Iranian leaders celebrate the killing of Ali Abdullah Saleh and some media outlets express the hope that the former Yemeni president’s death will further empower the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Ali Akbar Salehi, a senior aide to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said Saleh got what he deserved. “The Yemeni people that are with the resistance front will ultimately emerge victorious similar to the people of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon,” he added.
Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.), said the plot against the Houthis was “nipped in the bud.” He further claimed that the Houthis – similar to Iran’s allies in Iraq, Syria and Bahrain – have been inspired by Iran’s 1979 revolution to confront the United States and its regional allies.
Conservative and some pro-government outlets echoed a similar view. Kayhan, whose editor is directly appointed by Khamenei, welcomed the killing of Saleh in its front-page headline. In previous days, Kayhan had also been commending the Houthis for launching missiles into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
I.R.G.C.-affiliated Fars News Agency also claimed that Saleh’s death has allowed the Houthis to have more control over Yemen’s security and politics. It claimed that Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. were trying to defeat the Houthis through Saleh. The article added that the Houthi missile attacks against Saudi and Emirati targets proved that the rebels are in charge of Yemen’s advanced weapons rather than pro-Saleh faction.
The reformist-leaning Ettelaat, however, warned that now that the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria is ending, Yemen is likely to become the center of regional hostilities in the Middle East.
Comment: Iranian-supported Houthi rebels killed Saleh yesterday after the former president fell out with the rebels and said he was open for dialogue with the Saudi-led coalition to end the war in Yemen. Clashes between pro-Saleh forces and Houthi rebels are reportedly continuing in the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a. Anwar Gargash, U.A.E. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said on Twitter that "the events in Sanaa are murky, but its national uprising needs support ... to protect the Arabian Peninsula from Iranian expansion." But it appears that Saleh’s loyalists have been unable to drive the Houthis out of the capital – a move that would have helped bring about a negotiated settlement to the Yemeni conflict.
The crisis in Sana’a also comes at a time when Houthi rebels recently fired a ballistic missile at Riyadh’s international airport. Saudi officials blamed Hezbollah and Iran for providing the Houthi rebels with the missiles and other sophisticated weapons.
Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, denied any Iranian involvement. But Reuters reported that a team of United Nations sanctions monitors has concluded that remnants of four ballistic missiles launched into Saudi Arabia by Houthi rebels this year, including residuals from the November 4 attack, appear to have been designed and produced by Iran. “Design characteristics and dimensions of the components inspected by the panel are consistent with those reported for the Iranian designed and manufactured Qiam-1 missile,” the monitors said. The independent panel of U.N. monitors has submitted the report to the Security Council.