Posted tagged ‘Yemen’

Hizballah’s Firm Grip Over Lebanon Fuels Region’s Sectarian Strife

November 15, 2017

Hizballah’s Firm Grip Over Lebanon Fuels Region’s Sectarian Strife, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Yaakov Lappin,November 14, 2017

Chief Iranian proxy Hizballah has a firm grip over Lebanon, and its bloody intervention in Syria was instrumental in preserving the brutal Assad regime. Yet Hizballah’s meddling in other regions of the Middle East usually does not receive as much attention.

That changed drastically earlier this month, when Saudi Arabia publicly accused the Shi’ite terrorist organization of firing a ballistic missile at its capital, Riyadh, from Yemen.

Saudi Arabia is alarmed at the rapid expansion of Iran and its proxies. It is leading a coalition of Sunni states in a war against the Iranian-supported Shi’ite Houthi radical organization, Ansar Allah, which has taken over parts of Yemen.

“It was an Iranian missile, launched by Hizballah from territory occupied by the Houthis in Yemen,” charged Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. A Saudi air defense battery shot the missile down before it struck Riyadh’s airport, but the incident has seen Saudi- Iranian tensions, which were already high, spike.

A United States Air Force source has reportedly confirmed the Saudi information about the Iranian origins of the missile.

Iran denied the Saudi accusation, and played down its links with the Houthis. But this denial flies in the face of mounting evidence of an important Hizballah and Iranian role in assisting Ansar Allah in Yemen.

Some of this evidence comes from Hizballah itself, or more precisely, its unofficial mouthpiece in Lebanon, the Al-Akhbar newspaper. Editor Ibrahim Al-Amin published a boastful article in July 2017 detailing Hizballah’s spread across the region.

“In Yemen, Hizbullah has become a direct partner in strengthening the military capabilities of the Houthi Ansar Allah, who consider Hizballah to be their truthful ally,” Al-Amin wrote.

The same article proudly said that in Iraq, Hizballah’s “experts are present in the biggest operations rooms … [Hassan] Nasrallah serves as the commander of the Popular Mobilization Units [the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias] in Iraq.”

Hizballah’s activities around the Middle East have become a controversial topic in Lebanon, where a portion of the population opposes its monopoly on political and military power, its militant ideology, and Iran’s proxy control of the country.

Last year, Future TV, a station owned by the recently retired Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (who quit in protest of Iran’s takeover of Lebanon), broadcast what it said was a video of a Hizballah operative providing military-terrorist training to Houthi fighters.

“So I have (for example) the assassination, God willing, of the head of the Saudi Border Guard,” the Hizballah operative says in the video. “We take a group, a special unit, it goes in, assassinates, kills and plants a large bomb. This is what we call a special operation. I have a special operation in Riyadh”.

At this stage in the video, the Hizballah member briefing the Houthis is interrupted with a question: “[Is this] a suicide operation?”

He replies: “Possibly a martyrdom operation. We do not call it suicide. We call it a special operation.”

An examination of the flag used by Ansar Allah finds that its red and green colors are influenced by the Iranian flag, and more importantly, the motto etched on the flag: “Death to America, Death to Israel, A Curse Upon The Jews, Victory to Islam” is inspired by official Iranian mottos.

The Houthis have been influenced by Hizballah in more than one way, said Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel.

“The group’s use of militant anashid (jihadist anthems) in its videos further portrays it as more in line with Hizballah’s models of ‘resistance,'” he told the IPT. “Images depicting Houthi fighters with the sun as a background further draw a parallel to other Shi’ite jihadist groups, giving the Houthis spiritual legitimacy within the context of a Shi’ite jihadist organization.”

Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the current Houthi leader, delivers speeches in a style inspired by Hizballah’s Nasrallah, Karmon said.

Houthi leaders also appointed a prominent Iranian-educated religious figure with close links to the Islamic Republic as the top Islamic authority in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a.

A May 2015 Financial Times report, “Lebanon’s Hizballah and Yemen’s Houthis open up on links,” cited Hizballah members saying they have “played a more active role on the ground in Yemen. A Houthi official in Beirut said relations with the Lebanese movement span over a decade, while a Hizballah commander said Houthis and Hizballah trained together for the past 10 years in Iran, then in Lebanon and in Yemen.”

