Iran has supplied weapons, money and training to the Shi’ite Houthi militia that seized Yemen’s capital in September, as Tehran steps up its regional power struggle with Saudi Arabia, Yemeni and Iranian officials say.
Exactly how much support Iran has given the Houthis, who share a Shi’ite ideology, has never been clear. Sunni countries in the Gulf accuse Iran of interference via Shi’ite proxies in the region, something Tehran denies.
But Reuters has details — from Yemeni, Western and Iranian sources — of Iranian military and financial support to the Houthis before and after their takeover of Sanaa on Sept. 21.
A senior Houthi official denied there had been material and financial support. But the assertions are still likely to reinforce Saudi, and Western, fears that Iran is exploiting turmoil between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and now Yemen.
Riyadh has suspended aid to Yemen, angered by the Houthis’ growing power, while Iran publicly welcomed the Houthi victory.
A senior Yemeni security official said Iran had steadily supported the Houthis, who have fought the central government since 2004 from their northern stronghold of Saadah.
“Before the entrance into Sanaa, Iran started sending weapons here and gave a lot of support with money via visits abroad,” the official, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Reuters.
A second senior Yemeni security official said “weapons are still coming in by sea and there’s money coming in through transfers”.
Iran, the first official said, saw victory would be swift in Yemen, unlike in Iraq and Syria, and “with not too much expense”.
A Western source familiar with Yemen also said the Houthis had been getting training and money.