Yemen seems to be going the way of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq – plagued by political instability and no shortage of sectarian insurgency. And, like in those other three countries, Iran is never too far away to influence the course of things.
After the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, was stormed by Shi’ite Houthi militants in September, they came directly into conflict with the al-Qaeda branch in the Arabian peninsula, despite US efforts to stop the spread of violence there.
Now, some of the Sunni militants have been linking up with ISIS and swearing allegiance to its leader. As for the Shi’ites, some analysts believe that with their rise to power, Iran might decide to get more involved in Yemen. An article by The Daily Beast (“Yemen’s A Model All Right – For Disaster”) suggested as much, as did The Huffington Post, which pointed out that with chants of “Death to America, and Curse on the Jews,” the Houthis were as much an Iranian creation as Hezbollah was.
Meanwhile, a lengthy analysis by a former IDF colonel on Enter Stage Right attempted to describe the situation from Iran’s point of view. The general, Michael Segall, wrote that after decades of increasingly Iranian ideological and political influence in Yemen, the Zaidi Shi’ites of the area have become radicalized, leading to the creation of Houthi-esque militias. Iran, in turn, views Yemen as a theater from which to stage subversive attacks against Saudi Arabia, as well as a potential Iranian foothold in the Red Sea littoral.
Segall, a senior Middle East analyst at a Jerusalem think tank, quoted senior Khamenei adviser Ali Akbar Velayeti saying Tehran “supports the rightful struggle of [Houthis] in Yemen,” going on to compare – with a tangible note of pride – the Shi’ite militia to Hezbollah.
Another senior Iranian official, lawmaker Ali Riza Zakani, reportedly boasted Sana’a would be the fourth Arab capital, after Beirut, Damascus, and Baghdad, to fall “into Iran’s hands and belong to the Iranian Islamic revolution.”
And we are left to wonder why these shocking statements haven’t been picked up by every Western – and Middle Eastern – news outlet.