I’ll be honest – I was pleasantly surprised to see that the good folks at Huffington Post had, um, convinced someone to let them post one of an article about Iran and Iranian support to the “civil war” in Yemen, right there on the Huffington Post website. They convinced Dr. Majid Rafizideh, president of the International American Council of the Middle East (it doesn’t have a Wikipedia page – so…) to write an article, Six Reasons Why Iran Will Not Leave Yemen, presumably for free.
I’ll skip linking to the original post – not just because it’s on Huffington, but because, well, readers can’t really make out what the six things are. But I value and appreciate that they used a click-bait like effort with the headline, that they are talking about Iran and Saudi Arabia, that they’re actually putting Yemen into some sort of context with regard to these other two actors, and that the article did not feature links to women in sexy hijabs.
But it’s a great topic.
Yemen has fallen apart. That is in large part due to Iranian support to the Houthis, a Shia minority based out of northern Yemen. They are a perfect group for the Iranians to support – Shia, a minority, and right along the border with Saudi Arabia, the leaders of the Sunni faithful – with whom the Persians are leading a regional conflict, Sunni vs Shia, which is playing out in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere.
Iranian support for the Houthis is such an easy win for the Iranians. They are supporting oppressed Shia in a conflict there against other unfaithful Muslims (Sunnis) who have lost their ways and need guidance in finding their faith in order to return to the proper ways (and Shia). In doing so, the Iranians are also helping the Houthis in restoring Yemen to a good and honest Shia regime, one based on the (Shia) faith, allowing it hopefully one day to follow the true tenants of (Shia) Islam and establish an Islamic state there. In Iranian and Houthis eyes, this would be ideal.
And as the vanguard for the Shia, this is what they are support to do. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, isn’t just the leader of Iran, he is – in the leader of the Shia – the leader of all Muslims. It is why, in large part, Iran sees itself as the pivot point for the Middle East and for all Muslims – Shia and Sunni alike. Khamenei and Iran are suppose to herd all the cats and dogs – their problem is, there are a lot of cats and dogs who just aren’t listening, like those Sunni and that pesky Saudi Arabia.
As such, support to a Houthis fight in northern Yemen – done on the cheap by Iran – comes with great dividends for the Persians. It stills the hornets on the Arabian Peninsula, forcing the Arabian Army and Air Force into full frenzy to defend the kingdom – at great expense and with great effort – while Iran can sit back and enjoy the chaos and watch Saudi coffers and energy levels bleed out.
Tehran has historically had two other rivals in the Middle East, that of Damascus and Cairo. But today, both of those are either tamed or in flames. Khamenei now faces only a real rivalry from the Saudis, leading the Sunnis to counter their dominance in the Arab Middle East. This makes efforts like support to the Houthis such an attractive prospect.