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Iran’s shallow influence in Yemen

Iran believes its influence is spreading to a new country with the rise of the Houthis in Yemen in September 2014; however, Yemen is different from other Iranian-influenced countries (Syria, Lebanon and Iraq), where sectarian compositions differ.
A boy holds up flags of the Shi'ite Houthi movement during a ceremony commemorating the birth of Prophet Mohammed in Sanaa January 3, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi (YEMEN - Tags: RELIGION ANNIVERSARY) - RTR4JYNI

Ever since Sanaa fell into the hands of the Houthis on Sept. 21, 2014, Iranian officials have been rejoicing with their new victory in Yemen, which they consider a new land to spread their influence. The most popular statement was made by the Tehran city representative in the Iranian parliament, Alireza Zakani, who said that Sanaa was the fourth Arab capital to fall into the hands of Iran after Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad. But, how feasible is it to compare the rampant chaos in Yemen and the absence of the state in Sanaa to the situation in Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad?

Iranians are very wrong to believe that the delicate situation in Yemen ended with the Houthis’ control of the capital. In Beirut, Iran has extensive influence held by Hezbollah, which is playing its political role as part of a specific and clear process divided among different parties. In Syria, the sectarian dimension of the regime has only just appeared. In the past, this dimension was marginal in a regime leaning more to nationalistic dictatorships, such as the Baath Party in Iraq. In Iraq itself, the situation is also different. A sectarian regime was established there and favored Shiites after the US invasion in 2003. However, in Yemen, things are completely different, since there is no state and the real power of the president and government is almost totally absent.

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