Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi has accused the Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh of promoting Iran’s interests in the Arab country. “We do not call for war, but for peace,” Hadi said during a military graduation ceremony. “However, we will not allow [Abdul-Malik] al-Houthi to force an Iranian agenda on us,” he warned. He further claimed that the international community and the Arab and Islamic countries recognize and support the legitimate government of Yemen. The Yemeni president also announced that the government has a plan to provide training to all members of pro-government militia groups so that they can form and represent the “new Yemeni army.”
Comment: Hadi’s remarks come amid growing concerns that Iran has recently increased its support for the rebel Houthi movement in the Yemeni civil war. A report by Reuters published today, for example, quotes several regional and Western sources as saying that “in recent months Iran has taken a greater role in the two-year-old conflict by stepping up arms supplies and other support. This mirrors the strategy it has used to support its Lebanese ally Hezbollah in Syria.” The report also quotes an unnamed Iranian official as revealing that Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’s elite Qods Force, met top I.R.G.C. officials in Tehran last month to discuss ways of empowering the Houthis. "At this meeting, they agreed to increase the amount of help, through training, arms and financial support," the official said.
Read moreover, a Saudi coalition aircraft recently killed a senior I.R.G.C. officer who reportedly supervised the design and implementation of ballistic missile systems for Houthi missile brigades in Yemen. And earlier this month, Yousef al-Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United States, said Iran was prolonging the Yemeni conflict by sending weapons to Houthi rebels. He called for “revitalizing security cooperation between the U.S. and the Arab Gulf states” in order to counter Iran’s expansionist agenda in the region, including in Yemen.
While Iranian leaders deny providing weapons to the Houthis, the U.S. military and its allies have confiscated several Iranian arms shipments destined for Yemen. In January, the Australian government released photographs that showed light anti-armor weapons seized near the Yemeni coast were manufactured in Iran. And last November, another report published by the U.K.-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR) indicated an arms “pipeline” originating from Iran extended to Yemen and Somalia. Furthermore, U.S. officials in October reported on the seizure of five shipments of Iranian weapons destined for Yemen.