Regular sightings of Lebanese Hizbullah and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) military commanders in Yemen show the extent of Iran’s meddling in Yemen’s war, officials and experts in Yemen said.

This interference has continued even amid heightened international efforts to bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict, they said, and has pushed that goal farther out of reach as the Iran-backed Houthis continue their offensive.

The presence of IRGC and Hizbullah commanders in Yemen underscores “the dangerous role” they play in enhancing the capability of Houthi militants, said Yemen’s Deputy Minister of Justice Faisal al-Majeedi.

The Yemeni government has on several occasions confirmed the presence of Iranian and Hizbullah commanders on Yemeni soil, he said, “and this reveals the extent of Iran’s interference and the scope of its goals and ambitions”.

Hizbullah and IRGC commanders in Yemen have “focused on enhancing and developing the Houthis’ massive military power, which the Iran-backed group could not have done on its own”, al-Majeedi said.

Iran is conspicuously active in Yemen and is no longer taking pains to hide it, he added, noting that the goal for Iran and the Houthis is “victory in Marib”.

A victory in Marib would award the group near-total control of northern Yemen, access to key oil and gas infrastructure, and an upper hand in talks aimed at ending the conflict.

Iran’s ambassador to the Houthis in Sanaa, Hassan Eyrlou, has played a key role in that battle.

Eyrlou, “who is in fact an IRGC officer and was one of Qassem Soleimani’s deputies, was carefully chosen to lead Iran’s battle in Yemen”, al-Majeedi said.

Advancing Iran’s agenda

Iran poses a threat to international navigation in Bab al-Mandeb strait at the mouth of the Red Sea, through which approximately 12% of world trade and almost four million barrels of oil pass every day.

“We are facing a real Iranian presence in Yemen, and the international community should be aware of the dangers of that presence in light of the conflict over the waterways,” al-Majeedi said.

Iran seeks to control the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandeb in order to impose its dominance over regional and global trade, he said. “This is a dangerous situation that will give rise to real disasters at all levels.”

“The Houthis will not be party to any local agreement that serves Yemeni interests, as Iran utilises the Houthis based on its own interests and dialogues, be they with America or Saudi Arabia,” said Abaad Centre for Studies and Research director Abdulsalam Mohammad.

Mohammad called on the United States and the international community to put utmost pressure on the Houthis and their backer, Iran, to end the war.

The United States has been involved in ongoing efforts to end the war in Yemen.

In an October 16 statement, US State Department spokesman Ned Price called on the Houthis to stop their offensive on Marib.

He appealed to the Iran-backed group to “listen to the urgent calls from across Yemen and the international community to bring this conflict to an end and support a UN-led inclusive peace process”.

Curbing Houthis, Hizbullah

The United States has imposed sanctions on Houthi and Hizbullah networks and on individuals who have been exacerbating the situation in Yemen, and has offered rewards for information on the whereabouts of others.

On June 10, the US Treasury announced sanctions on 12 members of a smuggling network that helps fund the IRGC Quds Force and the Houthis.

The network had generated tens of millions of dollars from the sale of commodities like Iranian petroleum.

On May 20, the US Treasury imposed sanctions on two Houthi military officials leading the offensive in Marib.

The US State Department is still seeking information on the whereabouts of Haytham Ali Tabatabai, a key Lebanese Hizbullah military leader who commanded Hizbullah special forces in both Syria and Yemen.

It listed Tabatabai as a specially designated global terrorist in October 2016, and in 2018 offered a reward of up to $5 million for information on him as part of its Rewards for Justice Programme.

Political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq the US efforts to impose direct sanctions or pursue Hizbullah or IRGC military commanders working in Yemen “aim to restrict their movements”.

“Putting them under a microscope… will affect their ability to support the Houthis,” he said.

Source » almashareq