Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar announced on Monday (March 27th) in an interview with Saudi newspaper Al-Riyadh that there were Iranian, Lebanese and Iraqi experts who help the Houthi insurgents and forces loyal to ousted president Ali Saleh fight the battles against Yemen’s legitimate government troops, especially on the western Red Sea coast whose range the port city of Hodeida falls within.
Yemeni statements and accusations
"About 150 military experts from Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces have been present in Yemen to provide military services to Houthis and their allies,” said al-Ahmar
Lt. Gen added, "Around 58 Iranian experts who are managing the battle against the national army troops and engaged in the task of planting mines of three types along 200km of Red Sea coastline: magnetic mines, ground mines and remote mines."
According to the Vice President, the first step by the Houthis after the takeover of Sanaa was to release dozens of Iranian spies imprisoned and detained in Sana’a.
Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar emphasized that Iran continues to smuggle weapons of various kinds, including modern and guided missiles such as Kornet missiles and various naval mines, to the Houthis and their allies, explaining that these missiles were smuggled in the form of disjointed pieces, while Iranian and Lebanese experts reinstall them after delivery in Yemen. Moreover, Iran has also provided material resources to manufacture weapons on ground.
Such statements issued by a senior official are not new. President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi has already made several statements on this matter since 2012 until today.
On July 29, 2012, President Hadi said in a lecture at the military college in Sana'a that Iran is interfering in the internal affairs of Yemen, threatening Tehran with a painful response. The statements coincided with an announcement issued by Yemeni authorities about arrest of an "Iranian espionage cell" run by a commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
On Monday (31 March 2014), Yemeni President Hadi accused Iran of supporting South’s separatist movement and "religious groups" in North, in reference to Houthis. Hadi called on Iran to "lift its hand on Yemen" and stop its support for "armed groups and small projects".
"We have asked our Iranian brothers to review their wrong policies towards Yemen, but our demands have not yet borne fruit." Hadi stressed that his country does not want "any escalation" with Tehran, adding, "At the same time, we hope that Iran in lifts its hand on Yemen and work to establish fraternal relations."
Addressing Iran, he said: " Stop interring in Yemen, as we will not let the country to be a toy in your hands. Otherwise, you will pay dearly.”
He indicated that Yemen has not intervened in the affairs of any country, calling on everyone to leave Yemen alone, saying, "It’s too enough what has happened."
On Saturday, 7 September 2013, Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi accused Iran of fueling violence in his country because of its support for some separatist movements in the southern provinces, in reference to extremist movements led by southern leader Ali Salem al-Baid.
"The southern movement began in 2007 and some of its factions ended up in entities of violence as a result of foreign and regional interference, especially those associated with Iran," President Hadi told tribal leaders representing the northern provinces of Saada, Amran and Hajja.
Iran is accused not only by Yemeni officials of meddling in the internal affairs of Yemen, but also by Americans. In a press statement issued on July 10, 2012, the US ambassador accused Tehran of injecting huge sums of money in order to attract loyalties of separatist leaders in the south. He also confirmed that mullahs’ regime supports Houthis in Sa’ada province and has ties with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as part of drive to thwart the implementation of the Gulf initiative in Yemen.
"Instead of baseless accusations against our country, they [Yemeni officials] must take into account and fulfill the legitimate demands of their people," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman RaminMehmanparast said. Iran, he adds, rejects any interference in the internal affairs of the countries of the region.
Iranians kept denying any interference in the affairs of Yemen or support for Houthis, but it turned out that their denial was nothing but a deception when their Houthi affiliate took over the capital Sana'a. At that time, Iranian officials and authorities were quick to boast that the fourth Arab capital fell into Iran's hands.
Some recent stages of Iranian intervention in Yemen:
Badr al-Din al-Houthi and his sons:
In the current era, Badr al-Din al-Houthi worked to communicate and coordinate with Iranian regime after Iran succeeded in presenting itself as a destination of the Shi'a of the Islamic world since the Shah’s overthrow in 1979. Khomeini took upon himself the export of the Iranian Shiite revolution to all Islamic world.