The report added that Hizballah helped create the Houthi Al-Masira television channel, which is based in Beirut’s southern suburbs, a district under Hizballah control.

Earlier this year, Karmon assessed that “[a] physical Iranian presence based on a strategic cooperation with the Houthis, both ground and naval,” in Yemeni ports on the Red Sea, as well as control over other strategic waterways “represent a direct threat to Israel’s security and interests.”The Houthi takeover of Yemen’s capital and other regions increased Shi’ite Iran’s influence there, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported.

Based on publicly available information, it seems safe to conclude that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps uses Hizballah to strengthen the Houthis militarily in Yemen, and to help Iran increase its influence over this poor, war-torn state, which is also experiencing a humanitarian disaster on a grand scale due to the ongoing conflict.

Hizballah’s role as a regional proliferator of terrorism, radicalism, and high-level operational capabilities is a constant threat to the Middle East and beyond.

Yaakov Lappin is a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He also conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks, and is the Israel correspondent for IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. His book, The Virtual Caliphate, explores the online jihadist presence.

U.S. General: Missile Targeting Saudi Capital Was Iranian

November 10, 2017

U.S. General: Missile Targeting Saudi Capital Was Iranian, Washington Free Beacon, November 10, 2017

Supporters of the Shiite Huthi movement raise their weapons during a gathering in the capital Sanaa, Yemen / Getty Images

The top U.S. Air Force official in the Middle East said Friday that the ballistic missile fired by Yemeni rebels and intercepted by Saudi Arabian forces late last week originated from Iran and bore “Iranian markings.”

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, who oversees the Air Force’s Central Command in Qatar, said an investigation of the Saudi capital-bound missile’s remains uncovered evidence proving “the role of [the] Iranian regime in manufacturing” the missile, according to CBS News.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said it also found similar evidence regarding Iranian manufactured missiles after a July 22 launch from Yemen.

CBS News noted French President Emmanuel Macron similarly said the missile was “obviously” Iranian earlier this week.

Harrigian made his comments during a news conference in Dubai on Friday following the most recent strike near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, but declined to mention any specifics on what type of missile they believe it was.

Saudi Arabia reported it shot down the missile on Nov. 4 near Riyadh’s international airport, the deepest location to date for a rebel missile to reach.

The country has long has accused Iran of providing weapons to the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and their allies.  In turn, Tehran has long denied supplying the missiles.

Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute For Near East Policy who previously worked in Yemen, said in an analysis Thursday that “it is not a stretch” to believe Iran is supporting Houthi rebels.

It is “not a stretch to believe that Tehran is supporting the Houthi missile program with technical advice and specialized components,” Knights wrote. “After all, the Houthis have rapidly fielded three major new missile systems in less than two years while under wartime conditions and international blockade.”

Saudi Arabia intercepts ballistic missile over capital

November 4, 2017

Saudi Arabia intercepts ballistic missile over capital, CNN, November 4, 2017

Yemen’s air force targeted King Khalid International Airport in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Saturday with a ballistic missile, according to Yemen’s Houthi-controlled Defense Ministry.

But the missile was intercepted over northeast Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement carried on Saudi-backed Al-Arabiya television.

Yemen’s Defense Ministry said the missile attack “shook the Saudi capital” and the operation was successful. It also said the attack was conducted using a Yemeni-made, long-range ballistic missile called the Burqan 2H.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of states against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who toppled Yemen’s internationally recognized government in 2015.

The missile attack represents the first time the heart of the Saudi capital has been attacked.

“We previously warned that capitals of countries attacking Yemen will not be safe from our ballistic missiles,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed AbdulSalam said. “Today’s missile attack comes in response to Saudi killing innocent Yemeni civilians.”

The Riyadh airport tweeted that it hadn’t been affected.

“Travelers across King Khalid international airport in Riyadh, we assure you that the movement is going on as normal and usual, and trips going according to time,” the airport said in Twitter.

