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Iran and Al-Qaeda Source of Growing Terror in Yemen
Global Arab Network - - Adam Turner
Yemen_Houthi_fighters_army_2
Yemen - New evidence indicates that both Iran and al-Qaeda are exploiting Yemen as a base for increasing terror against the west and Saudi Arabia.
Yemeni forces embarked this week on a full-scale military campaign to eradicate the al-Qaeda’s network in the conflict-ridden country after reports surfaced that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect in the failed attempt to blow up a passenger airline en route to Detroit from Amsterdam on Dec. 25, received training and explosives for the attack from an al-Qaeda cell in Yemen.[1]

Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attempted airliner bombing as retaliation for an operation against the group’s Yemen-based cell.[2]

Another connection to al-Qaeda’s Yemen network surfaced last month when it was discovered that Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter that killed 13 on Nov. 5 at the Texas military compound, was in E-mail communication with Anwar Al-Awlaki, a radical Islamic cleric in Yemen with ties to al-Qaeda.[3]

At least two former terror suspects released from Guantanamo Bay in November 2007 are in Yemen commanding al-Qaeda operations.[4]

Despite al-Qaeda’s Sunni orientation of Islam, the terrorist group has a tendency to align itself with former enemies, such as the al-Houthis.[5] Allegedly, hundreds of al-Qaeda terrorists are descending on Yemen from around the globe and the majority of the terrorist group’s resources are now allocated there.[6]

Yemen has evolved as a hub for al-Qaeda activity in the Gulf and is the birthplace of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s father.[7] In October 2000, al-Qaeda Islamists in Yemen attacked the U.S. navy ship USS Cole, killing 17 U.S. servicemen.[8]

Iran, another former al-Qaeda enemy turned ally, is also increasing its activities in Yemen.

Arab and Egyptian sources reveled that intelligence agencies in the region report a secret meeting in Yemen took place in November between high-level officials from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, Hezbollah and the Yemen-based Shia al-Houthi militants to plan and coordinate a new strategy for escalating the Saudi-Yemen border conflict.[9]

This secret meeting is perhaps the most compelling evidence to date of Iran’s direct logistical, financial and military support of the al-Houthi militants.[10]

Yemen’s National Security Chief Ali Muhammad Al-Anesi confirmed “Iran supports the Houthi rebels in Saada financially, politically and through the media,”[11] in an interview with Al-Hayat at the Manama Dialogue security summit in Bahrain on Dec. 15.

Al-Ansi also questioned why Iran has yet to condemn the conflict, asking if Iran really isn’t party to the insurgency along the Yemen-Saudi border, Tehran should have condemned it.[12] He also accused the al-Qaeda Islamist group of supporting the al-Houthi efforts to destabilize the Yemeni government.[13]

The Iran - Al-Qaeda Connection

·  Iran became a safe haven for senior al-Qaeda officials who left Afghanistan in 2001 and has since been a thoroughfare for al-Qaeda members in transit to operative locations throughout the Middle East.[14]

·  Asharq Al-Awsat recently revealed that the wife of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, his six children and 11 grandchildren have been living in Iran since 2001.[15] Their captivity has prevented al-Qaeda attacks on Iranian soil.[16]

·  In November 2008, security officials intercepted a letter written by bin Laden’s son Saad, thanking Iran for "monetary and infrastructure assistance” in carrying out a double car bombing on the American embassy in Yemen that killed 16.[17] Signed by al-Qaeda’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the letter lauds Iran’s Revolutionary Guards for aiding al-Qaeda establish a Yemen network and Tehran’s “vision” for assisting the organization set up new terror bases throughout Yemen after cells in Iraq and Saudi Arabia were forced to disband.[18]

Iran-backed Shia al-Houthi Militants

Iran is sparking the violence in northern Yemen through its political and military support of the al-Houthi militants, a Shia offshoot sect within the Zaidi movement.[19] Since 2004, the Iran-backed Shia al-Houthi militants have been fighting against the Yemeni government, but the conflict has now reached a boiling point.[20]  On Nov. 15, Yemen's counter-terrorism Chief General Yahya Salih told Al-Jazeera in an interview that “there is no doubt” that Iran is supporting and financing the Houthi proxy war against the government of Yemen.[21] 

