http://almashareq.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_am/features/2019/06/21/feature-02

Terrorism |

Iran supports regional proxies to undermine Gulf security

Yemeni fighters loyal to the country's exiled President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi ride a tank past a destroyed building during clashes with Iran-backed Houthis in the city of Taez May 30th. [Ahmad al-Basha/AFP]

Iran's continuing support of terrorist and disruptive militias in the region is further evidence of the Khomeini regime's plans to destabilise Arab states with the aim of expanding its own influence, analysts say.

In Yemen, four years of war that have pitted the Houthis (Ansarallah) against the Saudi-led Arab coalition, have brought nothing but destruction and famine to the country.

A UN-sponsored peace deal has stalled because of the Houthis' persistent violations of the agreement. Meanwhile, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) continues to supply the militia with sophisticated weapons.

In Lebanon, even though the IRGC has been forced to cut back on the money it funnels Hizbullah because of international sanctions imposed on both of them, the Lebanese militia serves all Iranian interests in exchange for money, political and logistical support.

In a video released May 14th, the US State Department alleges that the IRGC has set up a military base at a Hizbullah facility in Bayt Mubarak on Lebanon's eastern border, opposite Syria's al-Zabadani.

The site, in the Hermel-Bekaa region, is being used by the IRGC's Quds force (IRGC-QF) to provide training on the use of armoured personnel carriers (APCs), according to the video.

Hizbullah has been conducting training at the facility for its forces as well as for IRGC-QF fighters and affiliated militias.

Dominating shipping lanes

The IRGC seeks to dominate international shipping lanes through its proxies, notably the Houthis and Hizbullah, political analyst Waddah al-Jalil told Al-Mashareq.

It is trying to control Yemen's western coast off the Red Sea in order to build a military base, as stated by several Iranian military leaders in recent months, al-Jaleel said.

US sanctions have tightened the noose around Iran and its proxy groups, he said, followed by IRGC disruption of transportation in the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman.

A Japanese-owned tanker attacked in the Gulf of Oman last week was damaged by a limpet mine resembling those used by Iran, the US military said Wednesday (June 19th).

Commander Sean Kido of US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), said the mine used in the attack "is distinguishable and it is also strikingly bearing a resemblance to Iranian mines that have already been publicly displayed in Iranian military parades".

The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, loaded with highly flammable methanol, came under attack last Thursday as it passed through the Gulf of Oman along with the Norwegian-operated Front Altair.

It was the second attack in a month on ships in the strategic shipping lane.

In mid-May, the US dispatched a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Arabian Gulf in response to heightened threat from Iran, but the US insists it does not seek war with Tehran.

A clear threat to the Gulf

Hizbullah and the Houthi militia carry out the Iranian agenda aimed at undermining the security and stability of the Arabian Gulf, political analyst Khalid Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

"There is a clear threat to the security of the Gulf through military actions targeting mainly Saudi Arabia," he said, noting that Houthi attacks and missiles against Saudi targets in the past period "take place with direct support from Iran and thanks to Hizbullah's expertise".

While Iran is financing both the Houthis and Hizbullah and providing them with weapons, it is clear that the Houthis today take priority over the Lebanese militia, he said, as the IRGC finds itself reeling from the impact of sanctions.

The IRGC considers the Houthis to be more valuable at this point "because the militia is fighting Saudi Arabia, Iran's arch foe", he said.

"The IRGC supports the Houthis in all areas -- politically, militarily, economically and through the media," lawyer and activist Abdul Rahman Barman told Al-Mashareq.

This support has enabled the militia "to launch more than 200 rockets and more than 100 drones at Saudi areas", targeting economic facilities and civilian infrastructure, he added.

Late on Wednesday (June 19th), a Houthi strike targeted a desalination plant in the south-western Saudi province of Jizan.

A week earlier, the militia launched a missile attack on Abha airport in south-western Saudi Arabia, wounding 26 civilians.

Arab coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said the strike on the airport amounted to a "terrorist attack" on a civilian target which could be considered a "war crime", adding that the coalition would "take stern action" to deter the Houthis and protect civilians.

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