CNN’s Bijan Hosseini contributed to this report.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels threaten to attack Israel with missiles

October 1, 2017

Yemen’s Houthi rebels threaten to attack Israel with missiles, DEBKAfile, October 1, 2017

While Israel has no reason to fear an Iranian missile attack on its soil by Yemeni insurgents as yet,  its Red Sea shipping is definitely vulnerable to the P-20 (Chinese Silkworm) shore-to-ship weapon, a kind of cruise missile, which the Houthis have available for shooting at the Israeli war fleet and merchant vessels sailing in the Red Sea to and from the Gulf of Aqaba.

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Israel heard a new threat this week from an entirely new quarter, Yemen’s rebel Houthis. Their military spokesman, Col, Aziz Rashid, said Sunday, Oct. 1, in reference to Israeli bases in Eritrea: “Israel’s military bases in Africa are within range of Houthi missiles,” adding, if necessary, “Our forces would soon have missiles capable of reaching Israel itself.”

He did not need to spell out where those missiles come from. It is no secret that the Houthis are amply armed and supplied with intermediate range ballistic missiles from a single source, their sponsor, Iran.

Interestingly, the spokesman mentioned missiles able to cover the 1,720km distance between northern Yemen and the Israeli port of Eilat. However, according to DEBKAfile’s military sources, the Yemeni insurgents don’t have missiles with that sort of range. Tehran has given them Borkan-1 and Borkan-2 tactical ballistic missiles, whose ranges are respectively 800km and 1,400km. Both are short of the distance to Israel.

In the past year, the Houthis fired a number of missiles into neighboring Saudi Arabia, leader of the coalition fighting their insurgency. Some were aimed at the capital Riyadh. Two fell short near the Yemeni border and one hit a military target outside the Saudi capital. But most of the others were either intercepted by Saudi anti-missile defenses or exploded on open ground far wide of target.

While Israel has no reason to fear an Iranian missile attack on its soil by Yemeni insurgents as yet,  its Red Sea shipping is definitely vulnerable to the P-20 (Chinese Silkworm) shore-to-ship weapon, a kind of cruise missile, which the Houthis have available for shooting at the Israeli war fleet and merchant vessels sailing in the Red Sea to and from the Gulf of Aqaba.

Exactly a year ago, a Houthi missile struck a United Arab Emirate warship and set it on fire. Ten days later, on Oct. 10, they launched missiles against the USS Mason destroyer and drew an American retaliatory blow to their missile batteries.

More recently, on September 14, the Houthi leader, Abdulmalek Badruddin Al-Houthi, declared that the UAE is within his forces’ missile range. He noted that he spoke from experience after a successful test launch at the oil emirates, which is 1,500km away. He did not say when the test took place or which missiles were fired. But he went on to boast that his army possessed drones capable of cruising through Saudi air space.

The Houthi spokesman’s threat Sunday of a missile attack on Israel was the second time in a month that the Yemeni insurgents had referred to new Iranian long-range missiles for attacking a nation accused of siding with Saudi Arabia.

They claim Israel has become involved in the Yemen war by providing the Saudis with intelligence from its reconnaissance fleet which is based at the Eritrean port of Assab just 97km across the sea from the Yemeni coast.

Israel has never acknowledged those bases, but foreign sources began reporting in 2012 the discovery of Israeli war ships and submarines in permanent berths at Assab port, as well as an early warning station built there.

Tillerson and Saudi Foreign Minister hold briefing

May 20, 2017

Tillerson and Saudi Foreign Minister hold briefing, PBS via YouTube, May 20, 2017

 

More Missiles Ready to Hit Saudi Capital: Yemen’s Army Spokesman

March 20, 2017

More Missiles Ready to Hit Saudi Capital: Yemen’s Army Spokesman, Tasnim New Agency, March 20, 2017

(There were reports at Fars News Agency and other Iranian or Iranian -linked media of a successful missile attack on Riyadh on February 5th. However, according to the March 20th Tasnim article, “The Yemeni official said it was the first such attack by the Yemeni forces on the Saudi capital.” A search at the Saudi media outlet Al-Arabiya produced nothing about either the February 5th or the more recent attack. Are such reports reliable?– DM)

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Yemen’s Army Spokesman Sharaf Luqman confirmed the firing of a Scud-type ballistic missile at a Saudi air base in Riyadh, saying that more missiles are ready to confront the invading regime.

“We have managed to boost our missile production capabilities and our missiles can now reach the Saudi capital,” Luqman told Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen news network on Sunday.