The militant group is named after Hussein Al-Houthi, an Al-Haq party representative in the Yemeni parliament from 1993 to 1997, who sought to overtake the government due to its alliance with the United States.[22] The Yemeni government alleges that the militant group seeks to establish an independent Shiite state in northern Yemen.[23]

This conflict consists of sectarian strife between Yemen’s Sunni Muslim majority and its Shia minority.[24] Shia Muslims comprise the majority of Iran’s total population (90-95 percent) and nearly 40 percent of Yemen’s population is Shia.[25]

While this conflict has not been heavily reported in the Western media, the Arab press has been increasingly critical Iran’s interference, pointing to further disquiet about Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the region.[26]

Iran Threatening Yemen’s Sovereignty

·  The Yemeni Navy seized an Iranian ship on Oct. 26 off of Yemen’s northwestern coast in the Red Sea, carrying anti-tank missiles intended for the Houthi militants.[27] Government sources also revealed that the five Iranian crewmen aboard the ship were weapons experts.[28]

·  Iranian Fourth Fleet’s presence in the Gulf of Aden facilitates the Islamic Republic to increase its weapon smuggling operations to terrorist groups and Shia Islamists in Yemen and in Somalia, according to experts in an interview with the Egyptian government weekly Akhbar Al-Yaum.[29] Experts also said that Iran was smuggling weapons to Yemen via Eretria.[30]

·  On Oct. 19, the President of Yemen Ali Abdullah Salih accused certain Iranian dignitaries of funding the proxy war fought by the Houthi militants and of trying to create a “Shiite zone” along the Yemen-Saudi border; adding that the militants “have been trained in the same manner followed by Hezbollah in south Lebanon."[31]

·  Sheikh Abdul Majid al-Zandani, the head of Yemen's Imam University, said "The way events are moving in this country latest indicates to us that Iran wants to export the Shia ideology by force, which we utterly reject."[32]

Gulf Countries Deride Iran’s Proxy War

Iran’s role is arming the northern Yemenite minority is now threatening neighboring Saudi Arabia, forcing the Kingdom’s involvement in the conflict.[33] Saudi Arabia imposed a naval blockade in the Red Sea on Nov. 10 to prevent Iran from attempting to ship additional weapons to militants in northern Yemen.[34]

Referencing Saudi Arabia’s involvement, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki warned "Those who pour oil on the fire must know that they will not be spared from the smoke that billows."[35]

Iran’s proxy war against the government of Yemen, along the border of Saudi Arabia is forcing Arab leaders to speak out. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said on Oct. 4 "We reject... any kind of rebellion and we reject any foreign interference [in Yemen]. Egypt is wholly supporting - with all its power and capabilities - its sister Yemen."[36]

Hezbollah Aiding Militants: Striking Similarities between Militia Groups in South Lebanon and Yemen

In a March 28 interview with the London daily al-Hayat, Salih said “Lebanese Hezbollah activists are giving wide-scale aid to the Al-Khawthi group in Yemen. They are providing military and logistics training: The Al-Khawthis received training from a number of specialists and entities associated with Hezbollah, in assembling bombs, mines and explosives.”[37]

Head of the Sanaa-based Future Studies Centre Fares al-Sakkaf says that similarities exist between the Huthi militants and the Iran-backed group Hezbollah. Both are military wings with a political branch.[38]

On Nov. 16, the Shiite militants in Yemen claimed they launched a Katyusha rocket in their attack at on a Saudi military base.[39]

The Katyusha rocket is the primary weapon Iran provides to Hezbollah. The Lebanese-based Iran proxy group is in possession of more than 40,000 Katyusha rockets.[40]

Hezbollah receives substantial amounts of financial, training, weapons, explosives, political, diplomatic, and organizational aid from Iran and Syria. Iran probably provides financial and military assistance worth about $25-50 million. Hezbollah is closely allied with, and often directed by, Iran, but has the capability and willingness to act independently.[41]

