How Iran’s Financing Of Houthi Rebels In Yemen Has Prolonged The War
Yemeni officials tell The Media Line that Tehran is providing direct military support to its Shiite proxy
For the past few years, Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels—who took control of the capital Sana’a in late 2014 and have since captured many provinces throughout the country—have been supported with weapons and funding by Iran, an arrangement that has been widely condemned by much of the international community. Yemeni officials claim that Tehran recently increased this backing, which, in turn, has contributed to prolonging of the three-years-long proxy war pitting the Islamic Republic against a Sunni coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
“The Houthis are being sustained by their sole ally Iran via different means, including weapons transfers and diplomatic protection,” one Yemeni official told The Media Line on condition of anonymity. “We are very concerned that the continuation of such practices will undermine the political process and blow up all efforts by the United Nations [peace] delegation in Yemen.”
According to Yemen’s Ministry of Culture, which released a video last year revealing the multitude of ways Tehran is aiding its underling, the Revolutionary Guards Corp has provided the Houthis with $10-25 million annually since 2010.
“Once there is a celebration arranged by Houthis, the Iranian Embassy in Sana’a finances it,” the Yemeni official added. “Money is provided in order to prepare the venues, printing slogans and pay the teams that organize the festival and the rest goes into the rebel leaders’ pockets.”
A separate Yemeni military official told The Media Line that more than 100 Iranian “experts” were on the ground in Saada Governate, located in northern Yemen, providing the Houthis with training and logistical support, in addition to planting mines and firing missiles.
“We are so surprised that the UN is doing nothing towards Iran, despite knowing that it continues funding Houthis,” he asserted.
Colonel Ahmed Saleh Al-Hadheri, who runs a battalion in Yemen’s First Military Region, blamed Iran for the deteriorating circumstances in the nation, where the conflict has killed more than 10,000 civilians and left some 20 million people in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
Al-Hadheri further explained that Tehran’s real target is Saudi Arabia and therefore posited rhetorically to The Media Line, “I think Iran knows where Riyadh is, so why are they trying to worry the Saudis at the expense of Yemenis?”
One source in the internationally-recognized government of Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has been based in the southern port city of Aden since returning from exile in Saudi Arabia, contended that most of the financial support from Tehran is transferred directly to Houthi leaders during their trips abroad. The source, who asked to remain unnamed given the sensitivity of the situation, confirmed to The Media Line that “intelligence services have found that Mahdi Al-Mashad, who was recently appointed head of the Houthis’ Supreme Political Council after the death of Saleh Al-Samad, is the one responsible for securing funding from Iran.”
Despite being under an international sanctions regime geared towards curbing its regional adventurism, Iran has consistently denied any involvement in the war in Yemen. Likewise, when contacted by The Media Line, Houthi leader Mansour Ali repudiated all claims that the Islamic Republic is supporting the rebels.
Over the last few months, the Houthis have upped the ante by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles into Saudi territory. Following the interception late last year of projectiles targeting Riyadh’s international airport and Yamama Palace—where King Salman chairs weekly meetings—U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley circulated among the Security Council what she described as “undeniable” evidence that Iran was supplying the Houthis with the advanced missiles.