His remarks came after Yemeni forces on Saturday night fired a long-range ballistic missile at King Salman Air Base in the Saudi capital Riyadh, inflicting major material losses on the kingdom. The Scud-type Borkan-2 (Volcano-2) ballistic missile hit its target.

The Yemeni official said it was the first such attack by the Yemeni forces on the Saudi capital.

Luqman further said that more missiles are ready to be launched against the positions of the Saudi regime, stressing that the new missiles will change the equation of the kingdom’s war on the impoverished Arab country.

The missile attacks are in response to the aggression launched by Saudi Arabia and some of its Arab allies in March 2015.

The Saudi-led coalition has been launching deadly airstrikes against the Houthi Ansarullah movement for two years in an attempt to restore power to the fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh.

Some 11,000 Yemenis, including thousands of women and children, have lost their lives in the deadly military campaign.

US blitzes AQAP in Yemen with an unprecedented 30 airstrikes

March 5, 2017

US blitzes AQAP in Yemen with an unprecedented 30 airstrikes, Long War Journal, March 4, 2017

The large number of strikes over a short period of time indicates the US is changing its tactics in fighting AQAP in Yemen. The US military previously described AQAP as one of the most dangerous terrorist networks that is determined to strike US interests, yet it had been overly cautious in targeting the group. Over the previous five years, the US military averaged just two to three strikes against AQAP a month.

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The US military has launched more than 30 airstrikes against al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen in three separate provinces over the last several days. Such a large number of strikes is unprecedented in Yemen and indicates a changing US approach to attacking al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, possibly acting on new intelligence gained from a controversial raid by US special operations forces in late January.

It is unknown how many AQAP fighters were killed during the operation. AQAP has not announced the death of any senior leaders.

The Department of Defense announced the airstrikes against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in a statement attributed to Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis.

“More than 30 strikes in Yemen” hit “militants, equipment and infrastructure in the governorates of Abyan, Al Bayda and Shabwah,” according to the statement.

Davis described the Yemeni government as “a valuable counterterrorism partner” and said the blitz was coordinated with and approved by the government and its president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Davis noted that AQAP continues to use “ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct, and inspire terror attacks against the United States and our allies.”

The attacks “will degrade the AQAP’s ability to coordinate external terror attacks and limit their ability to use territory seized from the legitimate government of Yemen as a safe space for terror plotting,” according to the statement.

The latest press release also described AQAP as an “extremely dangerous al Qaeda affiliate.”

With the more than 30 strikes against AQAP over the past several days and an additional five in January, the US has already come close in the first two-plus months of 2016 to exceeding the average number of yearly strikes since the program began in 2009. Only two other years (38 in 2016 and 41 in 2012) have a higher strike total.

The large number of strikes over a short period of time indicates the US is changing its tactics in fighting AQAP in Yemen. The US military previously described AQAP as one of the most dangerous terrorist networks that is determined to strike US interests, yet it had been overly cautious in targeting the group. Over the previous five years, the US military averaged just two to three strikes against AQAP a month.

Additionally, the military may have obtained more information about AQAP’s network and exploited it with a series of quick hits over a short period of time to shock the group. The US military and the Trump administration claimed that a controversial raid by US special operations forces against AQAP in Al Baydah province in January netted significant intelligence. One US Navy Seal, two senior AQAP leaders, and at least 13 civilians, including the eight year old daughter of slain radical AQAP cleric Anwar al Awlaki, were among those killed during the raid, which quickly evolved into a heavy firefight that also resulted in the loss of an Osprey aircraft.

Despite years of targeting AQAP, the group retained significant capacity. Davis estimated that AQAP maintains a strength in the “low thousands,” and that the group “can skillfully exploit the disorder in Yemen to build its strength and reinvigorate its membership and training.”

AQAP still controls rural areas of central and southern Yemen despite both attacks from the US and a United Arab Emirates-led ground offensive, which ejected the group from major cities and towns that it held between March 2016 and the summer of 2016. AQAP claims to still operate training camps in Yemen to this day. In mid-July, AQAP touted its Hamza al Zinjibari Camp, where the group trains its “special forces.” Zinjibari was an AQAP military field commander who was killed in a US drone strike in Feb. 2016.