Friday, August 7, 2015

Obama says Iran advised Ansarullah against launching armed campaign in 2014

Saudi (RSLFAF) AH-64 Apache attack helicopter reported 05AUG15 to be shot down by Yemeni SAM in the district of Harad, in the western Yemeni province of Hajjah.

According to Huffington Post, dated 06AUG15:
Iran tried to hold back Shia rebels who were intent on taking the Yemeni capital of Sanaa at the height of the uprising in 2014, President Barack Obama told a group of reporters Wednesday afternoon.
The Houthi rebels, however, ignored the advice and marched on, precipitating a much wider war in Yemen.
Obama's observation confirms an earlier Huffington Post report that, contrary to widespread assumptions in the United States, Iran was not the driving force of the crisis in Yemen.
The president relayed the anecdote as an example of how Iran is calculating, rational and opportunistic in its interventions, rather than being wildly driven by the passions of its ideology, at a briefing with reporters to discuss the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.
“When the Houthis started moving, that wasn’t on orders from Soleimani, that wasn’t on an order from the IRGC,” he said, referring to Qasim Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.”That was an expression of the traditional Houthi antagonism towards Sanaa, and some of the machinations of the former president, [Ali Abdullah] Saleh, who was making common cause out of expediency with the Houthis.”
"We watched as this proceeded. There were moments where Iran was actually urging potential restraint,” he said. ”Now, once the Houthis march in and there’s no there there” -- in other words, the government completely collapsed and Houthis expecting resistance found none at all -- “
Commentary: Iranian intelligence likely assessed risks inherent with Ansarullah launching armed campaign in 2014. What's more, with the subsequent Feb. 2015 pullout of Western embassy personnel in Sanaa providing indication of impending Saudi-led air offensive, their warnings appeared vindicated.

Also related to Yemen from Huffington Post is this 05AUG15 interview of ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, click HERE. [h/t Tom Cooper] Excerpts:
Q: What do you consider to be the shortcomings of the Houthis?
A: Since they are now in charge of the county, Houthis should pay more attention to political work, and they should develop a convincing program, so that they can really present themselves as a superior alternative to Hadi the traitor and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Q: Did you know that they would take over Sanaa?
A: I have already clarified that I did not know that they would enter Sanaa, and that the person who was aware of that was the traitor Hadi, who helped them in order to undermine the Muslim Brotherhood and to get rid of them, as he did when he brought down Amran and got rid of Awlad al-Ahmar after they all became a burden.
Q: Among Saudi Arabia, Iran and Gulf countries, which do you consider a friend of the Yemeni people?
A: They are all friends. After its aggression on Yemen, Saudi Arabia is no longer a friend. It is a country that has assaulted my country and the Yemeni people.
The entire interview deserves a full read at Huffington Post Arabi.

6 comments:

Nader Uskowi said...

Mark, the president also said, in the same interview, actually in the same sentence quoted above, that Iran wanted to get arms to the Houthis and cause problem for the Saudis. This corresponds with the argument that in Houthis' advance to Sanaa and then the rest of the country, Iran saw a golden opportunity and began to support the Houthi drive. Although it has not succeeded to fully support them (by advisers, foreign Shia militias, arms) at the level it would have wanted because of Saudi and UAE intervention to stop Iran from expanding its influence in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula.

Piruz Mollazadeh said...

The point is, Iran most likely didn't engineer the coup. But when the coup happened anyway, I'm guessing Iran could do little but support it given its good relations with Ansarullah. This is a clear case of soft political extortion by the Houthis, who probably knew that Tehran wouldn't turn down a golden opportunity to create a foothold in Yemen, no matter how risky, and since Tehran would be blamed anyway for the coup because of its sectarian nature.

Again, it wasn't just Saudi and UAE that stopped Iran from sending weapons and advisers to Yemen. the U.S navy had to directly intervene. I'm not sure what would have happened if the 9-ship-strong Iranian convoy had broken through the blockade a few months ago, or if Saudi, Egyptian and UAE forces would have attacked it.

Nader Uskowi said...

Iran was indeed supporting the Houthis for a number of years, including shipping arms to them, advising them militarily and training their fighters and providing cash before the Ansarullah decided to move into Sanaa. Iran would have preferred if they would not have taken control of the government and its institutions, and rather follow the Hezbollah model of exerting maximum influence without having the responsibilities of governing the country. Iran in particular did not want the Ansarullah to move into Aden, as it was a provocative and risky move. But the golden opportunity to expand its influence and presence in the Saudi backyard was too tempting to pass, hence sending the 9-ship convoy and other attempts to send arms via cargo planes.

I do agree that the presence of the U.S. aircraft carrier was key in Iran's decision to recall their naval convoy. But in other occasions, the Saudis stopped Iranian aircraft, like in the bombing of Sanaa airport runway to stop a Mahan Air cargo flight from landing, without U.S. help.

Iran will continue its attempts to ship arms to the Houthis, probably through smuggling routes, but the amount would not be nearly as much as it could have been without the blockade. I also hope that Iran would push the Ansarullah to seek a political solution to the conflict. Otherwise we might see a military stalemate that might further destabilize a region that cannot afford further instability.

Piruz Mollazadeh said...

Stopping a civilian airliner by bombing the runway of an airport and attacking military vessels of another country head on are two very different things. But I see your point.

Yes, I hope now that Aden and almost all of the North is clear of Houthi forces, the two sides will come to some sort of political solution, and that Saudi/UAE-led forces don't make the same mistake which the Houthis did; assume that a decisive military victory against the other party is within reach.

Also, I wasn't aware that Iran was particularly against Houthis moving in on Aden. If so it would have been a rational position. Is there a reason why you think that was the case? Were there leaks or something? Just interested in knowing the source.

Nader Uskowi said...

Part of Iranian media close to IRGC was very cautious reporting on Aden's capture, including very guarded comments by the Iranian generals at the time. President Obama is also saying that the Iranians did not plan or encouraged the Houthi move.

On political solution, agreed absolutely. The KSA should realize that a military solution and total victory is out of reach for both sides and the process of a settlement to the conflict should begin now.

Piruz Mollazadeh said...

Very well.