The continuing threat by Iran-supported Houthis

International wariness about Iran’s regional designs is warranted.
Sunday 05/08/2018
Houthi fighters hold their weapons as they attend a gathering in Sana’a. (Reuters)
Houthi fighters hold their weapons as they attend a gathering in Sana’a. (Reuters)

A confidential report obtained by Agence France-Presse stated that a UN Security Council panel found evidence of the transfer of weapons, including ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), from Iran to Yemen’s Houthis.

The 125-page report revealed that recent inspection of weapons used by the Houthis shows “characteristics similar to weapons systems known to be produced in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

One of the report’s conclusions is that “despite the targeted arms embargo, the Houthis continue to have access to ballistic missiles and UAVs to continue and possibly intensify their campaign against targets in KSA (Saudi Arabia).”

The panel saw a “high probability” that the missiles were shipped in parts from the outside and assembled by the Houthis in Yemen.

The UN experts also said they suspect Iran of supplying the Houthis with a $30 million monthly donation of fuel.

Agence France-Presse said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council in June that parts of five missiles fired at Saudi Arabia were manufactured in Iran.

The findings of the Security Council’s panel, as well as the decision by Saudi Arabia to suspend oil shipments through Bab el Mandeb Strait, following missile attacks by Houthis on two Saudi tankers, are not unrelated to the announcement by the Houthis (and indirectly that of their Iranian sponsors) of a two-week ceasefire in the Red Sea.

The Houthis’ ceasefire shows the Saudi move has had effect. “Rather than allowing these hostile manoeuvres to go unnoticed in the eyes of the world, the Saudi (energy) minister has placed Iran’s subversions of the whole global economy under the spotlight for everyone to see,” energy consultant Sadad al-Husseini told Reuters.

International wariness about Iran’s regional designs is warranted. Commenting on the Houthi attacks on Saudi oil tankers, US Secretary of Defence James Mattis said on July 27: “Iran has simply got to find that it’s got a better path forward for its people by not being the one to export insecurity. They have got to start living by international standards. They are the exporter of instability across the region.”

It seems unlikely, however, that Iran’s direct and indirect provocations in the Red Sea and elsewhere will cease soon. Tehran’s actions show continued involvement in fuelling sectarian strife and regional insecurity.