Global Arab Network

Footnotes

* Source: © Copyright 2009, Réalité-EU
[1] Al-Haj, Ahmed, “Yemeni forces storm al-Qaida hide-out, arrest 1,” The Associated Press, Dec. 30, 2009, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091230/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_yemen_us_airliner_attack; Gardham, Duncan and Spillius, Alex, “Detroit terror attack: MI5 hunt for bomber's accomplices,” The Telegraph, Dec. 27, 2009, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/6897123/Detroit-terror
-attack-MI5-hunt-for-bombers-accomplices.html   

[2] Al-Haj, Ahmed, “Yemeni forces storm al-Qaida hide-out, arrest 1,” The Associated Press, Dec. 30, 2009, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091230/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_yemen_us_airliner_attack

[3] Al-Shemairi, Ahmad, “Top Qaeda militants escape Yemen attack,” Saudi Gazette, Dec. 27, 2009, http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentID=2009122758287 

[4] The Associated Press, “Al-Qaeda in Yemen Expands Operations,” Asharq Al-Awsat, Dec. 29, 2009, http://aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=1&id=19316

[5] Al-Rashed, Abdul Rahman, “Yemen: Al Qaeda's Graveyard or Gateway?,” Asharq Al-Awsat, Dec. 21, 2009, http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=2&id=19235

[6] Al-Rashed, Abdul Rahman, “Yemen: Al Qaeda's Graveyard or Gateway?,” Asharq Al-Awsat, Dec. 21, 2009, http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=2&id=19235

[7] “FACTBOX-Qaeda's resurgent Gulf wing stirs security fears,” Reuters, Nov. 16, 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSLD436393

[8] “US says no military cooperation deal with Yemen,” Agence France-Presse, Nov. 15, 2009, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5imPsmqYfB1ZOduWxG-jq_KewahNQ 

[9] Mahmoud, Khaled, “Intelligence services detected a secret meeting in Yemen between senior official in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and leaders of the Houthis and Hezbollah,” Asharq Al-Awsat, Dec. 13, 2009, http://aawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&article=548357&issueno=11338

[10] Mahmoud, Khaled, “Intelligence services detected a secret meeting in Yemen between senior official in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and leaders of the Houthis and Hezbollah,” Asharq Al-Awsat, Dec. 13, 2009, http://aawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&article=548357&issueno=11338

[11] Yemen Post Staff, “Peaceful Approaches to Yemen Conflict 'Don't Work,'” Yemen Post, Dec. 15, 2009, http://www.yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=1672

[12] Yemen Post Staff, “Peaceful Approaches to Yemen Conflict 'Don't Work,'” Yemen Post, Dec. 15, 2009, http://www.yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=1672

[13] Mahmoud, Khaled, “Intelligence services detected a secret meeting in Yemen between senior official in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and leaders of the Houthis and Hezbollah,” Asharq Al-Awsat, Dec. 13, 2009, http://aawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&article=548357&issueno=11338

[14] Coughlin, Con, “Iran receives al Qaeda praise for role in terrorist attacks,” The Telegraph, Nov. 23, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/3506544/Iran-receives-al-Qaeda-praise-for-role-in-terrorist-attacks.html

[15] Diyab, Muhammad, “Bin Laden’s Children,” Asharq Al-awsat, Dec. 28, 2009, http://aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=2&id=19309

[16] “Iran: using bin Ladens as human shields,” The Boston Globe, Dec. 30, 2009, http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/editorials/articles/
2009/12/30/iran_using_bin_ladens_as_human_shields/

[17] Coughlin, Con, “Iran receives al Qaeda praise for role in terrorist attacks,” The Telegraph, Nov. 23, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/3506544/Iran-receives-al-Qaeda-praise-for-role-in-terrorist-attacks.html

[18] Coughlin, Con, “Iran receives al Qaeda praise for role in terrorist attacks,” The Telegraph, Nov. 23, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/3506544/Iran-receives-al-Qaeda-praise-for-role-in-terrorist-attacks.html

[19] Al Jazeera and agencies, “Yemeni cleric blames Iran for war,” Al Jazeera International, Oct. 5, 2009, http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/10/20091055403891459.html

[20] “U.N.: Yemen's civil war spreads to Saudi Arabia,” CNN International, Nov. 14, 2009, http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/africa/11/14/yemen.fighting/

[21] Al Jazeera and agencies, “Yemen says Iran funding rebels,” Al-Jazeera International, Nov. 16, 2009, http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/11/2009111675649700628.html

[22] Politics in Depth Team, “Yemen's Conflict Explained,” Islam Online, Sept. 5, 2009, http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&pagename=Zone-English-Muslim_Affairs%2FMAELayout&cid=1251021451692

[23] “Yemeni rebel leader denies seeking Shi'ite state,” Reuters, Sept. 29, 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE58S2R920090929

[24] Hill, Ginny, “Cold War roots of Yemen conflict,” BBC, Sept 17, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/middle_east/8261867.stm

[25] “Mapping the Global Muslim Population,” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, October 2009, http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=455

[26] R. Green and Y. Mansharof, “Iran, Saudi Arabia Face Off in the Media,” MEMRI, No. 554, Oct. 16, 2009, http://www.memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=ia&ID=IA55409; “

[27] Ajbaili, Mustapha, “Yemen seizes weapons vessel with Iranian crew,” Al-Arabiya, Oct. 26, 2009, http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2009/10/26/89328.html

[28] Ajbaili, Mustapha, “Yemen seizes weapons vessel with Iranian crew,” Al-Arabiya, Oct. 26, 2009, http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2009/10/26/89328.html

[29] Yemen Post Staff, “Iran Raises Rate of Smuggling Weapons to Target Sana’a and Riyadh: Expert,” Yemen Post, Nov. 14, 2009, http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=1571&MainCat=3

[30] Yemen Post Staff, “Iran Raises Rate of Smuggling Weapons to Target Sana’a and Riyadh: Expert,” Yemen Post, Nov. 14, 2009, http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=1571&MainCat=3

[31] “Yemen's Saleh slams Iran for funding Shiite rebels,” Agence France-Presse, Oct. 19, 2009, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jcX1LBTjEewUyS0LcQk60enVG5MA

[32] Al Jazeera and agencies, “Yemeni cleric blames Iran for war,” Al Jazeera International, Oct. 5, 2009, http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/10/20091055403891459.html 

[33] Arrabyee, Nasser, “Peninsula on the brink,” Al-Ahram Weekly, Nov. 12 – 18, 2009, Issue No. 972, http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2009/972/re5.htm

[34] Nasrawi, Salah, “Adviser: Saudi navy blockades north Yemen coast,” The Associated Press, Nov. 10, 2009, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091110/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_saudi_yemen

[35] Agence France-Presse, “Iran warns against regional intervention in Yemen,” Kuwait Times, Nov. 11, 2009, http://www.kuwaittimes.net/read_news.php?newsid=MzgyNTEwMjYz

[36] Al Jazeera and agencies, “Yemeni cleric blames Iran for war,” Al Jazeera International, Oct. 5, 2009, http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/10/20091055403891459.html 

[37] “President of Yemen: The Hezbollah organization is supplying military and logistical training to the Yemenite Al-Khawthi group, which is striving to topple the regime,” ICT’s Jihadi Website Monitoring Group Insights, August 2009, http://www.ict.org.il/Portals/0/Internet%20Monitoring%20Group/JWMG_Hezbollah_Yemen.pdf 

[38] Hasni, Mohamed, “Yemen's Shiite rebels -- like Hezbollah or a world apart?,” Agence France-Presse, Oct. 14, 2009, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gevcoc1BCybEV3m7L2oBuOKMA7zw

[39] “Houthis say used Katyusha in Saudi base attack,” Al-Arabiya, Nov. 16, 2009, http://www.alarabiya.net//articles/2009/11/16/91428.html 

[40] "Une guerre civile atroce et cruelle se dessine au Liban," Libération, May 9, 2008

[41] GlobalSecurity.org

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