TEHRAN, Iran — The Ansar Allah movement in Yemen, commonly known as the Houthis, has always extended a very special respect for the Islamic Republic of Iran. While not as deep as portrayed in Western media, ties between Iran and Ansar Allah go back in time. Indeed, the founder of the Yemeni movement — Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, the brother of current leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi — traveled to Tehran as far back as 1986, in the heyday of the Iran-Iraq War.
Houthi leaders have been very much influenced by the Islamic Republic and sought to convince Tehran to extend the kind of support it offers to Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement. This has, however, never materialized. The Houthis have never managed to gain a position anything close to that of Hezbollah in Iran’s regional calculations — not even now, with the current Saudi-led war on Yemen. Indeed, while Iran has strongly condemned the Saudi offensive, it has gotten involved in the current Yemeni crisis under very different circumstances than that expected of a fervent ally of the Houthis.