Iranian Guards shed secrecy, flaunt control of Sana’a through envoy

Hassan Eyrlo, an IRGC officer and current Iranian ambassador to the Houthis, is behaving like an Iranian military ruler in Sana’a
Monday 04/01/2021
Iranian ambassador to the Houthis Hassan Eyrlo attends a vigil in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, on January 2, 2021, to mark the one-year anniversary the US killing of Iranian major general Qassem Soleimani. (AFP)
Iranian ambassador to the Houthis Hassan Eyrlo attends a vigil in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, on January 2, 2021, to mark the one-year anniversary the US killing of Iranian major general Qassem Soleimani. (AFP)

ADEN--The frequent media appearances of Iran’s ambassador to the Houthi militia in Sana’a, Hassan Eyrlo, has raised many questions about the timing of overt Iranian activities in Yemen and the nature of the messages that Tehran wants to send to the international community through such activities.

For over six years now, Teheran has denied providing any support to the Houthis that have removed by force the legitimate institutions of the Yemeni state in Sana’a and taken over militarily large parts of the country.

Yemeni political sources said that Eyrlo, an officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), whose arrival in Yemen and his accreditation by the Houthis as ambassador of the Iranian regime to the local authorities remain shrouded in mystery, is behaving as an Iranian military ruler in Sana’a, at a time when international pressure is mounting to end the war in that country.

Yemeni analysts considered that Eyrlo’s appearance in the company of prominent Houthi leaders at a ceremony held at the Al-Saleh Mosque in Sana’a, to commemorate the first anniversary of the killing of the IRGC’s Quds Force commander, Qassem Soleimani, represented a provocation to a large number of Yemenis, especially since the celebration that took place in the mosque of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh came after Western media reported that Soleimani himself had ordered the liquidation of Saleh.

Iran is seeking to move to a new stage in the Yemeni file by showing its influence over Sana’a as the fourth Arab capital under its control according to previous statements by Iranian officials. However, political sources confirmed the link between the increasing Iranian activity in the Houthi-controlled areas with regional and international developments and Tehran’s desire to invest in regional influence to extract political and economic gains during the term of US President-elect Joe Biden.

Analysts believe that the Iranian regime is trying to reap the dividends of its military support to the Houthi militia in Yemen during the past few years, as indications of the international tendency towards ending the war in Yemen are increasing in conjunction with expectations that the new US administration would be willing to restore US participation in the nuclear agreement with Tehran, and what that means in terms of gains for the Iranian regime.

In a statement to The Arab Weekly, Yemeni writer and politician Ali al-Bakhiti described the Houthis’ commemoration in Sana’a of the anniversary of the killing of Soleimani as evidence of what the Quds Force commander represented for the Yemeni proxy group, and the strong support that was provided to the Houthis through Soleimani as he was the Iranian regime’s strong arm abroad.

Furthermore, this public commemoration “reflects a Houthi feeling of stability and that there is no longer any danger to the regime they seek to establish in Sana’a.  The Houthis have seemingly come to believe that the international community and the countries of the region have surrendered to the new realities, in one way or another, so they no longer need to conceal their close ties to Iran,” Bakhiti said.

Bakhiti, a former leader in the Houthi group, indicated that what attracts the most attention in the celebration held by the Houthis is their contempt for themselves in front of Iran because he did not notice any similar commemoration in Iran, or even by Hezbollah or among the Shia factions in Iraq, of the anniversary of the death of Saleh al-Samad, who was considered by the Houthi group as the “President of the Republic” and not just a military leader.

Iranian ambassador to the Houthis Hassan Eyrlo attends events in Sana’a commemorating the killing of Qassem Soleimani. (AFP)
Iranian ambassador to the Houthis Hassan Eyrlo attends events in Sana’a commemorating the killing of Qassem Soleimani. (AFP)

Bakhiti added, “I believe that such ceremonies aimed at glorifying an Iranian military leader are an expression of deep dependence on Iran and a form of vulgar submission, loyalty and obedience to it.”

He pointed out that what the Houthis are doing in Sana’a is an insult to Yemen and the Yemenis and an insult to all notions of freedom, independence and sovereignty that they claim to defend. “But the one positive aspect of these celebrations is that they show the Houthi movement for what it really is and that it is just part of all the groups that are funded and supported and run directly by Iran,” he added.

For their part, Yemeni observers made a direct connection between the increase in Houthi attacks targeting vital Saudi interests, using drones, ballistic missiles and booby-trapped boats, and the official announcement of the presence of the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Hassan Eyrlo, in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a.

The Yemeni government has officially accused the Houthi militias, and behind them Iran, of targeting Aden International Airport with missiles the moment the plane carrying the new internationally recognized Yemeni government arrived in the interim capital, Aden.

The Yemeni politician and adviser to the Yemeni Ministry of Information Fahd Talib al-Sharafi told The Arab Weekly that the celebration held by the Houthis in Sana’a in the presence of the Iranian ambassador on the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing carries several messages, the first of which is that “Sana’a is the fourth Arab capital to have been under Soleimani’s supervision according to previous Iranian statements.”

Sharafi added, “The second indication lies in what Eyrlo’s launch of this event in this crude and blatant way in the capital of Yemen bears as a flagrant violation of the Yemeni sovereignty, which has severely diminished at the hands of the Houthi group that marketed Eyrlo as the Persian governor of Sana’a, in addition to the messages this celebration sent to members and supporters of the Popular Congress Party to remind them of the assassination of Ali Abdullah Saleh and to defy them by mourning the person who had ordered his assassination in the victim’s very mosque, and telling everybody that the Revolutionary Guards’ approach is going to remain in place after Eyrlo seized the reins of power in Sana’a.”