More evidence of Iran’s arming of Houthi militias in Yemen
LONDON - Confirming what Arab Gulf and Western countries and the United Nations long suspected, Iran, through its al-Quds Force, has been arming Yemen's Houthi militias in violation of international resolutions.
The US Navy said, for the second time in less than three months, it intercepted Iranian arms on small vessels en route to rebels in Yemen.
“The seizure is consistent with a historical pattern of Iranian smuggling of advanced weapons to the Houthis in Yemen,” said US Navy Captain Bill Urban of US Central Command, which is responsible for US forces in the Middle East, during a briefing February 19 at the Pentagon.
A Central Command statement said a team from the Navy cruiser USS Normandy, on “routine maritime security operations” in the Arabian Sea, boarded a dhow and discovered Iran-made weapons “that we assess were intended for delivery to the Houthis in Yemen.”
Interceptions November 25 and February 9 involved dhows sailing without a flag, the Navy said.
The latest seizure included 150 Dehlavieh anti-tank missiles, which are an Iran-made version of the Russian Kornet anti-tank missiles; three Iranian-made surface-to-air missiles; thermal-imaging weapon scopes; and components for manned and unmanned aerial and surface vessels.
Last September, a drone and cruise missile attack on state-owned Saudi Aramco oil processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais in eastern Saudi Arabia led to the shutdown of the facilities, which affected overall production.
It has been revealed that an instrument inside the drones that targeted Aramco and those in the arsenal of Houthis match components recovered in downed Iranian drones in Afghanistan and Iraq, two reports said.
A report by Conflict Armament Research, whose findings were similar to a UN report, said it discovered “gyroscopes” that have only been found in drones manufactured by Iran.
“This gyroscope... we've seen it now enough times in Iranian-manufactured material to be able to confidently say that the presence of it in a Houthi-produced item suggests that the material was supplied from Iran,” Jonah Leff of Conflict Armament Research told the Associated Press.
There have been reports of possible Saudi-Iranian rapprochement with the Saudi side looking for security guarantees while Iran wanted help in lifting US sanctions; however, Saudi officials dismissed such speculation.
“There is no back channel with Iran because our position with regards to Iran is very clear. I just said it to you publicly. What we want Iran to abide by the rules,” Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said at a news conference February 19 with Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide.
“We want Iran to respect international law. We want Iran to respect the sovereignty of other countries,” he added.
Yemen's internationally recognised government, whose forces are fighting the Houthis with the support of a Saudi-led coalition, welcomed news of the intercepted weapons shipments.
Yemeni Information Minister Muammar al-Eryani has called on the UN Security Council to impose "deterrent sanctions" on Tehran.
Eryani, in a statement to the pro-government Saba news agency February 14, said the alleged export by Tehran of the weapons was a "blatant violation" of the Security Council resolution banning Iran from supplying weapons to the Houthi rebels.
Eryani said Iran should be pressurised into stopping its "smuggling of weapons and experts" to the Houthis, which he said was "blatant interference in Yemeni affairs and a violation of the principle of sovereignty, international law and Security Council resolutions relating to the Yemen crisis."
Claims of Iran arming the Houthis are not new. A 2015 UN report stated that Iran’s providing weapons to rebels in Yemen dated to 2009, the early years of the insurgency. The report included findings of an investigation into the 2013 seizure by Yemeni authorities of an Iranian ship found carrying weapons.
In 2017, Saudi Arabia demanded the international community hold Iran accountable for its hostile actions after the United States presented evidence at the UN Security Council of “irrefutable proof” Iran was supplying weapons to the Houthis.
It was revealed recently that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ point man in Yemen is still at large despite an attempt by the US military to kill him the same day it conducted an operation that killed Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq.
A report in the Washington Post said a top-secret operation was meant to kill Abdul Reza Shahlai, described by the newspaper as “a financier and key commander in Iran’s elite al-Quds Force who has been active in Yemen.” However, the operation was unsuccessful.