Can Everyone Stop Saying The Houthis Are An Iranian Proxy?
Can Everyone Stop Saying The Houthis Are An Iranian Proxy?
Tehran’s support for the Houthis is minimal at best, and its influence in Yemen is non-existent. It is simply inaccurate to state that the Zaidi Houthis are Shia Iranian proxies.
One thing that is beginning in to bug me the most when reading anything analysing the Yemen Crisis is the claptrap narrative being pumped out by practically everyone covering the Yemen conflict since it began over a year ago.
The idea that Iran is somehow heavily involved in what is happening in Yemen and pulling all the strings behind the Houthi forces fighting both Saudi Arabia, Al-Qaeda and now it seems the USA. This narrative is grossly exaggerated at best if not almost completely false and misleading to people who genuinely want to understand the truth in Yemen, not just what Saudi Arabia thinks is going on.
I would like to clear a few things up in this humble article of mine for people who want a much more honest description of who is really involved in Yemen conflict and to what extent.
Who’s in the game?
Yemen, like Syria, has lost all meaningful government authority and has descended into chaos. As a result, all the larger regional and international superpowers have entered the conflict to take advantage of Yemen’s vulnerability, in order to fight it out with one another for resources, power and a political foothold. Locally on the ground in Yemen, you have the Houthi tribes and their allies (including parts of the official Yemeni army) fighting it out against exiled ex-president Hadi’s forces (also including some of Yemen’s security forces) while at the same time terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda & ISIS also fight for power mostly in Saudi-occupied southern Yemen. Then take a step back to see the larger picture, you have bigger external players involved in the Yemen war – Saudi Arabia is the most obvious external player operating in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has directly invaded Yemen, led a nationwide siege and an aerial bombing campaign which has left the world horrified by its unrelenting cruelty towards innocent civilians trapped between the warring factions.
Backing Saudi in its campaign are western countries such as the UK & USA but Saudi Arabia has also dragged in a whole coalition of Arab countries, in some cases forcefully, to aid them in achieving their objectives of crushing the new Yemen government. In almost every major Saudi military intervention over the past four years, they have used the same rationale to justify their decision: To protect the Arab countries from Iranian-Persian empire building. A paranoia of Iran and the Shia has long been the basis of Saudi policymaking and Yemen’s Zaidi Muslim Houthi’s (members of the Zaidi sect which are only ‘Shiite-like’ rather than actual Shiites.) are a prime example of Saudi’s paranoid obsession with Iran being used to justifying every major act of Saudi aggression in the Middle East for years. The Houthis are variously labelled as “Iranian-supported,” “Iranian-backed,” or “Iranian-influenced” but practically all credible media sources that cover the Yemen in depth with exhausted studies have concluded the Iranian involvement in supporting the Houthis is minimal at best.
Despite this, you find when trying to read into what’s happening in Yemen, practically every article is written from a Saudi perspective only. The Houthis are always labelled the ‘Shia-Rebels’ or ‘Iranian-backed’, this is what annoys me and many Yemenis that I have spoken to also share my frustrations.
The Iranians do indeed speak about Yemen regularly and yes there are Iranian ships off the coast of Yemen right now which have American media in a panicked frenzy since last week but Iran’s involvement in the conflict has been grossly exaggerated and used by the countries currently dropping bombs on civilians to justify their war crimes.
Are the Houthis actually an Iranian proxy?
The Saudi’s are adamant that the Houthi tribes from north Yemen are another Iranian armed proxy force which plans to launch attacked on Saudi from Yemen in a similar way to how the Lebanese Hezbollah has fought against Israel. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are guilty of sponsoring armed proxy forces around the Middle East. The only difference is Iran gets called up on it while the Saudi’s proxy supplying foreign policy is largely overlooked or at least not labelled in the same way as the Iranian’s are by the media. The Lebanese Hezbollah, various Iraqi militias and even the peaceful opposition protests in Bahrain are all labelled as ‘Iranian proxies’ or ‘Iranian-inspired’ for the fact they receive money, arms or even just basic political sympathy from the Iranian establishment. In return, armed Salafist groups such as Al Qaeda in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan are not labelled as ‘Saudi proxies’ despite the fact they receive money, weapons, the religious and political support they receive from Saudi Arabia.However, it is incredibly important to realise when looking at the Yemen conflict that the Houthi’s simply do not qualify as an ‘Iranian proxy’ when comparing them to a genuine Arab representative of Iran, like Hezbollah. A genuine Iranian ‘proxy’ would comply with direct orders from the Iranian military Quds force commanders and also the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Hezbollah and its leader Sayid Hassan Nasrallah are an obvious example of this, however, the 2014 Houthi-led revolution in Yemen showed that the Yemen leadership was ignoring Iranian advice since the begging. US President Obama also admitted to this fact back in June 2015, that the Houthi’s had ignored Iranian advice not to enter the capital Sanaa and overthrow the old government, the Houthis made the decision independently without Iranian string pulling which Obama believed led to:
“precipitating a much wider war in Yemen.”
