From reconciliation to deception and direct clash
Yemen has always been the Persian expansionist ambitions focus since ancient times, and its traditional way of trying to penetrate the Arabian Island, which the Persians throughout their history have not been able to penetrate or control, and this matter can be seen through what some have put forward about the “historical tendency” of Persia to the west to control the eastern Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait, also in the framework of the struggle to tighten control over international trade routes.
In the modern era, some define the Iranian strategy towards the Arab region in general, and the Arabian Gulf region and Yemen in particular, as follows: “Iranian politicians have been looking for tension flash points to intervene to control location and wealth, arguing that they are the saviors or rescuers… Iranian politicians have inherited a feeling that there is a strategic-ideological vacuum that must be filled.
What concerns us here is to address the Iranian role in Yemen by monitoring and tracking Iranian-Yemeni relations, especially since the Republic of Yemen founding declaration in (1990), furthermore here we must go back a little to the Iran-Iraq war period, this war that broke out in (1980) and continued until (1988); North Yemen supported Iraq in that war, stood with it from an Arab perspective, and on the basis that Iraq is the eastern gate to the Arab region, it must be protected, so, Yemeni situation greatly angered Tehran.
However, after the Yemeni unity success between north and south, and the Republic of Yemen establishment declaration, Tehran started a new page with Sanaa, by trying to forget the previous pro-Iraq situation in the war, also some believe that this new phase extended from the year (1990) to (1992), the most important features of this stage were represented in ending the Yemeni prisoners file detained by Iran as a result of the Iran-Iraq war, also work began to further normalize relations between the two countries, through of an inter-ministerial committee formation working on economic cooperation between the two countries which was, in fact, more in Iran’s favor than Yemen, and delegations visits were exchanged between Tehran and Yemen, these delegations carried exchanged messages between Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, furthermore these relations were based during this period on the two principles of reconciliation and common interest.
This policy soon changed in the following period, that is, from the year (1992) until (1994), this change is due to the sudden, strange and provocative visit that President Rafsanjani made to the Emirati islands that were occupied by Iran in the year (1971), the real goal behind this visit was to confirm the islands occupation to Iran, added to this to make these islands more Persianization, which aroused the ire of many Arab countries and their protest against that matter, of course Yemen was at the forefront of these countries, as a result, the inter-ministerial committee work between Iran and Yemen stopped, then the Iranian-Yemeni relations entered into a state of stalemate, although there were mutual visits by the foreign ministers of both countries in 1994, but these visits were of a cold diplomatic nature and did not help restore warming in relations between the two countries.
As for the next stage, it extended from (1996) to the year (2003), began with the inter-ministerial committees return, through the enter-economic committee holding its work in Sana’a during the period from 16 to 18 January (1996), add to this the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh visited Tehran in the year (2000) a bilateral security agreement was proposed between the two countries, with a stipulation of non-interference in internal affairs, this agreement was only ratified in 2003, when Iranian President Mohammad Khatami visited Yemen, this period was characterized by Khatami’s moderate policy and Iran’s foreign policy in general. However, this stage has not been cleared from Yemen’s criticism of Iran’s policies towards the occupied Emirati Islands.
As for the next stage in Iranian-Yemeni relations, it begins in (2004), extending to (2013), which was characterized by relations warmth disappearance, entering into a stage of crisis, this is due to the fact that Iran – as usual – renounced its previous pledges not to interfere in the internal affairs of Yemen, returned to its old fixed policy and its ambitions in the Red Sea and Bab Al-Mandab, benefiting from tension flash points in the region, playing with the ideological issue in matters of politics.
Radwan Al-Sayyed confirmed a major change occurrence in Iranian politics during this period, with what they called “neo-conservatives” came into power in Iran, just as the neo-conservatives came into power in America, from here Iran resorted to awakening sleeping cells and others supporting them in the Arab world.
This was reflected in the great support provided by Iran to the Houthi group in Yemen, a group that originally belongs to the Zaydi sect spread in northern Yemen, but Iran was able to take this group’s leaders into the Twelver Iranian Sect, by greeting them in Qom, Iran, arguing that this was for religious education.
The Houthi movement was established in (1986) in Saada, then Yemen gradually entered into a sharp dispute with the republican regime in Sana’a; The Houthi movement viewed this regime as the result of the “coup” that took place in the sixties against the “Imam’s Rule” system that it was necessary to return to the Imam’s Rule again. Thus, the Houthis’ vision of “Imam’s Rule” necessity accorded with the theory of “Wilayat al-Faqih” Rule by the Islamic Jurist upon which the Iranian regime is based.
The Houthi movement entered into many wars against the republican regime in Sana’a in the period from (2004) to (2010), furthermore most of the sources are almost unanimous that had it not been for the Iranian material and military support for the Houthi group throughout this period, this group would not have been able to stand up to the Yemeni army, However Tehran has consistently denied direct support to Houthi in its war against Sana’a, this was reflected in the Iranian-Yemeni relations nature during this period, also Iran was not satisfied with its support for the Houthi movement in northern Yemen, but went to try to confirm its presence in southern Yemen, by trying to establish relations with one of the Southern Movement factions, this is Ali Salem Al-Beidh, who resides in Beirut, in constant contact with Hezbollah who played an important role in transferring some Yemeni youth to Tehran for military training.
Thus, Yemeni-Iranian relations reached to the estrangement point, especially after Tehran’s direct support for the Houthi attack on Sana’a in (2014), seizing it, and Iran continues its support for the Houthi regime in Sana’a, persists in not recognizing the Yemeni government that represents legitimacy, add to this Iran takes an unprecedented step in the international relations field; As Tehran accepts credentials from a Houthi leaders as Yemen’s ambassador to Iran, this provoked the protest of the legitimate Yemeni government, accusing Iran of violating international law, because the United Nations resolutions do not recognize the Houthi occupation of Sanaa, but rather recognize the legitimate Yemeni government as the sole representative of the Yemeni people. Thus, Iran was the only country that recognized the usurped Houthi regime, so the Yemeni-Iranian relations reached to the direct confrontation stage.
Iran is the only country that recognizes the Houthi regime in Yemen.
- Jamal Wakim, Eurasia, West and Hegemony over the Middle East (Beirut: Dar Abaad, 2016).
- Jihad Ahmed, Yemeni-Iranian Relations and its Impact on Arabian Gulf Security, East Future for Studies and Research, February 7 (2014).
- Hazem Al-Janabi, “The Iranian Strategy Towards the Arab Countries” Al-Manara Magazine (Academia Arabia), vol18, p2(2012).
- Khaled Al-Qasimi, The Three Islands between Arab Sovereignty and Iranian Occupation (Alexandria: Dar Al-Kutub and Arab Studies, 1997).
- Radwan al-Sayyid, Arabs and Iranians: Arab-Iranian Relations in the Present Time (Beirut: Arab House,2014).
- Dina Abdo, General Trends of Iran’s Regional Interests in the Arab Region, Syria and Yemen 2011-2016 – A Comparative Study, Arab Democratic Center.
- Samuel Ramani, Iranian Post-Conflict Vision in Yemen, Carnegie Foundation, December 11 (2019).