Houthis, Iran threaten Saudi Arabia over Yemen campaign

Iran threatens Saudi Arabia over its military campaign against the Houthis in Yemen.

Tensions in the Middle East are simmering to a boiling point as the regional powers – Iran and the Sunni coalition led by Saudi Arabia – lock horns over control of Yemen.  For the past six days, the air forces of the Gulf states, Jordan and Egypt have been pounding Houthi-Shi’ite positions in Yemen, primarily in the capital. There has been talk of a ground invasion as well.

al sisi al Thani

Egyptian President al-Sisi, center, walks with Qatar Emir Al-Thani on his arrival at the Arab summit in Sharm el-Sheikh. (AP/MENA)

Mohammad al-Bakhiti, a senior member of the Yemenite Houthi political council, also known as the Ansarullah movement, threatened Saudi Arabia with “a crushing response” to any ground invasion by the Sunni coalition into Yemen.

“Any ground attack on Yemen will receive a rigidly harsh response,” al-Bakhiti stated on Sunday, according to the Iranian Fars News agency.

“We have not responded to the Saudi aggression in the past five days because we wanted to allow the Arab countries to reconsider their action and stop their attacks,” he said, adding, “but from now on everything will be different.”

Al-Bakhiti described the Saudi-led alliance against the Houthis as “a moral crisis.”

“Whatever the Arab conference decided about Yemen will end in serious crisis,” he said, relating to the Sunni summit in Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai over the weekend.

He underlined that the Houthis have confidence in their resistance and are certain that they will win.

On Saturday, a senior member of the Houthi Ansarullah movement warned of immediate terror attacks in Saudi Arabia if the latter continues with its operation against the Iran-backed Houthis.

“As the Ansarullah movement has promised collapse of some Arab regimes supporting the terrorists, if Saudi Arabia continues its aggression against the oppressed Yemeni people, the Ansarullah fighters will pave the way for the Saudi regime’s destruction by conducting martyrdom-seeking (suicidal) operations inside Saudi Arabia in the coming hours,” Abdel Mon’em al-Qurashi, a member of Ansarullah executive committee, told Fars News.

Al-Qurashi alleged that Israel and the Saudi government were operating together in Yemen and that Saudi Arabia was taking orders from Washington and Tel Aviv.

Sunni states, led by Saudi Arabia, launched “Operation Decisive Storm” last week in Yemen to push back the Shi’ite Houthis who have taken control of Yemen’s capital Sa’ana and swaths of the country, threatening international maritime trade coming through Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

US President Barack Obama authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to the Saudi Arabia-led military operations, National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said late Wednesday night.

Direct Iranian Involvement

Iran is directly involved in the mounting tensions in Yemen. In another exchange of diplomatic fire between the Sunni coalition and Tehran, former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, cancelled a visit to Saudi Arabia, his senior aide said, according to a Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) report on Sunday. Rafsanjani condemned the “Saudi aggression against Yemen,” his aide said.

Rafsanjani

Former Iranian President Rafsanjani. (Fars News)

Rafsanjani, who reportedly had very good relations with senior Saudi officials when he was president, voiced deep concern on Saturday over the ongoing crisis in Yemen, saying that the Saudi attack on Yemen means “playing with fire.”

“Unfortunately, some Arab countries use lame excuses and with aimless bombardments in Yemen have committed a clear and dangerous mistake,” Rafsanjani said in an address to a group of Iranian officials in Tehran.

He blasted the Sunni Arab coalition for fighting in Yemen but not attacking Israel. “They have not taken the slightest effective action against the Quds occupying regime [Israel] for over 50 years but have become united against a regional Muslim state, which is quite regrettable,” he declared.

On Saturday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian warned Saudi Arabia against the dire consequences of invading Yemen, describing the move as “a strategic mistake.”

The Saudi attack on Yemen’s infrastructures and people is “unacceptable,” he stated.

Abdollahian also cautioned that the Saudi aggression has negative consequences for the region and the Muslim world.