MIDEAST ANALYSIS: Iran escalates conflict with Saudis in Yemen

On Sunday, the Iranian-backed Houthis lobbed seven ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabian cities from Yemenite soil. There's more.

Yochanan Visser,

 Ballistic missile launched and tested in undisclosed location, Iran, March 9, 2016
Ballistic missile launched and tested in undisclosed location, Iran, March 9, 2016
Reuters

Yochanan Visser is an independent journalist/analyst who worked for many years as Middle East correspondent for Western Journalism.com in Arizona and was a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant. He authored a book in the Dutch language about the cognitive war against Israel and now lives in Gush Etzion. He writes a twice weekly analysis of current issues for Arutz Sheva

It’s often called ‘The Forgotten War,’ an endless conflict that has already made more than 3 million people homeless, has killed more than 13,600 people and starved millions of others, while more than one million people have been infected with cholera.

We’re talking about the war in the Middle East’s poorest country, Yemen, that just witnessed a dangerous escalation which could lead to a confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

On Sunday, the Iranian-backed Ansar Allah militia (Houthis) lobbed seven ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabian cities from Yemenite soil.

One of the missiles caused the first civilian death in Saudi Arabia since the Ansar Allah militia widened its offensive to include the oil-rich Kingdom.

A Patriot missile, which was launched to intercept one of the seven rockets above the Saudi capital Riyadh, malfunctioned and hit a house, killing an Egyptian man and wounding two others.

The other missiles were downed by the American-made Patriot anti-rocket missile defense system.

Sunday’s attack marked the third time in five months Ansar Allah launched ballistic missiles at the Saudi capital.

In the other instances at the Saudi international airport, King Khalid was the target, but now the southern cities of Najran, Jizan and Khamis Mushait and Riyadh were targeted as well.

On Wednesday the UN Security Council discussed the situation in Yemen and condemned the Ansar Allah militia for firing missiles at Saudi population centers.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their grave concern at the continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Yemen and the devastating humanitarian impact of the conflict on civilians,” a statement issued by the UNSC read.

The Council also condemned “violations” of a UN weapons embargo but didn’t specify who exactly was violating the ban on weapons deliveries to Ansar Allah this time.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition against the Iranian-backed militia, however, said Iran was behind the unprecedented attack on the Saudi cities and warned a response would come at the “appropriate” time.

Iran, however, continues to deny it delivers ballistic missiles and other weaponry to the Houthis.

Brigadier General Yadollah Javani of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps claimed that Ansar Allah was producing its own weapons, while he added that “all routes to send arms to Yemen are blocked.”

“Yemenis have reached the capability to produce their own defensive weapons including missiles; an achievement that has been inconceivable to Saudis," Javani furthermore claimed, while a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry called the Saudi claims “irresponsible” and “war-mongering.”

This begs the question of who is lying here.

During a March 26 briefing Colonel Turki al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Saudi-led all- Muslim coalition fighting Ansar Allah, displayed an Iranian made Sayyad-2 surface to air missile (SAM) which he said had been intercepted during an “intelligence operation”.

The Sayyad-2 was unveiled during a military parade in Tehran in November 2013.

“Col.Maliki also displayed images that apparently showed a manual and components made by Rizmoj Sanat, an Iranian company that produces radars and other aircraft tracking systems, that were seized in the same consignment,” according to Jane’s Defense Weekly.

It is as yet unknown if Ansar Allah has already used the Sayyad-2, but the fact is the Yemenite Shia militia now has the ability to shoot down warplanes with SAM rockets.

These week saw the attempted downing of two United Arab Emirates F-16 jets flying in Yemenite airspace.

Ansar Allah later released a video which purportedly showed an unknown type of SAM which narrowly missed one of the UAE F-16’s.

There’s more.

On December 14, Niki Haley, the US ambassador at the United Nations, showed debris of a short range ballistic missile which she said was undeniable evidence of Iranian weapon deliveries to Ansar Allah.

Haley said that the debris was found after a Patriot missile downed a rocket fired by Ansar Allah at King Khalid International Airport on Nov.4 2017.

Haley’s claim seemed to be supported by a panel of UN experts.

The UN experts examined the debris and came to the conclusion that the missile was the Iranian Scud variant Qiam-1, but some of her counterparts at the UNSC weren’t willing to point a finger at Iran, Foreign Policy reported at the time.

Iran officially condemned Haley for accusing it of weapon transports to Ansar Allah after the briefing at a US-army base near Washington.

A spokesman for the Iranian mission at the UN said the Islamic Republic “categorically” rejected Haley claims as “unfounded and, at the same time, irresponsible, provocative and destructive.”

As is usual, the Iranians are lying through their teeth when it comes to their belligerent activities in the Middle East.

One doesn’t need Haley or the Saudis to prove this, the Iranians themselves admitted repeatedly they are supplying weapons to Ansar Allah.

Mehdi Tayeb, an advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in April 2017 “Iran’s catering of missiles to the Houthis was carried out in stages by the Revolutionary Guards and the support and assistance of the Iranian navy.”

The former Iranian ambassador to Iraq also admitted that Iran assisted Ansar Allah in Yemen against the “Saudi invaders”.

The United States navy and the Australian government furthermore released photographs showing intercepted Iranian weapons, manufactured in Iran and seized in the Gulf of Aden just before they were delivered to Ansar Allah.

Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the IRGC also addressed the issue in 2017.

After meeting with top IRGC officials, a spokesman for the Quds Force commander said they agreed "to increase the amount of help (to Ansar Allah), through training, arms and financial support.”

The Saudi minister for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said this week that Iranians and Hezbollah operatives were the ones who lobbed the latest volley of ballistic missiles at his country.

“Iranian ballistic missiles launched from Houthis’ territory in Yemen by Iranian agents and Hezbollah agents is a stark violation of international law and UN Resolution 2216", al-Jubeir told the UNSC.

Apparently the Iranians didn’t like al-Jubeir’s comments, if we are to believe the Saudi ambassador at the United Nations Prince Khalid Bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz.

Abdul Aziz said Iran tried to assassinate al-Jubeir while he was in Washington.

“The Iranian regime tried to assassinate the foreign minister here in Washington, it has assassinated Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and (has) assassinated its opponents in Europe, and provided money and weapons to terrorist organizations,” according to the Saudi UN ambassador.








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