Category Archives: Operation Decisive Storm

Iran gears up for a possible showdown with Saudi Arabia over Yemen

As Iranian ships steam towards Yemen for a possible showdown with Saudi Arabia, the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei dismissed what he termed “American threats” as “stupid lies.” In a speech to Iranian forces, Khamenei pointed to comments by U.S. security officials this week, to the effect that “America is leaving all its options on the table, and on the other hand they say they want us to stop defending ourselves. This is a stupid comment.”

“The Iranian nation has proven that it always defends and protects itself with all its might when it is under attack,” said Khamenei. “It stands against all illogical invaders, and united it is like an iron fist.” On Sunday, Khamenei raised the security level in Iran, calling up and deploying reserves throughout the country, in the event the country is attacked, he was quoted as saying.

Khamenei was apparently responding to comments by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter last week. “We’re assisting the Saudis to protect their own territory and to conduct operations that are designed to lead ultimately to a political settlement to Yemen,” said Carter.

The U.S. has imposed an arms embargo on the Yemeni Houthi rebels, who have taken over most of the country, replacing Yemen’s legitimate government. Iran has vowed to assist the rebels, but has not been caught smuggling weapons into Yemen yet. U.S. forces have boarded several of the Iranian ships off Yemen’s coast – consensually, the Navy said – looking for weapons, but have not found. “We will continue to vigilantly defend freedom of navigation and to conduct consensual searches in an effort to ensure that drugs, human trafficking, weapons trafficking and other contraband are limited,” a U.S. Navy official was quoted in The Hill as saying.

Meanwhile, seven to nine Iranian frigates are reportedly making their way to the Yemen coast, and there are concerns that they will try to defy the naval blockade Saudi Arabia, along with Egypt, has imposed on Yemen. U.S. officials said that they were not planning to get involved, but in the event that a battle breaks out, the U.S. will “examine the situation carefully,” officials were quoted as saying.

Speaking Sunday, Khamenei said that the United States and “the Zionist entity” were “the greatest threats to the world and the region.” Turning his attention to the framework on nuclear work drawn up in Lausanne several weeks ago, Khamenei said that Iran would “never” allow international inspectors into its military installations, for fear that “spies” will “steal Iran’s secrets and compromise our security.”

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Yemen: Iranian backed Houthi capture presidential palace in Aden

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SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen’s Shiite rebels and their allies fought their way through the commercial center of Aden on Thursday and seized the presidential palace on a strategic hilltop in this southern coastal city, security officials said.

The capture was a major blow to the Saudi-led coalition, which has been carrying out airstrikes for a week now across Yemen, including in the capital, Sanaa, in a campaign meant to halt the advance of the Iran-backed rebels known as Houthis.

The Maasheeq palace in Aden – a cluster of colonial-era villas perched atop a rocky hill that juts into the Arabian Sea – was President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s last seat of power before he fled to Saudi Arabia last month in the face of the Houthi advance. He had earlier fled to Aden from rebel-held Sanaa.

Fighting was still underway late Thursday as Hadi’s forces and loyalists were holding on to some scattered parts of Aden after losing the palace and the city center.

The capture of the palace came just hours after al-Qaida militants, who have profited from the turmoil and violence roiling Yemen to expand their foothold in this Arabian Peninsula nation, captured the coastal city of Mukalla, another key port, to the east of Aden.

In the raid, al-Qaida militants freed about 300 inmates from a local prison in Mukalla, including scores of militants, according to the security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.

Among those freed from the prison was senior al-Qaida operative Khaled Baterfi who had been in detention since 2011.

The militants fanned out across major roads leading into Mukalla, the provincial capital of Hadramawt, and sporadic fighting continued in the city itself. The province is still mostly in the hands of government forces loyal to the embattled Hadi.

The Saudi-led air campaign has been targeting the Houthis and their allies, forces loyal to Hadi’s predecessor, ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Over the past two days, the airstrikes have focused on Aden, bombing rebels and Saleh loyalists approaching the city from the east and north.

The presumption was that if Aden was kept out of rebel hands, Hadi could return at some point to the country by way of the port.

Earlier Thursday, Houthi fighters broke through defense lines of Hadi’s men in Aden to reach an area known as the “Crater” in the heart of the city and which is home to the palace.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia said one of its guards along the border with Yemen was killed Wednesday night. It was the first known Saudi casualty since the airstrikes started.

A border post in the Asir region came under heavy fire from a mountainous area inside Yemen, followed by cross-border skirmishes, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. Along with the Saudi guard who was killed, 10 other border guards were wounded, SPA said.

 

Hezbollah operating in Yemen with Houthis

 Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based Shiite militia, is operating in Yemen on the side of the Houthis with the aid of Iran, a senior Saudi diplomat claimed on Friday.

Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel Al-Jubeir made the claim in an interview on CNN with Wolf Blitzer. “We have reports that the Iranians are providing weapons, training and advisers to the Houthis. We have reports of Hezbollah operatives being in Yemen.”

According to Al-Jubeir, when the Houthis captured Sanaa one of the first things they did was to release captured members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah.

“This is really a war to defend the legitimate government of Yemen and to protect the Yemeni people from being taken over by a radical militant group that is aligned with Iran and Hezbollah.”

Al-Jubeir said the coalition would do “whatever it takes to achieve that objective.”

“The fact that the Houthis are supported by Iran is not a good thing and we are determined to make sure that Yemen does not succumb to the aggression committed by them or any of their allies.”

To a question from Blitzer that there were reports of some Houthi rebels backedby Iran targeting Saudis in the Kingdom, Al-Jubeir said: “We are preparing for all eventualities, inside the Kingdom as well as outside the Kingdom. We are determined to defend Yemen, defend the legitimate government of Yemen, and degrade and destroy the capabilities of the Houthis.”

He said the Yemeni government tried repeatedly over the past year to reason with the Houthis, to negotiate with them, to go through a political process to resolve their differences peacefully. “Every time agreements were reached the Houthis reneged on every single one of them — 67 agreements to be precise,” said Al-Jubeir.

The Saudi diplomat welcomed US support. “We’re very appreciative of the support whether it’s political, logistical or intelligence,” he said. “We are working very closely with the US, consulting very closely … as well as with our other coalition allies.”

Responding to a question about whether there would be a ground invasion, Al-Jubeir said: “We will see what happens when the time comes. So far we are focused on the air war.”

On Iran’s nuclear issue, he said everybody in the region is worried about it. “We have been assured by the (Obama) administration that all paths leading to a nuclear weapon by Iran will be cut off. We have been assured that there will be very intrusive inspections that will ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear capability and we hope that this pans out,” he said.

Al-Jubeir said everybody wants a peaceful solution to Iran’s nuclear program “but it has to be a serious and solid agreement that is verifiable.”

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