Iran arming Yemen’s Houthi rebels since 2009: UN report

Friday 08/05/2015
Iranian ship Jihan 1 being escorted by Yemen Coast Guard boats at the port of Aden, as shown during a news conference held by Yemen’s Interior Minister Abdul Qader Qahtan in Sana’a, February 9, 2013.

New York - Iran has been shipping weap­ons to Yemen’s Houthi rebels since at least 2009, according to a confidential UN report, in­dicating that Tehran’s support dates to the early years of the Shia militia’s insurgency.
The report by a panel of experts was presented to the UN Security Council’s Iran sanctions commit­tee as the United Nations seeks to broker an end to the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen and a return to peace talks.
The panel reported on the find­ings of an investigation into the 2013 seizure by Yemeni authorities of an Iranian ship, the Jihan, which was carrying weapons. The information collected by the experts “suggests that the Jihan case follows a pat­tern of arms shipments to Yemen by sea that can be traced back to at least 2009,” said the report seen by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
One instance saw an Iranian fish­ing vessel attempt to secretly ship hundreds of anti-tank and anti-hel­icopter rockets to the rebels.
“The analysis further suggests that the Islamic Republic of Iran was the origin of these shipments and that the intended recipients were the Houthis in Yemen or pos­sibly in some cases further recipi­ents in neighbouring countries,” it added. “Current military Iranian support to Houthis in Yemen is con­sistent with patterns of arms trans­fers going back to more than five years to date.”
Iran denies accusations that it is meddling in Yemen and instead claims Saudi Arabia is carrying out military “aggression” against the troubled country after the Saudis launched an air campaign on March 26th.
The Saudi-led coalition is seeking to restore the authority of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was forced to flee Yemen after the Hou­this overran Sana’a and advanced on the southern city of Aden, Hadi’s stronghold.
Fishing boats carry weapons
The experts’ report details six other incidents involving Iranian ships, five of which are said to have been carrying weapons bound for Yemen. In one of the cases, the pan­el said it had received conflicting information about whether there were weapons on board the vessel.
In an incident in April 2009, the crew of an unnamed Iranian ves­sel loaded crates of weapons onto Yemeni boats in international wa­ters, arms that were delivered in batches and taken to a farm in Yem­en for use by the Houthis.
And an Iranian fishing vessel was seized by Yemeni authorities in February 2011 carrying 900 Iranian-made anti-tank and anti-helicopter rockets intended for the rebels, the report said.
Iran is prohibited from selling weapons under a UN resolution adopted in 2007 that also instructs all countries to take action to pre­vent any arms flow from Iran.
The Houthis were originally based in northern Yemen and have long complained of marginalisa­tion in Yemen, fighting several wars with the Sana’a government from 2004 to 2009.