Security

Iran branded 'responsible' for Yemen war's bloody continuation

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi

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Iran-backed Houthi militants in Sanaa on May 20. [MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP]

ADEN -- Iran's role in financing and arming the Houthis has directly led to civilian deaths and prolonged the conflict in Yemen, Yemeni officials say.

"The continuous Iranian support for the Houthis with weapons and experts from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Lebanese Hizbullah is the main factor in the continuation of the war," Deputy Minister of Justice Faisal al-Majeedi said.

"The responsibility that Iran bears for the continuation of the war is a direct one, because the planning is Iranian, the weapons are Iranian and even the objectives serve Iran's interests," he said.

Al-Majeedi cited Iranian arms shipments to the Houthis by sea and land, some of which were seized by the US Navy, Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and the Arab coalition.

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A woman feeds a Yemeni child suffering from malnutrition at a malnourishment care centre in Yemen's northern Hajjah province on January 20. Yemen, which since 2014 has been gripped by a war between the Iran-backed Houthis and the government, has sunk into the world's worst humanitarian crisis. [Essa Ahmed/AFP]

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A young man lifts a sack of flour provided by the World Food Programme in the Yemeni city of Sanaa on June 1. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

The US Navy in May seized a massive shipment of illicit Russian and Chinese weapons from a dhow sailing in international waters in the north Arabian Sea that had come from Iran, according to an initial investigation.

The weapons were similar to those seized in other intercepted shipments that were en route to the Houthis in Yemen, said a US defence official at the time.

Al-Majeedi urged the international community to pressure Russia and China to stop sending weapons to Iran, which is smuggling them to the Houthis "to kill Yemenis".

'Directing the war'

Iran has used Yemen's 2,500-kilometre coastline, Yemeni islands and dhows to smuggle weapons to its proxy in Yemen.

Yemeni forces seized two arms-laden Iranian vessels -- the Jihan 1 and Jihan 2 -- in Yemeni territorial waters in 2013 and 2015, respectively.

In a June 2020 report, the United Nations (UN) Panel of Experts confirmed that cruise missiles fired from Yemen that were used in a 2019 attack on Saudi Aramco facilities in the kingdom were of Iranian origin.

The missiles included components manufactured in, or exported from Iran, the report said.

From September 2014 to March 2015, Iran operated an air bridge between Sanaa and Tehran at a rate of two planes per day to smuggle strategic weapons to the Houthis, according to al-Majeedi.

Iran is responsible for creating the Houthis' organisational and military structure, thus deliberately setting up a wing or group affiliated with it in Yemen, according to Yemen's Deputy Minister of Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez.

"It is Iran that is actually and really [responsible] for the war in Yemen and the casualties left in its wake," he said, accusing the Islamic Republic of fomenting political, economic, social and cultural turmoil in Yemen.

He noted the US Navy's seizure in February 2020 of Iranian-made copies of Russian missiles aboard a dhow in the Arabian Sea that was en route to Yemen.

"Iran is the builder, instigator and financier, and it is directing the war," he said.

Famine and poverty

An estimated 233,000 people have died as a result of the conflict in Yemen, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Yemen said in a December report.

Meanwhile, famine looms over more than 80% of the population.

"More than seven million Yemenis have entered the famine stage, and 14 million live below the poverty line," Abdul Hafeez said, blaming Iran and the Houthis for the high level of "critical human suffering".

More than four million people have been displaced in Yemen, and two-thirds of its 30 million people are dependent on aid, according to the United Nations.

"Iran acts based on its interests in dealing with the war in Yemen and supports the Houthi militia with all military capabilities," including experts and weapons, said Abaad Studies and Research Centre director Abdulsalam Mohammed.

It has increased its support for the Houthis at every stage of the war, he said.

"After sending experts and building factories for the manufacture of ammunition, explosives and crude missiles, Iran recently has developed the Houthis' guided weapons capabilities," he said.

This has put unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and guided missiles, sniper rifles with advanced scopes and long-range and anti-armour missiles into their hands.

The smuggling of weapons to the Houthis shows Iran's determination to blow up the situation in Yemen and obstruct the peace process, Mohammed said.

Is Iranian influence good for the Middle East?

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