Iranian meddling fuels extremist rise in Yemen

By Abu Bakr al-Yamani in Sanaa

Yemeni pro-government forces fire towards Houthis' Ansarallah elements positioned in the hills of the Sharija region on the borders of Taez and Lahj provinces on September 25th. [Saleh al-Obeidi/AFP]

Yemeni pro-government forces fire towards Houthis' Ansarallah elements positioned in the hills of the Sharija region on the borders of Taez and Lahj provinces on September 25th. [Saleh al-Obeidi/AFP]

The Iranian regime's support of the Houthis' Ansarallah has created instability in Yemen which has fostered the spread of groups such as al-Qaeda and the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL), experts said.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) support of Ansarallah was the primary reason for the outbreak of the war, they said, and its continued support of the Shia movement is the reason the conflict has continued without resolution since its outbreak in March 2015 .

The coup staged by the Houthis on September 21, 2014, effectively prevented state institutions from functioning, Abaad Centre for Strategic Studies director Abdulsalam Mohammed told Al-Mashareq.

Armed extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIL took advantage of this absence of state authority to make inroads in parts of the country, he said, adding that the sectarian nature of the coup also has given those Sunni extremist groups a pretext to act on an ideological basis.

After Ansarallah seized control of Sanaa, he noted, al-Qaeda took control of Abyan and freed the majority of al-Qaeda prisoners in Sanaa and other provinces.

Al-Qaeda also seized control of al-Mukalla in Hadramaut province on April 1, 2015, and looted the port city's banks -- actions that were made possible by the coup and collapse of the state, Mohammed said.

Both al-Qaeda and ISIL have proliferated in the southern and eastern provinces over the past two years , he said, adding that this was aided by "Iranian support for the Houthis", which also "helped them carry out their plans to seize control of state institutions".

However, he added, "due to the special characteristics of Yemeni society" this has failed to turn the battle into a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shia.

Social cohesion, public opposition of the coup and a desire to restore the state also helped to prevent sectarian warfare, he said.

"The opposition to the coup by the state’s civilian and military leadership prevented its exploitation to ignite sectarian persecution," Mohammed said.

IRGC support fuels instability

IRGC support for the Houthis, a socio-political movement led by the Shia tribes of north Yemen, could spur Sunni armed groups to amass weapons and fighters in anticipation of an eventual battle, said strategic expert Adnan al-Humairi.

This external support from the IRGC has given rise to instability in Yemen through conflict, war and the division of state institutions, he told Al-Mashareq.

Yemen's security forces have been particularly impacted, he said, "which enables terrorist groups to proliferate and expand, and not only al-Qaeda and ISIL, but other armed groups as well".

It is in al-Qaeda's interest for the war to be prolonged, he said, as it has announced its control over a number of areas "and is also carrying out suicide attacks in more than one region on a larger scale than it did before the war".

Amid the conflict, ISIL also has announced its presence in Yemen, he said, and has carried out a string of deadly suicide attacks in Aden and al-Mukalla.

Through its support for the Houthis, the IRGC is " supporting instability in the region, because this is in its interest and the interest of [Iran's] allies in the region ", he said.

Support for the Houthis helps the Iranian regime to expand its influence, he said, but strengthening them also "spurs forces that are ideologically opposed to the group to work towards boosting themselves with money and weapons".

This was the case when al-Qaeda seized weapons from the army after it overran al-Mukalla, he said, on the pretext that the Houthis also have captured government weapons and resources.

The Iranian regime supports the Houthis as it believes its support will further its influence in the region, strategic affairs researcher Saeed Abdul Moumin told Al-Mashareq.

"The environment in Yemen has become more conducive to the proliferation of new armed groups and to a worse degree than is currently the case with al-Qaeda and ISIL," he said, warning against prolonging the war in Yemen.

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O, you the children of pigs, you want to kill Yemenis and you don't want them to defend themselves?! Iran is the lord that you must worship. By Allah, Iran will crush you, and the Houthis have come close to Riyadh.