Political Analysis

Yassin: Iran Is Meddling in Yemen

National Yemen

Yemen and UAE Foreign Ministers

Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyad Yassin said there was much evidence of Iranian meddling in Yemeni affairs, including quietly arming the Houthis and training them in Iran.

“There are a number of Iranian Revolutionary Guards inside Yemeni territory,” Yassin said, without saying how many or giving other details.

Iran is sowing discord in Yemen and other regional countries as part of a “revolution export” strategy, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday, and Gulf Arab states are losing hope of building normal ties with Tehran.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nayahan also said a Saudi-led coalition now carrying out air strikes on Iranian-allied Houthi fighters in Yemen seek a U.N. Security Council resolution requiring all to pursue dialogue and imposing a ban on arms purchases by Houthis and other groups “that are out of line”.

Asked about evidence to back up allegations by Saudi- and U.S.-backed Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi that Shi’ite Muslim Iran provided support for Shi’ite Houthi militia fighters opposed to his rule, Sheikh Abdullah told a news conference:

“Iran is not carrying out this activity only in Yemen, it is conducting the same activity in Lebanon, in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and in Pakistan.

“Someone might say that the information provided by Yemen is not accurate, but there is systematic action that has been going for years on the idea of exporting the (Iranian) revolution.”

Iran denies arming the Houthis and has condemned the Saudi-led offensive against the Houthis of which the UAE is a part. The Islamic Republic sent two warships to the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday, saying they would protect Iranian shipping.

Arab leaders and analysts say they believe Iran is working unconstrained to tighten its sway on Arab states including Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen as it has edged toward a settlement with world powers including the United States on curbing its nuclear program in return for an end to sanctions.

Sheikh Abdullah said Sunni Muslim Gulf Arabs could have “positive, normal” relations with Tehran, “but Iran is not giving its partners in the region this hope… Each time we try to come close to Iran it starts spoiling the region, making (matters) difficult for our countries.”

“It is not possible to accept any strategic threat to Gulf Arab states,” he added.

He said the struggle between U.S.-allied, mainly Sunni Gulf Arabs and Shi’ite Iran was no sectarian conflict.

“I hope we do not fall to the thinking this is sectarian issue… This is not a sectarian issue, this is related to the idea of exporting the revolution which is part of their constitution and their system,” he said.

Sheikh Abdullah further said Gulf Arab states and other Arab allies were seeking a political settlement for Yemen in which all factions, including the Houthis, would take part in talks chaired by Hadi.

“Unfortunately the Houthi group refuses to heed what it had pledged itself to do.”