Iran’s arms shipments to Houthis fuel war in Yemen, experts say

Iran’s arms shipments to Houthis  fuel war in Yemen, experts say
Houthi fighters ride a patrol truck in Sanaa, in this file photo taken on March 5, 2015. (REUTERS)
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Updated 30 June 2020

Iran’s arms shipments to Houthis fuel war in Yemen, experts say

Iran’s arms shipments to Houthis  fuel war in Yemen, experts say
  • The Yemeni government has swiftly demanded that the international community put an end to Iranian meddling in Yemen in their sending arms shipments that fuel the war to the Houthis

AL-MUKALLA, YEMEN: The latest Saudi-led-coalition seizure of an Iranian arms shipment destined for the Houthis is further evidence of Iran’s destabilizing role in war-torn Yemen, according to government officials and experts.
“This is concrete proof of Iran’s involvement in Yemen,” Salem Al-Khanbashi, the deputy prime minister of Yemen, told Arab News.
At a press conference in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Monday, the Saudi-led coalition announced intercepting a dhow carrying hundreds of weapons, made in Iran, early this month, including missiles, sniper rifles and ammunition. The dhow was seized off the Yemeni coastal town of Mocha on the Red Sea and was heading to the Houthis, the coalition said.
The Yemeni government has swiftly demanded that the international community put an end to Iranian meddling in Yemen in their sending arms shipments that fuel the war to the Houthis.
“There must be strong punishments against this country that supplies Houthis with those advanced weapons,” Al-Khanbashi said.
Even before the start of the war 5 years ago, consecutive Yemeni governments accused Iran of smuggling arms to the Houthis, enabling them to keep fighting despite coming under heavy attacks by government and Saudi-led coalition forces. The Yemeni coast guard has intercepted many similar arms shipments off the Yemeni coast over the past several years.

This is concrete proof of Iran’s involvement in Yemen.

Salem Al-Khanbashi, deputy prime minister of Yemen

“There is a continuous smuggling process that resupplies Houthis with advanced weapons. The national army forces have seized many Iranian weapons from Houthis during fighting,” Al-Khanbashi said.
Gerald Feierstein, the former US ambassador to Yemen, said that the Iranians supported the Houthis with weapons and trained them in using them long before the start of the Saudi-led military operation in Yemen.
“The Iranian engagement began long before the outbreak of the civil war or the Saudi coalition’s intervention. It’s clear that the Iranians saw the Houthi movement as an opportunity to put pressure on Saudi Arabia and to threaten its southern border,” he told Arab News in an interview in March.
The Yemeni government and military officials believe that the Houthis are bringing in shipments of Iranian weapons through coastal areas under their control on the Red Sea.
The Houthis remain in control of strategic seaports on the Red Sea, including Hodeidah. The impact of the undisrupted supplies of the advanced Iranian weapons to the Houthis can been seen on the battlefield. Yemeni military commanders have recently told Arab News that the Houthi bombardment has become more destructive and precise, killing more soldiers and civilians. This shows that Houthis resupplied their depleted arsenal of weapons that were destroyed during fighting with advanced weapons that sometime gave them superiority on the battlefield, army commanders say.
Experts argue that the continuing supplies of weapons from Iran has not only extended the conflict in Yemen, but also allowed them to target Saudi Arabia through ballistic missiles and drones.
“The Iranian support to the Houthis has not only prolonged the war, but also enabled the Houthis to target civilian areas in neighboring Saudi Arabia, as well as oil shipments, and to threaten international navigation through the Bab Al-Mandab,” Saleh Al-Baydhani, a Yemeni political analyst, told Arab News.
To stem the flow of Iranian weapons to Yemen, military experts suggest increasing sea patrol vessels near the Yemeni coast and liberating the remaining Yemeni coastal areas under Houthi control.
“Each time an arms shipment is intercepted, an attack inside Yemen or on Saudi Arabia is foiled. So I see the latest interception as a success,” Brig. Khaled Al-Nasi, a Yemeni military analyst, told Arab News.
“Tightening the screws on the smuggling of arms would accelerate the fall of this group,” Al-Nasi said.


UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts
Updated 23 January 2021

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts
  • Geir Pederson wants enhanced international diplomacy, and tighter focus on progress in drafting new constitution
  • The fifth session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee begins in Geneva on Monday

NEW YORK: Geir Pedersen, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, on Friday called for “more serious and cooperative” international diplomacy as part of political efforts to improve the lives of the Syrian people and develop a vision for the future of their country.

Speaking ahead of the fifth session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, which begins on Monday in Geneva, he also urged committee members to focus their efforts and work more effectively to speed up progress on constitutional reform.

Pedersen expressed hope that much-needed international engagement with the peace process is now possible.

“After all, despite the differences, key states are continuing to reaffirm their commitment to Resolution 2254,” he added, referring to the UN Security Council resolution, adopted in 2015, that calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria.

Pedersen, who briefed the Security Council this week on the latest developments, highlighted the fact that five foreign armies are active in Syria and “violations of Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity (have been) going on for years.”

Although the ceasefire agreement reached by Russia and Turkey in the northwest of the country resulted in a de-escalation of hostilities, Pedersen warned that this relative calm remains fragile.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File) 

“All of these issues cannot be sorted out by the Syrians alone,” he said. (They) need an international cooperation (and) a real exchange of views (among all parties).

“If that political will is lacking it would be very, very difficult to move this process forward ... if you leave this to the UN alone, we will not be able to succeed.”

Top on the agenda on Monday will be discussion of the basic principles of the Syrian constitution. Pedersen said he has been meeting with the two co-chairs of the committee on a regular basis, and has also had intensive discussions with the “Middle Third” civil-society group, which includes society activists and experts and other independents from inside and outside of Syria.

His experiences during the past year, he said, lead him to believe there is potential for finding common ground. No single actor or group of actors can impose its will on Syria or settle the conflict alone — they must work together, he added.

The time has now come for the co-chairs of the Constitutional Committee to organize and focus its efforts by establishing “more effective and operational working methods,” Pedersen said, so that they can begin to move forward from preparing constitutional reforms to actually drafting them, and agreeing on clear agendas and discussion topics for future meetings.

“There needs to be more urgency (in) delivering progress in this process,” he added.

As he saluted the work of civil society groups and “all the Syrians who do what they can to improve the situation on the ground and support a political process,” Pedersen singled out women in particular for praise. He has been particularly proactive in seeking input from the Women’s Advisory Board.

“It is a priority for all of us to make sure that we have full participation of Syrian women in the political process,” he said. “(Promoting) their core constitutional rights is central for me, as the facilitator of the work of the Constitutional Committee.”

Asked about plans for large-scale prisoner swaps, Pedersen said that although this is not on the agenda for the talks in Geneva this week, it is always part of his own agenda. The disappointment over the lack of progress on the issue so far means “that we should work even harder” on it, he added.

“This is a file that really has an impact on nearly every Syrian family, and it needs to be addressed,” he said. “(I) have appealed (for) more information on the missing. (We) need to see the early release of women, children, the elderly and the sick, and I think (nothing) should stop that from happening.”

The members of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee are due to arrive in Geneva on Saturday, and Pedersen will consult with the co-chairs over the weekend before the main talks begin on Monday.

Asked whether he expects this latest round of negotiations to be a success for the UN, Pedersen said: “I really do not think this is the question; the question (is) whether it is a success for the Syrian people and (their) aspirations.

“My hope has been that the Constitutional Committee, if it is handled in the correct manner, could start to build trust and (be) a door-opener for a broader political process.

“But the (committee) cannot work in isolation ... we need political will from the different parties to be able to move forward.”

He added: “The (committee) is just one aspect, and it is not the one aspect that will solve the Syrian crisis. If we are to see changes in the situation on the ground, there are other factors that need to be discussed.”