Iran’s role in Yemen part of regime’s ideological crusade
The Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the weekend’s drone attacks on two Saudi Aramco plants at the heart of the Kingdom’s oil industry. The targets were the world’s biggest oil processing facility at Abqaiq near Dammam in the Eastern Province and the country’s second-largest oilfield at Khurais.
The attacks by the Iran-backed militia group are not only a threat to Saudi Arabia, but also to the world, as such offensive operations will likely have an impact on the world economy, as well as the security and stability of the Middle East. Many countries, including the US and UAE, have condemned the attacks. US President Donald Trump reportedly called Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in order to reassert Washington’s “readiness to cooperate with the Kingdom by all means conducive to maintaining its security and stability.”
The international community should not forget who is the major culprit and instigator besides the Houthis: The Islamic Republic of Iran. The Houthis are very fortunate due to the fact they have a powerful ally that is the top state sponsor of terrorism in the world.
The Iranian regime will make every effort to ensure the Houthis do not run out of ammunition in this fight, as the Islamic Republic has reportedly smuggled illicit weapons and technology into Yemen. According to Reuters, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is a key supporter and sponsor of the Houthis.
The number of attacks by Iran’s proxies is rising at an unprecedented level. In one 2017 attack, the Houthi militia targeted Saudi Arabia with four ballistic missiles that the UN revealed appeared to have been designed by Iran. A UN panel of experts said it was extremely unlikely that the Houthis could manufacture such weapons on their own.
Even the Iranian leaders have admitted they are helping the Houthis. Influential cleric Mehdi Tayeb said this had been carried out in stages by the IRGC with the support of the navy. In addition, deputy commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force Esmail Ghani has said: “Those defending Yemen have been trained under the flag of the Islamic Republic.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pinned the blame for the weekend’s attacks on the Iranian regime. He tweeted: “Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while (President Hassan) Rouhani and (Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad) Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy. Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”
The Houthis are very fortunate to have a powerful ally that is the top state sponsor of terrorism in the world
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Tehran is more robustly supporting and delivering weapons to the Houthis as a message of defiance against the US and its allies, who have intensified their efforts to resolve the conflict in Yemen and confront extremist groups.
More broadly, the Houthis’ latest attacks ought to give an insight into the tactics and long-term strategies of Iranian-trained and armed proxies across the Middle East, which are built on four pillars: Destabilization, conflict, assassination, and the rejection of any solution that has Sunni or Western origins.
It is worth noting that the Yemen conflict means more to Iran than the taunting of its Gulf rivals. It is an ideological crusade and part of the regime’s revolutionary ideals to unite the Muslim world under its Islamist rule, which will always see peace as merely a delay in the process.
Iran’s revolutionary mission is part of the Islamic Republic’s constitution, the preamble of which states that it “provides the necessary basis for ensuring the continuation of the revolution at home and abroad.” It goes on to state that Iran’s army and the IRGC “will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country, but also for fulfilling the ideological mission of… extending the sovereignty of God’s (Shiite) law throughout the world… in the hope that this century will witness the establishment of a universal holy government and the downfall of all others.”
Under the so-called moderate President Rouhani, Tehran continues to incite violence, support terrorism and destabilize the region to advance its hegemonic ambitions. The Iranian regime should be viewed as the main culprit behind the Houthis’ attacks on Saudi Arabia. These attacks must mobilize the international community to hold Tehran accountable and bring the Iranian leaders who are responsible for supporting the Houthis and targeting Saudi Arabia to justice.
The Iranian regime’s ideology is a dangerous one that the international community needs to take seriously, because this recent episode of terror will most likely not be its final iteration and no country will be safe from Iran’s aggression and threats.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh