Iranian Support of Houthi Rebels Worsening Humanitarian Disaster in Yemen

Tens of thousands of Yemenites have lost their homes and livelihoods, the country’s ambassador to the United States wrote in Newsweek on Monday—and now Iran is accelerating its support for the Houthi rebels.

The Islamic Republic is sending military advisors and advanced weapons, including drones, to sway the outcome of a civil war that could tip the balance of power in the Middle East, regional and Western sources told Reuters. The weapons are being sent via ship, either directly from Iran or indirectly via Somalia, and arrive along Yemen’s extensive coastline in typical fishing boats, which makes them harder for anti-smuggling authorities to spot.

A spokeswoman for Britain’s Foreign Office said it was “concerned by Iranian support to the Houthis, including reports that Iran has transferred weapons to Yemen which would be contrary to a UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and the Security Council’s embargo on the export of weapons by Iran,” Reuters reported.

Tehran has also been providing Afghan and Shi’ite Arab specialists as trainers, including those who fought in Syria under top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders. This same covert approach was employed in Syria in 2014, before Iran became more open about its involvement and influence in that country’s conflict.

In addition to contributing to the destruction inside Yemen, the Houthis are endangering the safe passage of international shipping through the critical Bab al-Mandeb strait. The United States Office of Naval Intelligence warned last month that Houthi “naval mining threatens commercial ships traveling … near Mokha port and the Bab al Mandab Strait,” the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project reported.

An estimated 4.7 million barrels of oil pass daily through the strait, which links the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea.

[Photo: Mehr News ]