Iran giving Yemen's Houthis 'lethal' support, says US

Filed on April 22, 2021 | Last updated on April 22, 2021 at 12.13 am
Members of Yemen's pro-government forces search for land mines in the western province of Hodeida. — AFP file

US special envoy on Yemen says Iran supports Houthis through training and helps them fine tune their drone and missile programmes

Iran's support for Yemen's Houthi movement is "quite significant and it's lethal," US special envoy on Yemen Tim Lenderking said on Wednesday, as he called a battle for Yemen's gas-rich Marib region the single biggest threat to peace efforts.

Lenderking told US lawmakers that Iran supports the Houthis in several ways including through training, providing lethal support and helping them "fine tune" their drone and missile programmes.

"Unfortunately, all of this is working to very strong effects as we see more and more attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — and potentially other countries — more accuracy and more lethality. So, this is a great concern to us," Lenderking told a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

"Iran's support to the Houthis is quite significant, and it's lethal," Lenderking said.

Lenderking told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing later on Wednesday that he sees no indications that Iran supports a political solution.

"What I see is continued aiding and abetting an army of Houthis by the Iranians so that they can continue attacking Saudi Arabia, and unfortunately those attacks have risen quite strongly in the last couple of months," Lenderking said.

Iran's mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Lenderking's remarks.

"It's been, frankly, very difficult to intercept ships," Lenderking told the House committee. "We need our international partners to join us. ... We need countries like Oman to help make sure that their border remains close to any of this type of traffic from Iran."

A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthi group ousted the country's government from the capital Sanaa. The Houthis have said they are fighting a corrupt system.

Since taking office in January, President Joe Biden has made Yemen a priority and appointed Lenderking to help revive stalled UN efforts to end the conflict.

Fighting has intensified in recent days as the Houthis push their offensive to take Marib, which if successful would strengthen the movement's hand in any future political negotiations.

"This offensive is the single biggest threat to peace efforts and is also having devastating humanitarian consequences. If we do not stop the fighting in Marib now, it will trigger a wave of even greater fighting and instability," Lenderking said.

There are about 70,000 US citizens living in Saudi Arabia, Lenderking said, and "it is our greatest fear that Americans will be killed in a Houthi attack."

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