Politics |

Iranian aid to Houthis prolongs Yemen conflict

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

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A Yemeni man holds up a Kalashnikov assault rifle with a flag extending from its barrel bearing a picture of Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi, during a tribal meeting in Sanaa on September 21st. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

Iran’s continued smuggling of weapons to its proxies in Yemen, the Houthis (Ansarallah), has prolonged Yemen's war and caused the Yemeni people immense suffering, analysts told Al-Mashareq.

The Iranian regime's interference in the protracted conflict is aimed purely at serving its own interests in the region, they said, pointing out that an extended state of war is of no benefit whatsoever to the Yemeni people.

Iran has been implicated in the smuggling of weapons to Yemen via its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), along with experts to assemble them, political analyst and journalist Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

These weapons have been used to target civilians and infrastructure in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, which is supporting Yemen's legitimate government in its battle against the Houthis, as well as in Yemen, he said.

This has fueled regional tensions and prolonged the war, which has now entered its fifth year, he said, as well as compounding the suffering inside Yemen.

There is evidence that the IRGC has smuggled arms to the Houthis "via islands in Bab al-Mandab and aboard small fishing boats", Ahmed said.

This is being done to further an Iranian agenda that does not serve the Yemeni people, he said, and has in fact placed the lives of Yemeni fishermen at risk.

Iran's actions have compounded the suffering of the Yemeni people "on every level", he said.

Iranian expansionism

Through its support for the Houthis, which has included supplying them with missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Iran is seeking to expand its influence in the Arabian Peninsula, said political analyst Waddah al-Jalil.

Striking Yemeni government targets and firing missiles at civilian targets in Saudi Arabia "serves only Iran’s interests", he told Al-Mashareq, noting that the Houthis "are one of Iran’s tools in the region".

Iran's continued smuggling of weapons to Yemen is aimed at turning it into a "military base from which to strike the interests of its rivals in the region and acquiring an area that overlooks the Red Sea", al-Jalil said.

''The Houthis' control of some of these areas strengthens the Iranians' influence and ability to strike shipping lines in the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea," he said.

Smuggling weapons

"The IRGC has assigned special units to smuggle weapons to its militias in the region, including the Houthis in Yemen," Abaad Centre for Strategic Studies director Abdulsalam Mohammed told Al-Mashareq.

These units have smuggled missile parts and UAV technology into Yemen, he said, along with Iranian engineers to help assemble the weapons and equipment and teach the Houthis how to use it.

The Iranian engineers set up factories in Yemen for the manufacture of the larger components, which are difficult to smuggle into the country and can be produced at a lower cost in Yemen, he added.

The Houthis' use of Iranian weapons is prolonging the war, Mohammed said, adding that it is "all to serve Iran's interests".

The war has caused untold suffering for the Yemeni people, including internal displacement, extensive damage to infrastructure and disruption to services, including schools, as well as food shortages and unemployment.

The country's public and private sectors have been decimated, its currency has dropped in value, and families have been torn apart by poverty, which has in turn contributed to a rise in the recruitment of child soldiers.

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