Yemeni Coast Guard thwarts Iran smuggling attempts

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

Yemeni coast guards walk at Saleef port in the western Red Sea al-Hodeidah province after their redeployment following the withdrawal of Houthi fighters, on May 13th, 2019. [AFP]

Yemeni coast guards walk at Saleef port in the western Red Sea al-Hodeidah province after their redeployment following the withdrawal of Houthi fighters, on May 13th, 2019. [AFP]

Yemen's Coast Guard has been foiling Iran's attempts to supply the Houthi militia (Ansarallah) with weapons and illegal drugs, officials and activists say.

The Iranian regime's support of its proxy in Yemen serves to prolong the war and destabilise the region, and is in violation of international law, they warn.

Naval patrols in the Bab al-Mandeb Strait on July 16th intercepted a boat headed for the Houthis that was carrying large quantities of ammunition for automatic weapons, Coast Guard Director-General (Red Sea Sector) Col. Abdul-Jabbar al-Zahzouh said in a press statement.

It was the fourth operation of its kind in a month.

In one instance, two boats were seized after breaching Yemeni waters; another boat carrying 40 kilogrammes of cocaine and then another carrying a quantity of pistols and ammunition were seized in three separate operations.

Meanwhile, the Arab coalition announced on June 30th the seizure of Iranian weapons aboard boats headed to the Houthis in two different operations.

The weapons seized included thermal anti-armour rockets and drone-guidance systems.

Al-Zahzouh commended Coast Guard forces for their efforts to secure the liberated coasts and prevent the flow of smuggled weapons and drugs to the Houthis.

He also underscored the Arab coalition's role in rebuilding and training Yemen's Coast Guard - Red Sea Sector.

Crippling the capabilities of Iran, Houthis

"The Coast Guard's mission is to protect the coasts and prevent weapons from reaching the Houthis," Yemeni political analyst Adel al-Shujaa told Al-Mashareq.

The seizure of contraband being smuggled to the Houthis "exposes the Iranian regime as a country that supports terrorism through smuggling weapons and drugs", he said.

Iran is determined to continue with its smuggling operations to Yemen in order to support the Houthis and undermine the security and stability of the region, lawyer and rights activist Abdul Rahman Barman told Al-Mashareq.

Tehran is violating international law by breaking the arms embargo on Yemen, he said.

"The Houthi militias use drugs on the battlefronts, where they give them to their fighters," said Barman, noting that some types of narcotics make fighters "feel braver and stronger and induce them to accept death".

Hence, the Iranian regime funnels drugs to the Houthis "to make it easier to control them", he added.

Iran also aims to use the Houthis for the purpose of smuggling contraband into Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, he said.

He hailed the success of the Yemeni Coast Guard in curbing Iran's operations.

"The success of the Coast Guard in carrying out its tasks reflects the success of the Yemeni government in imposing a blockade to prevent the delivery of [Iranian] shipments to the Houthis," said Barman.

As a result, Houthi capabilities are curtailed as Iranian weapons "are key to the militia's military operations", he added.

Supporting Coast Guard forces

"One of the keys to the state's success is the success of its security and military institutions and apparatuses," Deputy Minister of Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez told Al-Mashareq.

The Yemeni Coast Guard play an important role in safeguarding Yemen's coasts, especially in view of the Iranian support of the Houthis with weapons and drugs, he said.

Yemen's coastline, which stretches more than 1,906 kilometres, presents a major challenge to Yemeni efforts to secure the country.

The Houthis, through Iran's support, are tampering with the "international shipping lane in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandeb by planting naval mines targeting commercial and other vessels", Abdul Hafeez said.

Other countries are required to support Yemen as breaches to Yemeni coasts "constitute a threat to neighbouring countries' national security", he added.

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