Tensions are mounting over Iran’s involvement with the brutal Houthi rebel group following a statement from a senior official from the United States Department of Defense condemning the Iranian regime’s malign activities in Yemen.
Robert S. Karem, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday 17 April 2018 that “Yemen has become a test bed for Iran’s malign activities”, adding that Iran has “exploited” the chaos in the war-torn country “to advance its malign agenda.”
There is already ample evidence to prove that Iran has been seeking for years to take advantage of the bloody armed coup carried out by the Houthi rebels to overthrow the internationally recognised government of Yemen.
By aligning themselves with the Houthis, the Iranian leadership would have access to yet another paramilitary proxy force in a country bordering their Sunni arch-rivals in Saudi Arabia. And there is apparently no price too high to pay for such a strategic military advantage, both in terms of material and ethical costs.
With Iran’s support, the Houthis have launched upwards of 100 ballistic missiles and “countless” rockets at targets within Saudi Arabian borders. Their strikes have targeted civilian hubs, including Riyadh’s international airport, and major population centres, with one of their attacks killing an Egyptian national on the streets of the Saudi capital just over two weeks ago.
Iran has reportedly aided the Houthi militia financially, supplied them with smuggled arms and assisted in the military-grade training of their previously ragtag ground troops. Last year, analysis from ballistics experts led US military officials to conclude that a ballistic missile, fired at Saudi Arabia from Houthi positions, had indeed been supplied by the Iranians.
But, while Iran’s support for the Houthis will have taken a financial toll, the regime in Tehran is also overlooking some very serious human and ethical costs incurred by propping up this brutal rebellion.
The Houthis have shown that they are not only willing to target innocent Saudi civilians with their missile strikes, they are also deploying more and more children to the frontlines of the conflict; arming them to the death and leaving them to watch their friends and family die by their side. Official UN reports and NGO estimates put the number of child soldiers active in Yemen between 2,369 and 6,000.
The UN also revealed, in a 2016 report, that the rebels were in clear breach of International Humanitarian Law by using civilians as human shields in their campaign to seize territory and regional control from the Yemeni government.
And as if that was not enough, the rebels have also managed to clear their territory of journalists. Either through fear, with reporters fleeing areas captured by the rebels; through imprisonment, reports emerged of journalists being forcibly disappeared from their homes and held hostage indefinitely by the militia; or through execution.
For example, following kangaroo court proceedings in Sana’a, Yahya Abduraqeeb al-Jubahi was sentenced to death by the Houthis this time last year. Another Yemeni journalist reportedly died of a heart attack in December 2016, but an autopsy conducted after an appeal by the man’s family revealed that he had in fact been exposed to toxic gas prior to his death.
By continuing their financial and material support for these bloodthirsty revolutionaries, Iran is complicit in all that they do, in all that is carried out in their name. It is beyond shameful that the regime in Tehran allows for these crimes against humanity to be committed just to stick one to the Saudis.
As far as bringing the conflict in Yemen to and end goes, the US, the UK, the UN, and the forces of Yemen’s President Hadi all agree that any solution must be political in nature.
And indicating the importance of a political solution to the civil war, the US State Department’s David Satterfield told Senators: “Defeating ISIS in Yemen, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, countering Iran’s malign activities in that region, and above all, reducing the extraordinary suffering and hardship for the Yemeni people — all of these goals hinge on the resolution to the Yemeni conflict”.
It is high time that the regime in Tehran themselves came to a similar conclusion.