Iran seeks to fuel conflict in Yemen via Houthis

By Abu Bakr al-Yamani in Sanaa

Newly recruited Houthi fighters take part in a gathering in Sanaa on January 3rd to mobilise more fighters to battlefronts in several Yemeni cities. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

Newly recruited Houthi fighters take part in a gathering in Sanaa on January 3rd to mobilise more fighters to battlefronts in several Yemeni cities. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

Iran’s support for the Houthis (Ansarallah) has been fueling and prolonging the conflict in Yemen and making living conditions difficult for civilians, who face a serious deterioration of the humanitarian situation, political researchers said.

Iran is using the Houthis as a fulcrum for its own interests without any regard for the welfare of Yemen's civilian population, they said, noting that fueling the conflict hampers the delivery of humanitarian aid.

"The seriousness of the Iranian support lies in the fact that it goes beyond the money and arms support," said political researcher Yassin al-Tamimi.

Through its intervention in Yemen, he told Al-Mashareq, Iran seeks to divide the country along sectarian lines "and create perpetual causes for conflict".

A newly recruited Houthi fighter takes part in a gathering in Sanaa to mobilise more fighters on January 3rd. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

A newly recruited Houthi fighter takes part in a gathering in Sanaa to mobilise more fighters on January 3rd. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

'One of Iran's tools'

"Iran uses the Houthis as one of its tools, and has indeed succeeded in controlling them, because it molded them with the same template that produced Hizbullah in Lebanon," he said.

Knowing that most Houthis came from rural areas with limited opportunities, Iran enticed them with migration to new environments, he said.

It stoked sectarian tensions and revived old convictions expressed in the manner of the Iranian revolution, he added, which encompassed everything from military training to the media narrative and slogans.

"However, it is hard to accept the idea that the Houthis are mere puppets, because they have their own internal structure and network of interests," he said.

Their political project remains clearly defined, he added, "to the point that it is difficult to fully subsume or subjugate, even by Iran".

"Iran has played a major role in tightening the controls on Yemeni imports because of its involvement in the smuggling of weapons to the Houthis," al-Tamimi said, which has impacted the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The main ports of entry remain under the Houthis’ control, he noted, "which has ensured the uninterrupted smuggling of weapons".

"I think that the ordinary weapons that are discovered are smuggled to Yemen aboard commercial ships through the port of al-Hodeidah," he said.

"This, of course, has had an impact on the flow of aid through the port of al-Hodeidah, and the aid does not get to its intended recipients anyway, because the Houthis either confiscate it, use it in their war effort or merely block its delivery to its intended recipients," he said.

The export of violence

"Iran's external actions during the mullahs' regime are characterised by the export of violence wherever it operates," said political researcher Abdulmalik al-Yousefi of the University of Taez.

"It is no secret to anyone what happened in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen," he told Al-Mashareq.

What happened in Iraq is being replicated in one way or another in Syria and Yemen, and only the tools and details are different, he said.

"The constant flow of Iranian support for the Houthis fuels the conflict and expands the influence of extremist groups," he added.

Although it is worrisome in general, he said, the humanitarian situation in Yemen varies in severity from region to region, and the common denominator among the areas that are worst off is the direct intervention of the Houthis.

"In Tehama, for example, the Houthis' intervention and blockage of the delivery of food and entry of relief organisations and aid had a direct impact on the situation reaching the famine stage," he said.

"Their looting and diversion of relief items to their war effort and sale on the black market had a direct impact there," al-Yousefi added.

In Taez, he said, "the stifling siege was the main reason for the deterioration in the humanitarian situation, and anyone who follows Yemeni affairs would find plenty of evidence of the correlation between the deterioration of the humanitarian situation and intended and unintentional Houthi interventions".

These "were not limited to the looting of relief aid, blocking its delivery and the siege, as the indiscriminate shelling of Taez, for example, was a major factor of concern and tension that had a huge impact on the deterioration of the situation", he said.

Rejection of political settlement

According to political writer and activist Faisal al-Safwani, political and security stability in Yemen is not in the interest of Tehran.

"Iran's agenda has necessitated a foothold in northern Yemen to disrupt any settlement in Yemen and threaten the security of the Gulf region in the future," he told Al-Mashareq.

"So Tehran found in the Houthi movement its missing and sought after political and sectarian tool."

"It has become clear to observers and those who follow [the situation in Yemen] that the leadership of the Houthi militias is bent on rejecting all external or internal efforts to bring about a political settlement or stop the war," he said.

Yemen has become a byword for war and suffering, he said, "as its people are either wounded or disabled from the war, as well as homeless and displaced".

"The majority of government employees have not received their salaries for a full year, as of the end of August, and the outbreak of infectious epidemics have killed hundreds of civilians", he added.

These conditions have been made possible by Iran's support for the Houthis, he said, which has made them obstinately disinclined to submit to peace.

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Islamic Sharia is on its way to Hadramawt.