Commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah are on the ground Yemen helping direct and monitor Houthi attacks against navigation in the Red Seaas they told Reuters four regional sources and two Iranian ones.
Iran – which has armed, trained and financed the Houthis – stepped up its arms supplies to the militia in the wake of the war in Gazawhich broke out after militants from Hamas backed by Iran They will attack Israel on October 7stated the four regional sources.
Tehran has provided advanced drones, anti-ship cruise missiles, precision ballistic missiles and medium-range missiles to the Houthis, who began attacking commercial ships in November in solidarity with the Palestinians of Gaza, the sources indicated.
IRGC commanders and advisors are also providing technical expertise, data and intelligence support to determine which of the dozens of ships traveling through the Red Sea each day are destined for Israel and are Houthi targets. all sources said.
Washington stated last month that Iran was deeply involved in planning anti-shipping operations in the Red Sea and that their intelligence was essential in allowing the Houthis to target the ships.
In response to a request for comment for this story, the White House pointed to its previous public comments about how Iran has been supporting the Houthis.
In his weekly press conferences, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanaaniha repeatedly denied that Tehran is involved in Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. The IRGC’s public relations office did not respond to a request for comment.
Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam, denied any Iranian or Hezbollah involvement in helping direct the Red Sea attacks. A Hezbollah spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
The Houthis, who emerged in the 1980s as an armed group in opposition to Saudi Arabia’s Sunni religious influence in Yemen, claim that support Hamas attacking commercial ships that, according to them, are linked to Israel or heading to Israeli ports.
Their attacks have affected global shipping between Asia and Europe through the strait Bab al-Mandabversus Yemen. This has triggered American and British air raids against Houthi objectives in the country, opening a new conflict scenario linked to the Gaza war.
The Gaza conflict has also triggered Clashes between Israel and Hezbollah militants along the Lebanese border, as well as attacks by groups linked to Iran against US targets in Iraq and Syria.
“The Revolutionary Guards have been helping the Houthis with military training (in advanced weapons),” he told Reuters an internal Iranian source. “A group of Houthi fighters were in Iran last month and were trained at an IRGC base in central Iran to familiarize themselves with new technology and the use of missiles.”
The person claimed that Iranian commanders had traveled to Yemen as well and established a command center in the capital. Sanaa for the Red Sea attacks which is being led by the senior IRGC commander responsible for Yemen.
The Red Sea attacks fit into Iran’s strategy of expand and mobilize its regional Shia network of armed militias for project its influence and show its ability to threaten maritime security in the region and beyond, two analysts said.
They noted that Tehran wanted to demonstrate that the Gaza war could be too expensive for the West if prolonged, and could have catastrophic consequences in the region if the situation worsens.
“The Houthis do not act independently”he claimed Abdulaziz al-Sagerdirector of the study center Gulf Research Centerwhich based its conclusion on a detailed analysis of the capabilities of the group, which has about 20,000 combatants.
“The Houthis, with their personnel, experience and capabilities, are not that advanced. Dozens of ships cross Bab al-Mandab daily, the Houthis do not have the means, resources, knowledge or satellite information to find the specific target and attack,” he said.
White House national security spokeswoman Adrian Watsonalso said last month that tactical intelligence provided by Iran had been essential for the Houthis to attack the ships.
According to two former Yemeni army sources, there is a clear presence of members of the IRGC and Hezbollah in Yemen. They are responsible for overseeing military operations, training and reassembly of missiles smuggled into Yemen as separate parts, the two people said.
Abdulghani Al-Iryani, senior researcher at the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies, an independent think tank, stated: “It is evident that the Iranians are helping to identify the target and destination. “There is no local Houthi capacity to do so.”
A senior regional source who follows Iran and who spoke on condition of anonymity stated: “The political decision is in Tehran, the management is Hezbollah and the place is the Houthis in Yemen”.
Weapons and advice
Houthi spokesman Abdulsalam stated that the group’s goal was to attack Israeli ships heading to Israel without causing significant human or material losses. American and British attacks on Yemen would not force them to back down, he said.
“We do not deny that we have a relationship with Iran and that we have benefited from Iranian experience in training and manufacturing and military capabilities, but the decision made by Yemen is independent and has nothing to do with any other party,” he said.
But a security official close to Iran said: “The Houthis have drones, missiles and everything necessary for your fight against Israelbut they needed guidance and advice on sea routes and ships, so Iran has provided it.”
When asked what kind of advice Tehran offered, he said it was similar to the advisory role assumed by Iran in Syria, ranging from training to supervising operations when necessary.
“A group of Iranian Guard members is now in Sanaa to assist in operations,” the security official said.
Iran sent hundreds of Revolutionary Guards to Syria, along with thousands of Hezbollah fighters, to help train and organize Shiite militia fighters from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan to prevent the fall of the president Bashar al Assad during the Sunni-led insurgency that broke out in 2011.
Washington and Gulf Arab states have repeatedly accused Iran of arming, training and financing the Houthis, who follow a branch of Shiite Islam and are aligned with Tehran as part of their “Axis of Resistance” anti-western and anti-Israelalong with the Lebanese group Hezbollah and other groups in Syria and Iraq.
Although Iran has denied having a direct role in the Red Sea attacks, the supreme leader Ali Khamenei has praised the Houthis, whose Zaydi sect is a branch of Shiism, saying he hoped their attacks would last “until victory.”
Train and equip
A leader of the coalition of pro-Iran groups denied that there were IRGC or Hezbollah commanders on the ground in Yemen at the moment.
He said a team of Iranian and Hezbollah military experts had gone to Yemen early in its civil war to train, equip and build the Houthis’ military manufacturing capacity.
“They came, helped the Houthis and left, like they did with Hezbollah and Hamas”he stated, adding that the military capacity of the Houthis should not be underestimated.
The person specified that the Houthis knew the terrain and the sea well and already had the necessary systems to attack ships, including high-precision equipment from Iran.
During the chaotic years following the uprising of the Arab Spring In 2011 in Yemen, the Houthis strengthened their control over the north of the country and took over the capital, Furyin 2014, which pushed a coalition led by Saudi Arabia to intervene militarily months later.
When Hamas attacked Israel, Iran had no choice but to show its support for the Palestinian group after years of anti-Israel rhetoric, but worried that Hezbollah’s use would trigger massive Israeli retaliationaccording to analysts.
Iryani, of the Center for Strategic Studies in Sana’a, said that a major war between Israel and Hezbollah would be disastrous for Lebanon and would jeopardize the future of the group, which has become the most important in the Iranian “Axis of Resistance.”
By contrast, the Houthis were in a unique strategic position to have a big impact by disrupting global maritime activity with little effort, he said.
(With information from Reuters)