Yemen says Iranian arms to Houthis endanger international shipping

Information Minister Muammar Al Eryani sounds warning after rebels display an array of weapons

A photo released by Yemen’s Houthis shows a display in Sanaa, the rebel-held capital. EPA
A photo released by Yemen’s Houthis shows a display in Sanaa, the rebel-held capital. EPA

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard continues to smuggle weapons, military technology and advisers to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, a Yemeni minister said on Sunday.

Information Minister Muammar Al Eryani said the Iranians’ supply of arms has made Yemeni territory a potential launchpad for threatening commercial shipping routes.

In the past, some analysts were sceptical of the extent to which Iran was supplying the Houthis. But a new rebel propaganda video, broadcast on state-linked Iranian TV channel Tasnim News, shows an array of equipment that analysts have linked to Iran.

Mike Doran, a specialist in Middle East security at the Hudson Institute think tank in Washington, tweeted that Houthi militias, with no industrial base or arms industry, would have been unable to manufacture the advanced weapons shown in the video. Defence analysts have said previously they believe the rebels’ Quds 1 cruise missile is a copy of the Iranian Soumar missile.

“Samples of sea mines that were recently presented by the Houthi militia and manufactured in Iran were used in terrorist attacks against oil tankers and commercial ships in the Red Sea,” Mr Al Eryani said.

The Red Sea and Bab Al Mandeb strait are among the world’s busiest commercial shipping routes.

Mr Al Eryani called on the international community to pressure Iran to stop activities that undermine the security and stability of Yemen and the region, and to support the Yemeni government’s efforts to regain control of the whole country.

Houthis reject ceasefire

Mr Al Eryani’s remarks came after a US State Department condemnation of the current Houthi offensive in northern Yemen.

The US special envoy on Yemen, Tim Lenderking, said a “sound plan” for a nationwide ceasefire in Yemen was presented to the Houthi leadership for “a number of days” but the group prioritised a military offensive to take Marib.

“I will return immediately when the Houthis are prepared to talk,” Mr Lenderking told the Atlantic Council think tank on Friday, after a 17-day visit to the region to revive efforts to end the six-year conflict.

A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Iran-allied Houthi group ousted the country’s government from the capital Sanaa.

Yemen’s Houthi spokesman Mohamed Abdel Salam told Houthi-aligned Al Masirah TV on Friday the US proposal for a nationwide ceasefire had no substance and represented the Saudi Arabian and UN vision.

Heavy fighting in Marib

As ceasefire efforts stall, the Yemeni army has managed to make gains in a counterattack on the war’s Maqabneh front, west of Taiz in south-west Yemen.

The Houthis suffered great losses while attacking over open ground, where they were hit by Saudi air strikes.

The spokesman for the Yemeni Armed Forces, Brig Gen Abdo Majali, said 35 rebel fighters were killed.

The army also said it regained control of villages in northern Hodeidah province. It was reported the Houthis bombed residential districts in Hodeidah city.

The rebels have pressed an offensive on the gas-rich region of Marib, aiming to take the government’s last northern stronghold, despite international calls for them to stop. The UN said millions of civilians are at risk.

“Tragically, and somewhat confusingly for me, it appears that the Houthis are prioritising a military campaign to take Marib over suspending the war and moving relief to the Yemeni people,” Mr Lenderking said.

He announced that the US would restore humanitarian aid funding for northern Yemen, and said Washington would work with the governments of Yemen and Saudi Arabia to find a way to deliver fuel to the Yemenis who need it most.

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Gallery: Government forces battle Houthi offensive

Updated: March 15, 2021 09:28 AM

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