American officials have in a rare statement on 27 October confirmed the interception of weapons supplies by Iran to the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
This comes as Iranian officials are beginning for the first time to publicly admit that Tehran does have a policy of supplying the Houthis in what Iran calls “legitimate defense” against Saudi Arabia and others in the anti-Houthi coalition.
However, Iran’s defense of it policy toward the Yemeni war remains unconvincing. In fact, the policy is mostly one of opportunism. First, Tehran’s relations with the Houthi movement in Yemen is a relatively new phenomenon. It was only around 2004 that Tehran began to discover the Houthis as a political force to back. The basis for the cooperation was in reality mostly about a shared antipathy toward Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, while it is true that under Iranian influence the Houthis have become gradually more anti-Western in their slogans, the one fundamental objective that both Iran and the Houthis share continues to be the desire to confront Saudi Arabia. For example, the Houthis were quick to renounce any notion that they sought to confront the US military after launching missiles on American vessels off the coast of Yemen.
This indicates that as far as the Huthis are concerned the focus will continue to be on fighting the Saudis. However, the supply of Iranian weaponry, and the use of such missiles in attacking US ships as has been seen in recent weeks, will nonetheless make the Houthi stance less tenable.