Diplomacy

State Dept. Official: As Iran Continues Arming Yemen Rebels, U.S. Looking to Enforce Arms Embargo

A top State Department official said Tuesday that the United States is aware of increased Iranian involvement in the civil war currently taking place in Yemen, and is “’looking at ways’ to ensure a long-standing United Nations Security Council arms embargo on Iran is enforced,” The Hill reported yesterday.

Gerald Feierstein, principal deputy assistant secretary of State for near eastern affairs, made his remarks Tuesday at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

Iran proposed a peace plan for Yemen earlier this week, but Feierstein said, “If the Iranians are serious about the peace plan, in the first instance they should stop sending weapons to the Houthis.” …

Feierstein said the U.S. would be “looking at ways” to ensure a long-standing United Nations Security Council arms embargo on Iran is enforced, and will track an Iranian ship near Yemen.

“We will be keeping a careful eye on it. We also have significant forces in the area, and we’ll be tracking,” he said.

Feierstein also said that if the Iranians were serious about their peace proposal, they would encourage the Houthis to return to negotiations.

In his official statement (.pdf), Feierstein conveyed similar thoughts:

At the same time, we remain deeply concerned about external support for the Houthis military ambitions, particularly from Iran. Iran does not control the Houthis; however, we know that the Houthis and Iran have a relationship. Iran is likely looking to take advantage of Houthi international isolation to expand its influence in Yemen. Iran has continued to provide financial support, weapons, and intelligence to the Houthis; this assistance has encouraged their destabilizing activities. …

We are also committed to working with our partners in the region and around the world to take the necessary steps to counter Iranian attempts to foment instability in the region.

The Iranian-backed Houthis captured Sanaa, the capital, in October, and prevented the formation of a government. Iran later acknowledged that it supported the Houthis, and an Iranian official even boasted after the Houthis captured Sanaa that Iran controlled four Arab capitals. It was reported in November that the Iranian-backed terror organization Hezbollah was in Yemen training the Houthis.

Earlier this year, the Houthis stormed the presidential palace in Sanaa. Yemen’s government eventually resigned when the Houthis reneged on a power-sharing arrangement.

At the end of March, Saudi Arabia led a multinational military operation aimed at defeating the Houthis. Earlier this month, forces loyal to the American-backed government of Yemen announced that they had captured two Iranian officers in the port city of Aden.

[Photo: House Foreign Affairs Committee / YouTube ]