November 30, 2018
The US ambassador to Yemen on Thursday accused Iran of “throwing gasoline on the fire” of conflicts across the Middle East, vowing that America will defend its regional interests and not “shy away when the problems get difficult.”
Ambassador Matthew Tueller’s comments during an interview with The Associated Press signal that America’s hard-line approach to Tehran in the wake of withdrawing from the nuclear deal will continue.
“Wherever we see instability here in the region — and I’m not saying that Iran is the source of all of the instability — but we see that opportunistically, they’re going in,” Tueller told the AP at a military ceremony in eastern Yemen. “They’re throwing gasoline on the fire in an area of the world that’s so important to all of us.”
Tueller became America’s ambassador to Yemen in 2014 just as the Arab world’s poorest country spiraled into chaos. Houthi militia stormed into the capital, Sanaa, and later seized power from the country’s internationally recognized government.
The war has devastated Yemen, pushing the nation to the brink of famine and spreading disease like cholera. The war has killed over 10,000 people, displaced 3 million and left much of the infrastructure in ruins.
United Nations experts, Western nations and analysts say Iran supplies the Houthis with weapons ranging from assault rifles up to the ballistic missiles the Houthis fire into Saudi Arabia.
“We see Iran as one of the major forces that is trying to foster instability,” Tueller said. “Step back for a moment and look at what we have in Yemen. We have a non-state actor, a militia, that has overthrown the government, and yet it is receiving arms, equipment and a support from a state, Iran.”
The diplomat from Provo, Utah, returned Thursday on a US military cargo plane to an Emirati military base near Mukalla. There, Tueller met Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Al-Jaber, who wholeheartedly agreed with his assessment on Iran.
“Iran creates chaos in the region, it creates chaos everywhere, in Iraq, Bahrain, Syria, in Lebanon through Hezbollah, and in Yemen,” Al-Jaber said. “Iran has no place in the Arabian Peninsula, it only creates chaos and terrorism everywhere. I don’t think those who are capable of such acts are capable of peace.”
Tueller offered an explanation of America’s interests in the Mideast while speaking with the AP.
“It’s an area of the world so important to all of us because of the critical oil and gas resources that are here, because of the potential for conflict here and we do not want to see conflict here,” he said. “And yet Iran, obviously, wherever we see them acting, they’re acting not in a way to promote stability, but actually to exploit instability.”