Iran

TIP Senior Fellow: Houthis Must Be Labeled Terrorists, or They’ll Become Yemen’s Hezbollah

The international community must rigorously enforce the United Nations-brokered peace deal between the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and Yemen’s internationally recognized government or risk a permanent “Hezbollahisation” of the conflict, TIP Senior Fellow Julie Lenarz wrote in an op-ed published in the European Union’s The Parliament Magazine on Thursday.

“From the conflict’s start, the Houthis have deployed tactics straight from the Hezbollah handbook at the expense of the Yemeni people,” Lenarz argued. “They embed themselves among the civilian population, deliberately intimidating entire communities. Human shields have become a tragic feature of their approach.”

To that end, Lenarz argued, “western powers should seriously consider designating the Houthis as a terrorist organisation.”

The two warring parties reached a fragile ceasefire in Sweden last week, which includes the full withdrawal of Houthi troops from Hodeidah’s three ports and city. “If fully implemented, the agreement should help alleviate Yemen’s devastating humanitarian crisis and could pave the way for a negotiated peace,” Lenarz noted.

If the terms of the agreement are breached, however, the international community risks the “Hezbollahisation” of the civil war and a scenario similar to that in Lebanon, where the Iranian-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah holds hostage an entire population.

“Iran is the common benefactor that binds these two groups together,” Lenarz explained, citing examples of Iran’s meddling in Yemen’s war, including financial assistance and training programs for Houthi rebels.

“The weapons transfers also include ballistic missile technology,” Lenarz wrote, “which have grabbed headlines with their regular launch against civilians in neighbouring states and commercial shipping in the Bab el-Mandeb strait.”

She observed that, as part of the “Hezbollahisation” of the conflict, Yemen has also experienced a surge in anti-Semitic rhetoric and sentiments based on the virulent ideology of the Iranian regime in Tehran.

“The Houthi rebels have increasingly incorporated anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric into their speeches, echoing the malignant hatred of their Iranian paymasters,” Lenarz said. “In October, the group handed out student and staff ID cards at the University of Sana’a with a slogan saying, ‘Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam’ in a disturbing escalation.”

The evidence leads to only one conclusion, Lenarz argued: “The Houthis have proven utterly incapable and uninterested in governing those areas they illegally occupy, instead relying on violence and tyranny.” She charged that the “Hezbollahisation” of the civil war “must be stopped at all costs, before Iran can carve out a state within the state and further fulfil Tehran’s foreign adventurism under the guise of governance.”

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