Members of the international community with open channels to Yemen’s Houthi militia must use their leverage to encourage it to sever ties with Iran and commit to the Saudi-led peace initiative, a senior Yemeni Cabinet minister has said.
Moammar Al-Eryani, Yemen’s minister for information, culture and tourism, issued the appeal in an exclusive interview with Arab News, adding he was under no illusions about the role of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG), in particular its extraterritorial Quds Force, in the Houthis’ ongoing military offensive in Marib and its attacks on civilian facilities and commercial shipping.
“Although we understand that the Houthi militia is merely a dirty tool to carry out the Iranian agenda of targeting Saudi Arabia, spreading chaos and terrorism in the region and threatening commercial ships and international shipping lanes, we call on countries that are communicating with the Houthis to play a constructive role,” Al-Eryani said.
He added these countries should pressure the militia to “drop Iranian guardianship over its political and military decisions,” to “immediately halt its military escalation in Marib,” and to “immediately and unconditionally respond to the initiative made by our brothers in Saudi Arabia.
“These countries must put pressure on the Houthis to stop their daily crimes and violations against civilians in their areas of control, which are considered war crimes and crimes against humanity,” he said.
Tehran installed Quds Force officer Hassan Irloo as its ambassador in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in Oct. 2020, making Iran the only nation to officially recognize and appoint formal representation to the Houthis. Irloo, a Quds Force veteran, has been sanctioned by the US Treasury for his role in the supply of advanced weaponry to the Houthis.
The militia, which has control of most of Yemen’s north, has been battling forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognized government with funding and weaponry provided by Iran as part of its proxy campaign across the Middle East.
The military and financial support given by Iran to the Houthis has been an open secret from long before the militia’s takeover of Sanaa in 2015. The general consensus of security analysts is that Tehran’s malign influence has fanned the flames of war, undermined numerous peace attempts and contributed to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The US State Department listed the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) on Jan. 19 in one of the final acts of the Trump administration in its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran and its proxies in the Middle East.
However, with the Biden administration reversing the FTO designation on Feb. 15 with the stated objective of easing the humanitarian situation in the country, the Houthis have ratcheted up their assaults on Yemeni government forces, and targeting of Saudi population centers and civilian infrastructure with missiles and drones.