For a group that began as little more than a lightly armed clan with political aspirations, Yemen’s Al Houthi rebels have been transformed into a full-fledged terrorist organisation with the capability to launch ballistic missiles or plant sophisticated sea mines in the Red Sea and the Bab Al Mandab Strait to pose a real and significant danger to all maritime vessels using the Suez Canal. And what’s all the more alarming is that this transformation has occurred in just a two-year timeframe after it had deposed the legitimate Yemeni government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The secret to its evil expansion? In a word, Iran.
While the government in Tehran was negotiating with diplomats from the five permanent members of the United Security Council, along with Germany and the European Union on a deal to end the sanctions imposed on Iran over its rogue nuclear programme, it was also working secretly on a missile programme and building up its naval and submarine capabilities. It now thumbs its nose at Security Council resolutions condemning Al Houthis and authorising the Saudi Arabia-led international coalition in Yemen.
Its Revolutionary Guards worked to turn political dissidents into trained terrorists capable of building bombs or enticing others to join their cells. And while the world was hailing the re-election of a “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Hezbollah fighters in Syria were fighting to keep President Bashar Al Assad in power. In Lebanon, from its base in south Beirut, Hezbollah determined when a government would be formed, and who would be allowed to lead it. In Gaza, Iran pulled the strings on ensuring Palestinians would live divided rather than united against their true enemies and occupiers.
In the Gulf, Iranian fingerprints are on plots in Kuwait to spread subversion, and the Revolutionary Guards have ensured that peace in Bahrain is fragile as terrorists remain active. And last week, a missile – Iranian-made, Tehran-supplied and fired by Al Houthis with logistical and technological support from the Iranian regime – was fired at Riyadh airport.
Simply put, Iran’s expanisionist designs in the region need to be contained. For too long, in too many ways, Tehran has interfered, subtly, actively and violently from Yemen to the Mediterranean. That is the challenge now for all Arabs and others in the international community. The UAE has said it will not stand idle under the shadow of Iran’s threat. Others should follow suit, to rein in Iran.