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Tehran Seeking to Extend Influence in Yemen - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Supporters of Shi'ite al-Houthi rebel group shout slogans during demonstration against military shake-up carried out by Yemen's President Hadi, in Sanaa. (R)

Supporters of Shi’ite al-Houthi rebel group shout slogans during demonstration against military shake-up carried out by Yemen’s President Hadi, in Sanaa. (R)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Sources participating in the Yemeni National Dialogue informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Tehran is seeking to put pressure on Saudi Arabia by gaining control of the Bab El-Mandeb Strait in the Red Sea.

Yemeni political analyst Dr. Adel Al-Shuja informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Tehran is aware that the Saudi and Gulf oil industries rely on the Strait of Hormuz. However, if Iran follows through with threats to close the strait, then Riyadh will most likely seek to utilize the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait as an alternative route. He stressed that this was the main reason behind Tehran seeking to expand its influence in Yemen.

The Sana’a University professor said that Tehran is well aware that its major strength lies in foreign alliances, as can be seen with regards its efforts in Syria, southern Lebanon and Northern Yemen. He added that Tehran is trying to expand its influence in Yemen today through the Shi’ite Huthi rebels, as well as the Southern secessionist Al-Harak movement led by Ali Salim Al-Beidh

Yemeni national sources stressed the importance of putting an end to the transgressions being carried out by some political parties and armed groups in Yemen to incite chaos on the Yemeni domestic scene.

Dr. Hamoud Al-Abad, Yemen’s Minister of Awqaf (Islamic Endowments) and Guidance, emphasized that the Yemeni National Dialogue is seeking to ensure political and security stability in the country, particularly between the North and South.

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, he acknowledged that there are genuine threats to Yemeni maritime security in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. He added that this includes a threat to international trade security, which is vital not just for Yemen, but also for other regional countries including Saudi Arabia.

Al-Abad said that instability in Yemen will lead to regional instability, emphasizing the importance of supporting the Yemeni National Dialogue. He stressed that supporting the dialogue represents support for regional stability in general.

As for what has been happening at Yemen’s National Dialogue, Dr. Shuja told Asharq Al-Awsat that it is still in its initial stages and that it is too early to predict the results.

He claimed the spirit of the revolution remains firmly entrenched in Yemeni society, making it difficult to resolve certain issues as old alliances continue to dominate the scene. He added that perhaps another six months are required for this revolutionary rhetoric and discourse to dissipate.

The Yemeni academic ruled out Southern secession for a number of reasons, most prominently the opposition of regional and international parties. He added that the Gulf Initiative, which secured the peaceful transfer of power in Yemen, stipulates national unity and dialogue. He also emphasized that any Yemeni division, or indeed any border problems, would only serve to benefit Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, particularly in terms of Sana’a’s control of the strategic Bab El-Mandeb Strait.

He informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the political faction led by Ali Salim Al-Beidh, which is seeking Southern secession, is receiving regional support from Iran. However, he also confirmed that there is little popular support for division inside Yemen, ruling this out for at least the foreseeable future.

Dr. Shuja said that Yemen is subject to numerous examples of foreign intervention. France has been asked to help draft the Yemeni constitution, and Moscow has taken a leading role in terms of the National Dialogue. The Arab states of the Gulf are playing an important role in securing the economic file, while Washington and the EU are playing a strong role in terms of Yemeni security and the military.