May 17, 2021
Over a decade has passed since the first Iranian arms shipment en route to Houthi militias in Yemen was officially seized. A few days ago, the US Navy stopped a stateless vessel carrying a massive cache of illicit weapons in northern Arabian Sea waters.
Tehran’s cleric-led regime has been tied to training thousands of Houthi combatants in both Iran and Lebanon and setting up Revolutionary Guard spy cells in Yemen.
Iran is exploiting political turmoil and security instability in Yemen, local intelligence sources speaking under the conditions of anonymity reported, pointing out that it was using the northeastern governorate of Hajjah’s Red Sea offshore islands.
Since 2009, Houthis have been able to smuggle plenty of arms through Hajjah, they said, adding that the Iran-backed group has also been purchasing swathes of farmlands in the nearby port city of Midi.
While rival forces in the war-torn country were vying over control of key cities, Houthi militias expanded their presence in the governorate of Saada, also in northeastern Yemen, sources noted.
“Protests and inner conflicts in Sanaa loosened the grip on coastal locations,” a former Yemeni intelligence officer told Asharq Al-Awsat, adding that Houthis used the port city of Midi to build up their arsenal in their main stronghold, Saada.
Since 2009, Yemeni authorities stopped several arms shipments from entering the battle-weary country.
Officials believe that most of the shipments included parts of Iran-made drones and missiles for later assembly by Revolutionary Guard experts and Hezbollah advisors there.
Between September 2015 and March 2016, the US Navy intercepted four weapon shipments bound to Houthis.
Other arms shipments were also seized in 2017, 2019, 2020.