Iran regards Houthi attacks as an “experimental laboratory” for its weapons and doctrines | JNS

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Iran views the ongoing attacks by its radical ally in Yemen, the Houthis, on Saudi Arabia and others in the region as an important “laboratory” for testing new types of weapons and combat doctrines, a senior former Israeli defense official warned.

As such, Israel has a duty to use its influence in the international community to raise awareness of the threat to the region and international shipping in the Red Sea, Col. (res.) Shaul Shay, former vice chairman of the National Security Council and currently a senior scientific officer Staff at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism told JNS.

Iran is providing the Houthis with technical skills – helping develop weapons and doctrines that they can test,” Shay said.

The Houthis’ military-terrorist capabilities are the result of both Iranian support and Hezbollah support, he added. The Houthis regularly attack oil fields, airports and other sensitive targets in Saudi Arabia with rockets and drones and have also targeted the United Arab Emirates in the past.

The Iran-backed Houthis also pose a threat to Israeli shipping in the Red Sea, according to Shay, and could be involved in future escalations by directly attacking Israel with long-range missiles.

“The main potential focus when it comes to threats from the Houthis and Israeli shipping is the Red Sea and the narrow Bab El Mandeb Strait,” he said, noting that the Houthis are armed with a range of sea weapons , including anti-ship missiles. “The threat is across the Red Sea.”

Even far from the Yemeni coast, the Houthis could use a “mothership” to launch attacks on ships deep in the Red Sea, he added.

The Houthis could attempt an attack on Israeli ships or those they identify as such if they see an opportunity to do so.

The Houthis, who are constantly threatening Israel rhetorically, have a real but limited ability to attack Israel directly from Yemen using long-range missiles and drones, Shay estimated.

An Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia has long been waging a military campaign against the Houthis.

A market scene in Sana’a, Yemen. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

“The situation in Yemen was partly static”

The Houthi’s challenge to the region can be traced back to 2014, when the organization began to expand out of its northern heartland as a Shiite minority in Yemen’s ailing political system, which is made up of a majority of Sunni tribes.

The Houthis took over the Yemeni capital Saana at the end of 2014 and forced the rightful Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and his government into exile. “From Sana’a the Houthis spread south along the coast to Aden,” said Shay.

When Saudi Arabia saw that the Houthis were about to take over the rest of Yemen with the help of Iran, it formed a coalition to suppress further Houthi advances. At its peak, Shay said, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition comprised ten Arab-Muslim states.

“The Saudi intervention was mainly based on an air intervention. It has full air superiority and has prevented the Houthis from completing a takeover of Yemen, ”he said.

“From 2015 until today, the situation in Yemen has been partially static,” he said. “The Houthis were able to secure the majority of their profits and tried to expand again this year in an oil production area called Marib. The Hadi government with the now smaller Arab coalition was not strong enough to change the status quo. “

Given Saudi air superiority, the Houthis and their Iranian sponsors responded to the Saudi coalition with missiles and drones, which are frequently fired at Saudi Arabia.

“The Iranians have smuggled a wide range of missiles and missiles into Yemen, including short-range, medium-range and long-range projectiles. Iran has also sent cruise missiles, ”Shay said.

Next, the drones arrived – first unarmed versions and then suicide-explosive drones that can detonate precisely on a target.

More recently, advanced drones capable of firing their own ammunition have made their way into the Houthi inventory.

A UN arms embargo on arms sales to all sides of the Yemen conflict is being enforced by American, Australian and French ships, but with limited success, Shay reported.

Iranian arms smuggling initially involved bringing entire weapons into Yemen, with the weapons often being dismantled and reassembled by the Houthis with the help of Iranian and Hezbollah instructors.

In addition to smuggling ready-made weapons, Iran has also started exporting technological know-how to the Houthis, Shay said, similar to how he taught the terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip to make their own weapons.

“So there is now a growing infrastructure in Yemen; a local UAV, missile and missile production capability, ”he said.

The Iranians have not given up on smuggling missiles into Yemen despite this growing local manufacturing capacity. Iranian ships often bypass naval patrols enforcing the embargo. “The weapons are often transferred from one Iranian ship to another. A second smuggling route involves arms smuggling overland via Oman into Yemen without the knowledge of the Omani government, ”Shay said.

The long Omani-Yemeni border is essentially lawless territory through which trucks can easily travel on smuggling routes known to local tribes.

“A third channel is arms smuggling into Yemen via Somalia,” said Shay.

A range of naval weapons owned by the Houthi

Weapons include some of the same attack systems found in Hezbollah’s arsenal such as the C-802 anti-ship missile that Hezbollah uses INS Hanit Israeli Navy ship during the Second Lebanon War, 2006.

“The Houthis fired the same missiles at a Saudi warship and hit it,” Shay said.

The use of armed explosive devices, activated by remote control, is a tactic preferred by the Houthis to attack civilian and military ships belonging to the Saudi coalition. The remote-controlled bomb boats were also used in attacks on Saudi ports.

“The Iranians supplied the Houthis with naval mines,” Shay said. “There have been a number of incidents involving ocean-going vessels that have been hit by mines that are not always anchored and can be pulled far out of the intended area.”

The use of suicide bombers on board boats is another Houthi tactic.

All of these offensive instruments could pose a threat to Israeli shipping, he warned.

In addition, the Houthi’s long-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones could theoretically reach Israel, Shay added.

To respond to the threat, it is necessary to target the Iranian supply mechanisms and uncover the Iranian regional threat, which involves arming proxy “be it in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon or Yemen,” Shay said .

“This is part of the Iranian strategy to become regional hegemons. So the first thing that needs to be done – mainly by the United States and the international community – is to stop the Iranian activation of these militias. Now is the opportunity to do so when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program, ”he said of the nuclear talks between Tehran and the world powers.

The second set of responses should include Israeli cooperation with the circle of Arab Sunnis, who are directly threatened by the Houthis and seek to prevent both them and the Iranians from entering the Red Sea.

“The State of Israel must activate its influence in the USA and in Europe,” Shay emphasized. “Sometimes more liberal circles demand an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates” [United Arab Emirates]. Israel must explain the regional threats both to Yemen’s neighbors and to free navigation in the Red Sea. “

After all, the need to physically protect Israeli assets and interests is vital, and in this department Israel has a portfolio of ready-made defense capabilities to do so.

“Yemen is far away, and the Houthi threat looks distant compared to Hezbollah and Hamas,” Shay said. “But it’s there.”

The post Iran regards Houthi attacks as an “experimental laboratory” for its weapons and doctrines appeared first JNS.org.



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