A Yemeni Shia Houthi holds a poster of Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani during a protest in Sanaa, Yemen, Jan. 6, 2020. (AP)

By Trackpersia

January 4, 2021

On Wednesday, an attack on Aden airport killed at least 22 people and wounded dozens a few minutes after a newly formed cabinet had been formed in Yemen. The explosion targeted cabinet members led by the Yemeni Prime Maeen Abdulmalik when his plane was landing. A second explosion was heard around the presidential palace, however, the Saudi-led coalition said it had downed an explosive-laden Houthi drone targeting the presidential palace. 

The delegation was returning to Aden after being sworn in last week as part of a reshuffle following a deal with rival southern separatists. Yemen’s internationally recognized government has worked mostly from self-imposed exile in the Saudi capital Riyadh during the country’s years-long civil war. President Hadi from his exile in Saudi Arabia had announced a Cabinet reshuffle earlier this month. The reshuffle was seen as a major step toward closing a dangerous rift between his government and the southern separatists.

Loud blasts and gunfire were heard shortly after the plane arrived from Riyadh and three mortar shells landed on the airport’s hall, according to witnesses spoke to Reuters. The official figure for the wounded which was cited by the interior minister is 50 people. According to the report, government officials were among the casualties in the  airport attack which the government of Maeen described as a “cowardly terrorist act.”

For its part, the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement that two staff members had been killed in the airport attack., but the U.S. State Department said in a statement that “the attacks were timed with the arrival of new Yemeni government officials and once again demonstrate the malicious intent of those trying to destabilize Yemen.” The attack was also condemned by the UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths and several Arab countries.

The airport attack was denied by the Houthis but they have steadily increased their capabilities to strike to reach inside Saudi Arabia, utilising a myriad of weapons which are clearly provided by their ally Iranian regime. 

Over the past few months, Yemen’s Houthi insurgency has claimed a series of attacks inside Saudi Arabia. These include ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as drone strikes. Last August 24th, the Houthis claimed responsibility of two drone strikes targeted Saudi Arabia’s King Khaled Airbase and Abha Airport. Another round of drone strikes targeted the same places the following day. Saudi’s Jizan city was targeted by ten ballistic missiles named Badr-1 the same day, however, Saudi air defence systems shot down six of them, according to Suadi officials.

On August 26th, the Houthis fired another ballistic missile called Nakal at Saudi troops near Najran and these followed by another round of drones near King Khaled airbase in Khamis Mushayt. They also used new Samad-3 suicide drones near Riyadh. They had also targeted an Aramco facility near the Riyadh last month.

The Houthis repeated the ballistic missile, which this time they called Qsem-1, allegedly targeting Saudi troops positioned in Najran bordering city with Yemen. Saudi officials said they destroyed the missile when it reached near Khamis Mushayt.

Iran has repeatedly denied that it provides military support to the Houthis, however, the truth is that the Iranian support is crucial for the Houthis. The Islamic Republic supplied money, weapons and training to the Shiite Houthi militia to enable them to seized Yemen’s capital in September 2014. The Iranian theocracy shares the Shi’ite ideology with the Houthis and uses this ideology to support these militias despite the latter follow a different branch of Shi’ism. The regime does not only support the Houthis against the Yemeni central government but it has also divided Muslims on a sectarian basis.

Over the last decade, the Iranian regime has been exploiting turmoil between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen to extend its influence and reach its regional agenda.

Some of the cash the Iranian regime provided to the Houthis have been channelled via Hezbollah which also provided training to the Houthis in Lebanon. Speaking to Reuters, a senior Iranian official linked to Quds Force, the external arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), revealed there were a “few hundred” military personnel in Yemen who were in charge of training the Houthi fighters.

In 2014, another Iranian official told Reuters that about 100 Houthis had travelled to Iran that year for training at an IRGC base near Iran’s city of Qom. The Iranian official said there were a dozen of Iranian military advisers in Yemen, and the pace of money and arms the Houthis receive from Tehran had increased since the Houthis’ seizure of Sanaa.

In 2013, the Yemeni authorities seized the “Jihan 1” ship smuggling weapons from Iran to the Houthis.  The cargo included Katyusha rockets surface-to-air missiles, APG-7s, Iranian-made night vision goggles and artillery systems that track land and navy targets, silencers, tones of RDX explosives, C-4 explosives, ammunition and bullets and electrical transistors, according to a senior Houthi official who spoke to the Reuters.

The Iranian regime does not only provide the Houthi militias with weapons but illegally ships fuel to them to finance their war against the Yemen-internationally recognised government, according to UN experts. 

In 2018, a UN report stated that it had discovered several cover companies suing fake documents to conceal fuel donations and the revenue from the sale of this fuel was used to finance the Houthi militias’ war effort. To avoid UN inspections of the cargo, the fuel was loaded from Iran under false documentation. 

With the Houthis now capable of controlling large swathe of Yemen, there are fears of more Iranian support to them, leading to further exacerbate the security instability in Yemen and the entire region and increase the humanitarian crisis in this war-torn country.

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.