The connection of the Houthis to Iran led to the establishment of what was known as the group of the believing youth, which emerged in Iran in 1986. Then, this organization was secretly transferred to Yemen in stages. In 2000, it strongly emerged to the public after it started as a cultural forum in 1991.
At the end of the 1994 war, Badr al-Din al-Houthi and his son Hussein traveled to Iran, which they chose as a refuge for intellectual convergence, despite sharp differences in some key issues. The spread of some strange ideas among the Houthi followers has been attributed to this stay.
For example, they thought that Badr al-Din’s senior son is the person referred as al-Yamani in traditional statements and that his appearance is a sign of reappearance of the Mahdi as the Shiite legend tells. Such ideas contributed to gathering many ideologized young people around Hussein al-Houthi who returned to Yemen armed with this illusion, while his father stayed there until 2002.
A very significant confidential message, dated 2004 and issued by Badr al-Din al-Houthi to Jawad al-Shahristani (Director of Al-Bayt Foundation) stated that the Houthi movement is completely ready to overthrow the revolution and the republic in Yemen and start battles against the state after it succeeded in having wide influence on and penetrating the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh. The details of this letter were published in the book "Azzahr and al-Hajar”.
Iran has given the Houthi group leader Abdel-Malik al-Houthi an Iranian identity card as a kind of his affiliation and subordination to Iran.
Iran provided the Houthi organization with all means of success, life and continuity such as educational materials, material resources, weapons and scholarships in addition to training recruits to establish an army of the movement, which should be extended to be able to control all Yemen, turning Yemen into a Shiite society and making followers convert from Zaidi to Jaroudiyah then to Twelver belief.
During the six wars that began in 2004 and ended in 2010 between the Houthi rebels and the government, Iran was the largest financier of the Houthis through providing them with money and weapons, as well as sending military advisers to train them and supervise their battles.
Ceyhan 1 and Ceyhan 2 were the most famous Iranian ships intercepted and seized in Yemeni territorial waters while carrying weapons to Houthis in Yemen, and this made President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi accuse Iran of blatant interference in Yemen and supplying the Houthi movement with weapons with the purpose to destabilize Yemen.
Iran took over Iraq in a sectarian manner after helping America to end the rule of Saddam Hussein, and accordingly Iraq returned to the Persian fold. Under the banner of Shiism, Iran has encouraged and supported the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Bashar regime, the opposition of Bahrain and the Houthis in Yemen to re-establish a Persian Empire.
Iran has announced more than once that it would close the Strait of Hormuz, prompting the international community to shift their attention to Yemen in order to find a safe alternative route instead of the Strait of Hormuz. For its part, Iran quickened its pace, strengthening the Houthi militia to extend his influence over Yemen with the aim to control the international corridor and practice extorting.
In the wave of Yemen’s popular youth revolution, Iran coordinated between Houthis and Saleh’s regime to extend influence, control and thwart the revolution. Houthi and Saleh militias resorted to igniting battles in different fronts in Yemen to confuse the political scene and hit the remaining strength points in Yemen.
Mullahs intensified their financial and military support for the Houthis to march towards and take over cities one after another with the purpose to seize control of the capital, Sana'a, and re-establish the imamate overthrown in 1962. With doing so, Iran will have succeeded in encircling Saudi Arabia from the north and south except for the Saudi east characterized by Shiite presence, which Iran’s regime was planning to use it as a trigger of an internal revolution.
In November 2009, Yemeni authorities announced the arrest of an Iranian ship carrying five Iranians.The five Iranians – as official sources stated - intended to deliver military weapons, including anti-armor missiles, to the Iran-affiliated Houthi group in northern Yemen near the Saudi border.
On March 14, 2010, the Yemeni Navy stopped an Iranian ship off the Socotra archipelago, off the coast of the Horn of Africa, and brought it and its crew into investigation on suspicion of involvement in carrying banned materials.
