Iran is sending advanced weapons and military advisers to Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement, stepping up its support for a Shi’ite ally in a civil war that could greatly impact the balance of power within the region, according a Reuters report.
Iran’s enemy in the region is Saudi Arabia, and they have opted to lead a coalition in support of the Yemen government against the Houthi. While Yemen is an impoverish state, it is evident that Iran and Saudi Arabia are battling for a form of supremacy within the region. This same type of power struggle, with Turkey instead, is taking place in Syria.
Sources have indicated that Iran has taken on a greater role in the two-year-old struggle, setting up arms supplies and other support, in much the same way that it supports Hezbollah in Syria.
At a meeting last month, according to an Iranian official, they agreed to increase the amount of help being given to the Houthis, by means of training, arms and financial support. “Yemen is where the real proxy war is going on and winning the battle in Yemen will help define the balance of power in the Middle East,” the official added.
This effort is part of a large focus on demonstrating power in the region, in light of President Trump’s signals that the U.S. will be instituting a tougher policy regarding Iran. This includes potentially adding the IRGC to the designated list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
While Iranian sympathizers have argued this will lead to greater conflict with Iran, the reality is that the IRGC is the muscle and heart of the Iranian regime. If it was crippled financially, that would be a severe blow to Iran and a designation by the U.S. could deliver that blow.
Yet the Houthis in Yemen argue that these accusations against Iran are simply a cover up of the coalition’s failure to bring the conflict to an end.
“The Saudis don’t want to admit their failings so they are searching for false justifications…after two years of the aggression that the United States and Britain are involved in,” said a Houthi leader to Reuters. Saudi Arabia intervened back in 2015 to back President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, after he was ousted from the capital by the Houthis. Government forces continue to hold a majority of the territory south and east, but Houthis control the most of the population centers in the northwest, including the capital Sanaa.
In a study of Iranian technology transfers to Yemen, Conflict Armament Research (CAR) indicated that the Qasaf-1 UAV drone was made in Iran and was not of indigenous design and construction, “in contrast to Houthi statements”. This cheap technology is being used to facilitate kamikaze attacks on the Saudi coalition’s military assets. The quantities of weapons have also increased.
In addition to their weapons, Iranian and regional sources said Tehran was providing Afghan and Shi’ite Arab specialists to train Houthi units and act as logistical advisers. These include Afghans who had fought in Syria with the Qods Force commanders.
Iran continues to impact the stability of this region, but the international community seems to be at a loss as to how to check their extremism and exporting of terrorism.