Iran Pulse

Head of Iran’s Basij congratulates Houthis on 'victory'

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Article Summary
Hard-line Iranian officials and media have stated that Saudi Arabia failed to achieve their objectives in Yemen and have strengthened the Houthi position.

The head of Iran’s Basij sent a message congratulating the Yemeni rebel group, the Houthis, for their “resistance” against the nearly monthlong Saudi Arabian-led bombing campaign. The letter from Mohammad Reza Naghdi was addressed to Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, whom Nagdhi referred to as “the brave commander of Ansar Allah, brother warrior.” Naghdi called the end of the 28-day bombing campaign “a great victory” and “congratulated the champion nation of Yemen, especially you, the brave and wise leader.”

Naghdi wrote, “Without a doubt this brave resistance will be considered a turning point in the history of the region and the Islamic world and will have great transformations in the political geography of the world in favor of the oppressed.” He added, “Due to conditions, we did not have the honor to be alongside you in the front line and battle. We are ashamed and hope that we can make up for this in helping reconstruction and assistance.”

On April 21, Saudi Arabia announced the end of their military operations in Yemen, though they did say they would continue to target Houthi advances against Yemeni forces allied with Saudi Arabia. Nearly a thousand people died during the airstrikes and thousands more were wounded. Iran’s conservatives and hard-liners believe that despite comments from Saudi Arabia, the bombing campaign did not achieve its objectives but rather strengthened the Houthi position in Yemen against other rival groups.

Sadollah Zaeri, an Iranian analyst whose work often appears in the hard-line Kayhan newspaper, wrote an op-ed April 22 arguing that the Saudi Arabian bombing campaign had the opposite effect of what was intended. He wrote that despite the Houthis having access to missiles, they did not attack Saudi Arabia. Rather, they had an ally tribe on the border attack Saudi Arabia, inflicting heavy damages, as a “lesson.”

“The self-control Ansar Allah showed in the battlefield had a large impact in controlling the war machine of the enemy,” Zaeri said. He added, “From a perspective of military technique and strategy, Ansar Allah was effective, and Saudi Arabia not only quit the war with empty hands, but the conditions in which the war was suspended … it increased Ansar Allah’s strength.”

He wrote that Ansar Allah’s forces gained territory while Yemen forces aligned with Saudi Arabia suffered from an “identity crisis” over their failures.

Zaeri predicted that “since this war did not achieve a minimum of its objectives, it’s possible it will continue in a few days.”

Saudi Arabia established the coalition of Arab countries with the stated claim of rolling back Iran’s influence in Yemen. When Houthis toppled the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is now in Saudi Arabia, Iran expressed support for the Houthis, and Iranian media gave Houthi spokesmen ample air time on Iranian television. Iranian media called the Houthis “revolutionaries” while the Saudis accused them of being Iranian proxies.

Kahyan newspaper published an article April 23 stating: “With defeating the invading Saudis, who were fighting as proxies for America and the Zionist regime, the Yemeni revolutionaries humiliated the invading coalition.”

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Found in: yemen, saudi arabia, operation decisive storm, media, iran, houthis, basij, airstrikes

Arash Karami is a contributor to Al-Monitor. On Twitter: @thekarami

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