Iran's continued interference and weapons smuggling in Yemen is protracting the ongoing war, exacerbating the suffering of the people and violating an international embargo, Yemeni officials and analysts say.
Iran has been observed smuggling weapons into Yemen on several occasions, they said, despite the arms embargo imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 2216.
"Iran is interfering in the internal affairs of Yemen, and such flagrant intervention has to stop," Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalak al-Makhlafi said during the 17th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Venezuela on September 17th and 18th.
In a September 23rd speech to the UN General Assembly, President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi said despite the challenge it presents, "the destructive scheme led by Iran through its mercenaries in Yemen stands no chance of succeeding".
He stressed that Yemeni forces "did not fire the first shot" in the current war, and said the country has "long called for putting an end to all the tragedies that have destroyed [our country] for the last 50 years as a result of corrupt governments and selfish control of national wealth and state power".
This led to tension and popular protests two years ago, he said, adding that then, as now, "Iran impeded all measures that we are taking" to implement UN resolutions and the initiatives set out by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC).
Violating truce to smuggle arms
"Iran has taken advantage of the truce declared by the UN envoy to Yemen so that it can bring in supplies and smuggle weapons to its allies in Yemen," said Abaad Centre for Strategic Studies director Abdulsalam Mohammed.
During the truce, announced in Kuwait, coalition air campaigns were put on hold, he told Al-Mashareq, while Iran took advantage of the pause in fighting to deliver anti-armour missiles and other weapons to the Houthis.
These weapons are the same type as those manufactured by Iran that are in the hands of Hizbullah in Lebanon, he said, adding that several experts have confirmed Iran as the source of these weapons.
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) supplied the Houthis with weapons through several channels during the truce period, Mohammed said, chiefly via "smuggling operations across the long coastline using small boats".
The IRCG delivers the weapons to nearby islands, as Yemen has an extensive coastline along the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, he said, noting that Iran also has a military presence in Bab al-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden.
"Iran has used its position to transport weapons in piecemeal to the islands scattered in those waters," he said.
From that point, smugglers ferry the weapons to the mainland and deliver them using different commercial routes and in collaboration with factions operating in ports for a fee, Mohammed said.
Weapons often are smuggled into the country with food and other commercial shipments, he added.
In breach of UN Resolution 2216
The Iranian regime has breached UN Resolution 2216 through its interference in the Yemeni conflict, Mohammed said.
"Recently, Iranian-made weapons were used, and other Iranian assistance includes media agitation, statements and threats made to neighbouring countries," he said.
"Iran is trying to besiege the Gulf countries with its militias -- in Iraq from the east, in Syria from the north, and in Yemen from the south," he said, with the aim of creating chaos and failed states in a bid to weaken the Gulf states.
"You can see this through the wars and chaos in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, as Iran seeks to incite sectarian and regional tensions so as to prolong the wars," he said.
These sectarian and regional wars will allow it to wield influence in these countries by way of its armed factions, he said.
"What is clear is that Iran’s interference in the region has ignited wars everywhere, which has undermined regional and international peace and security," he added.
'Setting the region ablaze'
"Iran is working for its own interests and is setting the region ablaze with wars using its proxies in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen," strategic expert Adnan al-Humairi told Al-Mashareq.
Iran’s military support and supply of weapons to the Houthis "is no longer a secret, particularly since the allied forces intercepted a weapons shipment and two other shipments before that", he said.
"Iran is masterminding a proxy war in Yemen for its own interests and is trying to establish a strong influence in Yemen" similarly to what it is doing in Iraq and Lebanon, al-Humairi said, adding that this will undermine the security and stability of the region because it fuels sectarianism.
The Yemeni maritime border that stretches from the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden from the south to the Red Sea from the west makes it easy to smuggle weapons and people into Yemen, said political analyst Tariq al-Zuraiqi.
Three arms smuggling operations have been intercepted on the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, he told Al-Mashareq, according to a report by UN experts that was raised to the Security Council in August.
The report found that some of these operations were "directly linked to Iran", he said.