, stepping up support for its ally in a civil war whose outcome could sway the balance of power in the Middle East, regional and Western sources say.
Sources with knowledge of the military movements, who declined to be identified, say that in recent months Iran has taken a greater role in the two-year-old conflict by stepping up arms supplies and other support. This mirrors the strategy it has used to support its Lebanese ally Hezbollah in Syria.
A senior Iranian official said Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force - the external arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - met top IRGC officials in Tehran last month to look at ways to “empower” the Houthis.
“At this meeting, they agreed to increase the amount of help, through training, arms and financial support,” the official said. “Yemen is where the real proxy war is going on and winning the battle in Yemen will help define the balance of power in the Middle East.”
Iran rejects accusations that it is giving financial and military support to the Houthis in the struggle for Yemen. But Iran’s actions in Yemen seem to reflect the growing influence of hardliners in Tehran, keen to pre-empt a tougher policy towards Iran signaled by US President Donald Trump.
Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, spokesman for the Arab coalition fighting the Houthis, told Reuters: “We don’t lack information or evidence that the Iranians, by various means, are smuggling weapons into the area.
“We observe that the Kornet anti-tank weapon is on the ground, whereas before it wasn’t in the arsenal of the Yemeni army or of the Houthis. It came later.”
Iran’s activities have alarmed Sunni Muslim countries in the Middle East, with one senior official from a neighboring country saying: “We want Iran to stop exporting Shi’ism in the region, whether in Yemen or elsewhere.”
Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 to back President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after he was ousted from the capital Sanaa by the Houthis. Government forces in the south and east hold most of Yemen’s territory, while the Houthis control most population centres in the northwest, including Sanaa.
A former senior Iranian security official said Iran’s hardline rulers planned to empower Houthi militia in Yemen to “strengthen their hand in the region”. “They are planning to create a Hezbollah-like militia in Yemen. To confront Riyadh’s hostile policies ... Iran needs to use all its cards,” the former official said.
A Western diplomat in the Middle East agreed: “Iran has long been trying to cultivate portions of the Houthi militias as a disruptive force in Yemen. “This is not to say that the Houthis are Hezbollah, but they do not need to be to achieve Iran’s goals, which is to encircle the Saudis, expand its influence and power projection in the region and develop levers of unconventional pressure.”
نستخدم ملفات الكوكيز لنسهل عليك استخدام مواقعنا الإلكترونية ونكيف المحتوى والإعلانات وفقا لمتطلباتك واحتياجاتك الخاصة، لتوفير ميزات وسائل التواصل الاجتماعية ولتحليل حركة المرور لدينا...اعرف أكثر