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

  • 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.


Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

Updated 43 min 30 sec ago

Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

TEHRAN: Iraq’s foreign minister arrived Saturday in Tehran for bilateral talks with senior Iranian officials, according to the state-run news agency.
IRNA reported that Fuad Hussein planned to meet his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani, in what marked his first visit to the Iranian capital.
Zarif visited Baghdad in mid-July, when he met with Hussein and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. It was Zarif’s first visit to Iraq since a US airstrike in January killed a top Iranian general, Qassim Soleimani, outside Baghdad’s international airport. The strike catapulted Iraq to the brink of a US-Iran proxy war that could have destabilized the Middle East.
After Zarif’s trip, the Iraqi premier visited Iran in July.
The report did not elaborate on the main reasons behind the top Iraqi diplomat’s two-day trip to Tehran.
Iran sees neighboring Iraq as a possible route to bypass US sanctions that President Donald Trump re-imposed in 2018 after pulling the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
Last year, Iran’s exports to Iraq amounted to nearly $9 billion, the official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday. It said the two nations will discuss increasing the amount to $20 billion.
Before the current global pandemic, some 5 million Iranian pilgrims annually brought in nearly $5 billion visiting Iraq’s Shiite holy sites.
Iran has seen the worst outbreak in the region, with more than 443,000 thousand confirmed cases and at least 25,300 deaths.
A news website affiliated with Iranian state TV, yjc.ir, reported that Iran canceled all its flights to Iraqi cities until the religious holiday of Arbaeen, due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. The holiday marks the end of the forty days of mourning that follow annually on the death anniversary of the seventh-century Muslim leader Hussein, who was killed at the Battle of Karbala during the tumultuous first century of Islam’s history.
Iran fought an eight-year war with Iraq that killed nearly 1 million people on both sides, after former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded in the early 1980s.