A true Iranian proxy ally would also openly admit that it follows orders from Iran, both the Houthi’s and the Iranians have admitted publicly that they are not directly coordinating strategy with each other.
The Houthis have looked to Iran for sympathy in the struggle against Saudi Arabia and American imperialism. What they perceive as a Saudi puppet government in Sanaa led by Hadi. The Iranian establishment, in turn, sympathises with the Houthi cause due to a desire to pressure Saudi politically but that is as deep as the relationship goes, for now at least.
Saudi Arabia has gotten everything wrong in Yemen. They have failed to occupy any of the major cities in the north & mid-Yemen, they have failed to stop a new independent government from forming in Sanaa and now even their Arab coalition allies who were in many cases forcefully dragged into this pointless conflict are begging to abandon ship.
Saudi is exhausting itself trying to win a war using despicable tactics on a population which refuses to accept Saudi or western rule. The America’s are the ones who should know better. It was their stiff refusal and relentless resistance to British oppressive rulership over the American colonies that led to American independence. If a whole people refuse to be ruled by an occupying force then you may win all the battles (which the British mostly did during the American war of independence) but the war can never be won as long as the local populace continue to refuse to accept the occupation.
The Saudi’s are learning this the hard way, thinking that by blaming Iran for everything they can somehow wait for a victory to materialise; it won’t come.
As for all this talk about the Iranians upping the pressure by flooding more weapons and missiles into Yemen along with a couple of warships to harass American Navy warships off the coast of Yemen, all nonsense. Yes, there is an Iranian Navy presence off the coast of Yemen, but there has always been an Iranian presence due to the amount of Iranian trade and shipping sailing through that part of the sea. Iranian Professor Sayed Mohammad Marandi explained in an interview with RT the reason for Iranian navy presence of the coast of Aden.
“I don’t think this is all that important. The Iranians have a permanent presence in that part of the world because of the problems with shipping thanks to the American policies over the past few decades.”
Sayed Marandi added that “There is a lot of instability in the Red Sea. And the Iranian ships are there basically to prevent pirates from boarding Iranian ships.”
The fact is the Iranians already believe the Americans & the Saudi’s are militarily defeated in Yemen. Why would they risk a direct clash with the US when the battle (at least from the Iranian perspective) is already won? Iran is a very patient player, they know how things can change with time. The western imposed sanctions are the best example of Iranian style of play. Iran sat it out for years and ended up with a positive deal which is considered a victory against American aggression by the Iranian establishment. Iran has acknowledged the new government in Sanaa and would be prepared to do business with them should an opportunity arise in the future once some kind of peace is achieved, this may also be the case for the Russian and perhaps the Chinese who are both looking for new potential partners in the Middle East. For now, however, Yemen continues to struggle alone.
The Saudi’s have acted appallingly in Yemen and have only themselves to blame. Whichever government sits in Sanaa in the future, the people of Yemen will all resent the Saudi kingdom for generations. The war cry of “Death To America” which many Yemenis famously chant will continue but now with its newly added verse of “Death to Al Saud”. It was not Iranian money that added the new verse to this popular Arab slogan, it was American bombs being dropped on Yemeni civilians by Saudi jets.
If the media must continue with this odious and cliche narrative that the Houthis are all ‘Iranian-backed, Shia Houthi Rebels’ then they must at least also correctly label Wahhabi terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban as ‘Saudi-backed Wahhabi terrorists’.