A prominent conservative Iranian daily has yet again praised missile attacks by Yemeni rebels against the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Today’s front-page headline in Kayhan, whose editor is directly appointed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, commended the Houthi movement’s latest missile attack at a nuclear plant in the U.A.E., saying that the attack “made the light disappear from Abu Dhabi’s eyes.” The article’s headline added: “Riyadh in Fear of Next Attack.” The inflammatory headline comes just weeks after the paper triggered a controversy inside Iran by publishing a similar headline: “Ansarullah Launches Missile against Riyadh. Next Target: Dubai!” The paper had claimed that Saudi cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah and Ta’if as well as Saudi ARAMCO may also be targeted by Houthi rebels in the future.
In today’s article, Kayhan said Ansarallah fulfilled its promise of attacking “belligerent” countries by launching missiles into Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. The paper also accused Yemeni former President Ali Abdullah Saleh of “treason” against “Yemeni revolutionaries” by siding with the Saudi-led coalition.
Another article in Kayhan today said Ansarullah “checkmated” the Saudi-led coalition and praised the rebels for “the purification of Yemen’s revolution from internal conspirators,” referring to Saleh and his allies.
An article in Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.), echoed a similar view. “As Yemen’s missile command had promised, the type and quality of this country’s missile response to the hostile countries have improved. And after the cruise missile attack against Abu Dhabi, Yemeni dynamics have become more complicated for the Saudi coalition,” it said.
Similarly, Alef News, another Iranian conservative outlet, said the missile attacks mean the Houthis now have the “upper hand” in the Yemeni conflict. It said Abdel Malik al-Houthi, the head of Ansarullah, should emulate Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah, to resolve its differences with pro-Saleh forces, and warned that continuing internal clashes in Sana’a would benefit Saudi Arabia and its allies.
Comment: On Sunday, Houthi rebels said they had launched a cruise missile at a nuclear power plant under construction in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi, but U.A.E. authorities rejected the claim as false. Last month, the Houthis fired another ballistic missile targeting the international airport in Riyadh.
The Houthi missile attacks came amid heightening tension between the Houthis and their allies in Sana’a. Earlier today, former President Saleh was reportedly killed by Houthi rebels as he was fleeing the capital. Just days ago, Saleh had announced that he was parting ways with the Iranian-backed Houthis and that he was eager to “turn the page” on relations with the Saudi-led coalition.
While the death of Saleh may be a short-term victory for the Houthis and their backers in Tehran, it may further undermine Houthis’ ability to rule Sana’a in the future. Infighting between Houthi and pro-Saleh forces are expected to only escalate further, causing more bloodshed and devastation.
When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman last month accused Iran of “direct military aggression” against the kingdom by supplying missiles to the Yemeni rebels, Iranian officials rejected the allegations. But the head of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) recently admitted that Iran was providing assistance to the Houthi “resistance movement” fighting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. “Our assistance to the resistance front has been provided at the request of their people and governments, and Yemen is one of those examples. In Yemen, the power today lies in the hands of Ansarullah and Iran’s assistance is at the level of advisory and spiritual support, which Yemen needs more,” Major General Ali Jafari said. He further stressed that the Islamic Republic will spare no effort to continue supporting the Houthi movement in the future.
The U.S. military and its allies have confiscated several Iranian arms shipments destined for Yemen in the past two years. In January, the Australian government released photographs that showed light anti-armor weapons seized near the Yemeni coast were manufactured in Iran. And last November, another report published CAR indicated an arms “pipeline” originating from Iran extended to Yemen and Somalia. Last year, Iran’s former ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi admitted that Tehran “assisted the region’s oppressed people, including in Yemen against the Saudi invaders.” In an interview with a conservative Iranian newspaper, he warned that Iran’s national security would be compromised if Riyadh succeeded in Yemen.