A new report claims that Iran has transferred aerial drone technology to Houthi rebels in Yemen. According to Conflict Armament Research (CAR), a U.K.-based organization that tracks and analyzes weapons shipments around the world, Houthis use the explosive-laden drones to disable Saudi-led coalition’s missile defenses. By disrupting the coalition's radar system with the drones, the rebels are able to fire a barrage of missiles at coalition targets, it added. "These findings strengthen a body of evidence compiled by CAR, which links weapons captured from Houthi and Saleh-aligned forces to transfers from Iranian national stockpiles," the authors of the report explained.
Comment: It is not the first time that Iran's alleged transfer of drone technology to the Houthis has alarmed the Saudi-led coalition. In early February, the United Arab Emirates summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires to protest “Iran’s illegal arming” of Shiite Yemeni rebels, including providing drones to target the Yemeni and Saudi-led coalition forces. The move came just days after the U.A.E. Air Force destroyed an "Iranian military drone" intended to target Yemeni government troops near the Red Sea. Major General Ahmed Saif Al Yafei, the deputy chief of general staff of Yemeni forces, said at the time the drone had been smuggled in by the rebels from Iran, after government troops trapped them on the coast.
The United States and its regional allies say Iran has recently increased its military and financial support to the rebel Houthi movement. A report by Reuters published yesterday quoted several regional and Western sources as saying that “in recent months Iran has taken a greater role in the two-year-old conflict by stepping up arms supplies and other support.” The report also quoted an unnamed Iranian official as revealing that Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’s elite Qods Force, met top I.R.G.C. officials in Tehran last month to explore ways of empowering the Houthis.
Moreover, a Saudi coalition aircraft recently killed a senior I.R.G.C. officer who reportedly supervised the design and implementation of ballistic missile systems for Houthi missile brigades in Yemen. And earlier this month, Yousef al-Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United States, said Iran was prolonging the Yemeni conflict by sending weapons to Houthi rebels.
While the Iranian government denies sending arms to the Houthis, the U.S. military and its allies have confiscated several Iranian arms shipments destined for Yemen. 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.