A senior Iranian military official has said that the Houthi rebels in Yemen are inspired by Iran’s Islamic Revolution and its founder’s thoughts and are fighting against the Saudi-led coalition under the instructions of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi, former defense minister and current head of Iran’s Supreme National Defense University, made the remarks at a ceremony commemorating Iranian commanders and students killed in combat. Vahidi, who also served as the chief commander of Iran’s Quds Force and is wanted by Argentina for allegedly plotting the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish place in Buenos Aires, also stressed that Iran will defy international pressure and will not curb its ballistic missile program. “Today, the enemies are seeking to restrict Iran’s missile power, but they must realize that will never be able to disrupt it,” he said, adding that the Islamic Republic will only further enhance its military capabilities in the future.

He told military students that Iran is in a stronger position than anytime in the past to expand its influence in the region and called on the students to “fulfill their responsibility in this path effectively.” He claimed that Iran’s deterrence power is keeping the country safe. “The Americans always want to attack Iran. But they understand that they will face a ruthless and tragic defeat and will enter a quagmire with no possible exit.”

Comment: Iran’s support for regional militant groups and the country’s controversial ballistic missile program are two major reasons for heightening tension between Tehran and Washington. Tehran’s aid to Houthi rebels in Yemen has also sunk Iran-Saudi Arabia relations to their nadir since the 1980s. Following the latest Houthi missile attacks at Riyadh, Saudi leaders have accused Iran and its ally Lebanese Hezbollah of supplying the weapons to the Yemeni rebels to target the kingdom. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman said the “involvement of the Iranian regime in supplying its Houthi militias with missiles is considered a direct military aggression by the Iranian regime and may be considered an act of war against the Kingdom.” Last week, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley also presented “concrete evidence” of Iran’s transfer of weapons to the Yemeni rebels and called for the creation of an international coalition to confront the Iranian threat. "When you look at this missile ... it is absolutely terrifying," she said. These weapons "might as well have had 'made in Iran' stickers."

Furthermore, the Trump administration has increased pressure on Tehran to halt its ballistic missile program. On October, President Trump decertified the Iran nuclear deal and warned that he will terminate the accord if loopholes within the agreement, including Iran’s missile program, are not fixed. Iranian leaders, however, have ruled out any negotiations over the country’s missile activities and stressed that they will only further accelerate and enhance the program.

While the nuclear agreement does not address Iran’s missile program, the subsequent U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 “calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” Iranian leaders argue that the country’s missiles are not designed to carry nuclear warheads, but U.S. officials say some of the missiles Iran has tested after the 2015 nuclear deal have been "inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons" and are "in defiance of" the U.N. resolution.