Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has warned that extremism and sectarian violence sponsored by Iran in the Middle East is feeding a cycle of terrorist activity that will be difficult to counter.
Speaking in New York at the U.N. General Assembly, Yemeni president Hadi said the attacks that Iran-backed rebels were conducting against the Yemeni people would feed on the chaotic situation in that country.
“I am here to announce in the name of all the Yemeni people our complete commitment to face terrorism and I assert to you that terrorism in Yemen cannot be stopped without putting an end to its reasons: essentially the counter-terrorism sponsored by Houthis and Saleh,” he said.
Yemen has been embroiled in a sectarian conflict between Houthi rebels (who take their name from the leader of that movement, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi) and the Yemeni government. The Houthi rebels took control of Yemen in 2014, which prompted a Saudi-led intervention to restore the Yemeni government in 2015. The war has brought economic devastation to Yemen and shattered its already-weak political institutions.
Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s governments both claim Iran is actively helping the Houthi rebels by providing them with shipments of arms, conducting intelligence meetings with its leaders, and housing Houthi rebels within its borders.
President Hadi did not mince words while speaking for the U.N. General Assembly. “We shall extract Yemen from the claws of Iran, we shall raise the Yemeni flag over every foot of our precious soil,” he said.
“Iran impedes all measures that we are taking by a multitude of actions and interventions”, he added.
Speaking about his decision to move Yemen’s Central Bank from the historical capital of Sana’a to the port city of Aden, a stronghold for Hadi’s forces, Hadi said: “Rebels and militias had transformed the bank into one of the tools of war used against the Yemeni people. Therefore, we decided to move the Central Bank to the interim capital of Aden in order to save what we can save from the reserves.” Yemen’s Central Bank is one of the last remaining political or economic institutions in the country and is effectively running the Yemeni economy.
Hadi also reiterated that the Yemeni government is committed to securing the delivery of urgent humanitarian aid to all the country’s provinces.
“We call for the support of the free world and its monetary institutions in order to stand by us, and save the Yemeni economy,” which, he said, “is about to collapse.”
According to information provided to Asharq Al-Awsat by Yemeni sources, the Yemeni government is planning to present five cases to the U.N. Security Council over Iran’s direct and indirect influence in the insurgency, covering various forms of economic and political meddling by Tehran.
Iran’s role in the Yemeni insurgency is part of its larger regional struggle with Saudi Arabia. The Houthis are not technically considered Iranian proxies, and have independently fought Saudi Arabia in the past. Despite Tehran urging restraint, the Houthi rebels took the capital of Sana’a and other provinces in Yemen in 2015, provoking a counter-insurgency by an Arab coalition dominated by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States.
Iran has repeatedly denied its support of the Houthi rebels, although its weapons shipments have been intercepted by western navies and its role in the conflict is widely regarded as fact.
In April, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that “if Iran is going to give meaning to the words that were issued by its president in the last days about not being a threat to people in the region and wanting to work with people, the place to begin is by supporting the effort that we are engaged in to make peace in Yemen, not provide more weapons to Yemen and continue to fuel the conflict.”
“Just last week, the U.S. Fifth Fleet, based here in Bahrain, interdicted an arms shipment that originated in Iran with arms that were clearly moving in the direction of Yemen. We will continue to push back against this kind of provocation in the region,” he said.
The civil war triggered by the insurgency since 2015 has already claimed more than 10,000 lives in Yemen, of which nearly 4,000 are civilians. Since its fate is intimately tied with the civil war in Syria (Iran and Saudi Arabia have responded to mutual provocations in Syria by increasing their military activities in Yemen), the case of Yemen has taken on urgency during a particularly critical meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.