Tehran’s stance on Yemen is cynical to the point of schizophrenia. On the one hand, it is obvious to all that it is meddling in Yemenite politics by supporting the Shiite Houthi rebels to exchange the current Saudi-supported Yemeni government with one that is more sympathetic to Iran and to the Islamic revolution. On the other hand, once the Saudis struck back at the Houthi rebels, Tehran went into its “Deny, Accuse & Threaten” mode, by denying supporting the Houthi rebels, accusing the Saudis of meddling and threatening to retaliate.
Will Tehran ever come clean on its aspirations to dominate the region and/or Islam? Probably not until it has achieved its goal and by then, it will be a fait accompli.
Axis of Iran vs. Axis of Saudi Arabia
The Saudi’s first level of coalition includes Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Egypt, Sudan, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt. Its second level of coalition includes the US and then many EU countries and Israel.
The Iranian’s first level of coalition includes Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. Its second level includes Pakistan (began as a Saudi supporter and then went neutral) and Russia.
This localized war is the fulcrum of interests of most Middle Eastern countries as well as US and Russia so what happens in Yemen happen will definitely not stay in Yemen.
Tehran’s Meddling Method
In fact, Tehran is a prolific and compulsive meddler in politics of states that can potentially join the Islamic Revolution. It has succeeded to do so in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. The governments in these three countries owe allegiance to Tehran in no uncertain terms and their countries are home to Hezbollah militia and Qods “advisors” and forces.
It is also trying to meddle in all the Gulf states, in Afghanistan, Pakistan and some South American countries to lesser degrees of success.
Here’s Tehran’s 5-point method of meddling:
- Identify “partners”: Identify pro-Shiite leaders, factions and militia within targeted countries.
- Support “innocently”: Support them “culturally” and financially while meddling in local politics.
- Support Militarily: Increase meddling by introducing direct and indirect military strength.
- Strengthen Allegiances: Establish Hezbollah-like militia with allegiance directly to Tehran.
- Instigate Coup D’etat: Help the Shiite factions to overthrow the government and reap the political, economic and military benefits.
It is in this manner that Tehran manages to expand its level of influence without actually starting a war in any of these countries – The trick is to get an invite to meddle so that nobody can call it meddling.
Yemen Spiraling Out of Control
Supreme Leader Khamenei simply called the Saudi attacks on Yemen “genocide“. Of course, Khamenei is selective in using such words: He is careful not to call the slaughter of Yemenites by Houthi rebels, nor the slaughter of Syrian rebels by Assad’s regime “genocide” – both wars that are militarily supported by Tehran.
Iranian FM Zarif at first denied any Iranian support of Houthi rebels and warned Saudi Arabia that it was making a “big mistake” but then took a different approach that suits the smiling diplomat: Iran, Zarif says, is simply “worried about bout the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen” and is now calling for a change in government .
But his deputy FM, Amir-Abdollahian, was much more threatening: He warned the Saudis that continued aggression against Yemen would lead to “inevitable consequences“, and insinuated, as usual, that the Saudis were being played by the US.
The US is walking a tight rope with no safety net: US President Obama is adamant in signing a nuclear deal with Iran despite knowing that a) Iran will remain hostile even after a nuclear deal and b) Iran can develop a bomb if it chooses to do so. On the other hand, US Secretary of State Kerry warned Tehran that the US would “not stand by” while Iran continues to support Houthi rebels.
The Saudi shrugged off Iran’s warnings and re-accused Tehran of meddling and of instigating the situation which has led to this war.
The upcoming weeks will be crucial as answers to the following questions will be revealed: Will the Saudi initiative be successful? Will Iran get involved directly? How will the US react? How will the rest of the world react?