Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid Bin Dagher accused Iran’s government of sending military experts to train 6,000 Houthi soldiers in Iran and Lebanon during a meeting in Riyadh on Thursday. He also claimed that the group has killed civilians in Yemen’s ongoing civil war.
“The Yemeni government were not for the war,” said Bin Dagher, “but the Houthi militias imposed it on all Yemenis when it moved its arms from Saada to the rest of the provinces, killing people and blowing up houses”.
The Houthis, officially known as Ansar Allah, is a fundamentalist group that takes its name from religious leader Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi. Al-Houthi lead a rebellion against dictatorial former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. After Saleh relinquished power in Arab Spring-inspired uprisings in 2011, the Houthis, who had been engaged in an ongoing rebellion, joined with Saleh’s loyalist forces to overturn Yemen’s legitimate government. In 2014, they toppled the government of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.
Bin Dagher claimed that the war began much earlier than March 26 of last year, when Hadi left Yemen and thousands of Yemenis flooded the streets of the capital of Sana’a to express their support for the his government and for the Saudi Arabia-led military invention intended to oust the Houthi rebels. He said that the war began when Houthi rebels took arms against the state and their opponents, and underlined that they did so with full support by Iran.
“We are searching for a lasting peace according to the Gulf initiative and its executive mechanisms, Security Council resolution 2216 and the outputs of the national dialogue”, Bin Dagher said.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly corroborated Mr. Hadi’s claim that Iran is supporting Houthi rebels. Recently, the U.S. said it stopped 4 Iranian shipments of arms to Yemen since April 2015 after it imposed maritime and air patrols over the country.
“Either US ships or coalition ships… intercepted four weapons shipments from Iran to Yemen,” said US Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan from an undisclosed military base.
“We know they came from Iran and we know the destination.”
He said the shipments contained AK-47 assault rifles, anti-tanks missiles, sniper rifles and other “higher-end systems”. The destination of the boats was determined by analyzing their GPS systems and by speaking with crew members. The U.N. has confirmed one of the shipments as being an illegal weapons shipment, according to Donegal. Another arms seizure occurred after Iran tried to send a convoy of seven ships to Yemen in April, 2015. The ships were filled with coastal-defense cruise missiles and explosives, among other weapons.
U.S. warships have also been struck by missiles that may have come from Iran-backed Houthi ships, according to the U.S. military’s Central Command chief General Joseph Votel.
“We believe that Iran is connected to this in some way,” Donegan said of the attack. He also suggested that “plenty” of other shipments have gone through the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf.
The Arab Coalition, a group fighting in Yemen on behalf of the Hadi government, said on Thursday that it had intercepted a ballistic missile 65km from the Saudi Arabian holy city of Makkah. They claimed it was fired by militias in Saada province, Yemen.
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates both issued statements condemning the Houthi militias, as well as Iran for supporting them.