The security services in the archipelago don’t rule out the involvement of the Iranian ship, which was carrying 16 sailors who are all Pakistani nationals, except for the owner of the ship and its captain, in smuggling drugs to Yemen, states a statement by the Interior Ministry at the time.
This seemingly was just a rehearsal in preparation for major smuggling of weapons to Houthis later, as it turned out during the following stations.
In January 2011, Yemen’s Coast Guard, in cooperation with the US Navy, seized the Iranian vessel Ceyhan1 in Yemeni territorial waters while carrying a smuggled weapons shipment to the Houthis.
The arms shipment, according to the Yemeni Interior Ministry, contained 40 tons of high-risk explosives and missiles, including Katyusha rockets M-122, heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles, RPG-7s, Iranian-made night vision goggles and "artillery systems that track land and navy targets 40km away. There were also silencers, 2.66 tonnes of RDX explosives, C-4 explosives, ammunition, bullets and electrical transistors.
Headed by Jonathan Brewer, chairman of the Security Council's expert committee, a UN Security Council delegation visited Yemen to investigate the Iranian ship, Jihan 1, laden with arms for the Houthi militia.
The UN investigation team was expected to submit its report to the Security Council within two weeks in preparation for imposing international sanctions on Iran if it is proven to be involved in the arms shipment.
The panel reported on the findings of an investigation into the 2013 seizure by Yemeni authorities of an Iranian ship, the Jihan, which was carrying weapons. The information collected by the experts “suggests that the Jihan case follows a pattern of arms shipments to Yemen by sea that can be traced back to at least 2009,” said the report seen by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
To avoid any negative consequences of these international moves, Iran tried to make a deal with Yemen in exchange for non-internationalization and withdraw of the case from the UN Security Council, but the Yemeni authorities rejected this request.
On May 16, 2012, an Iran-funded conference in Beirut was held by Yemeni dissidents with the participation of the Houthis and the southern separatist movement, as well as of some remnants of Saleh's former regime. This event was seen as a further evidence of increased Iranian interference in Yemen, aimed at supporting forces opposed to the Gulf Initiative.
The Guardian newspaper earlier revealed on increasing Iranian intervention in Yemen, quoting an activist of southern movement as saying that "many young people of the southern movement leave Yemen quietly for recruitment in Iran."
On Thursday, 7 March 2013, Yemeni forces announced capturing another weapons-laden boat called the Jihan 2 in the narrow Bab el-Mandab Strait trying to enter Yemeni territory, while the case of the Jihan 1 had not yet been closed.
The Yemeni Ministry of Interior stated that a foreign cargo vessel while smuggling weapons into Yemen near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait off the Red Sea coasts. The Ministry said in an online release the shipt "Jihan 2" was seized while it was smuggling weapons into a Yemeni fishing boat.
The security information center said on its website on the same day that the ship was caught on Yemeni Seven Brothers Islands close to Bab al-Mandab after After unloading a shipment of weapons onto a Yemeni fishing boat owned by a person named Q. Zaid.
On Wednesday, April 2, 2014, the official Yemeni news agency (Saba) confirmed that the Yemeni authorities had arrested a spy cell led by a former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
The September 26 website of the Yemeni Ministry of Defense mentioned that the cell practiced spying in Yemen and the Horn of Africa, adding that the center of its operations was Sanaa. It had been operating for seven years, stated the statement.
On Thursday, September 25, 2014, Yemeni authorities in Aden released eight Yemenis convicted of smuggling an Iranian arms shipment to Yemen aboard the Jihan 1.
A Yemeni security source said that "the release of the eight convicts were done based on presidential orders.A government official said the release was conducted based on mediation led by the Sultanate of Oman between Sanaa and Tehran with the aim to calm the situation in Yemen’s capital.
The release took place just two days after the Yemeni authorities had freed two Iranian Revolutionary Guards detained by on charges of recruiting Houthi fighters in northern Yemen.