London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Well-informed Yemeni sources have confirmed that Yemeni authorities halted and seized a cargo ship travelling from Iran carrying suspected military equipment at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah on Saturday. The source revealed that the Iranian military hardware on this cargo ship included equipment to manufacture missiles and ammunition, and that ultimately the objective was to transport and reassemble this equipment to establish a secret arms factory in the mountainous Saada border province of Yemen, which is controlled by the Shiite Huthi rebels.
Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to Yemeni political and security sources, who confirmed that the Iranian ship had been halted in the port of Hodeidah earlier this week. The Yemeni sources, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, revealed that “the ship was headed to the port of Hodeidah in north-west Yemen, however it was stopped and boarded and the military equipment was discovered.”
As for where this equipment was headed, the Yemeni military source revealed that “the objective of this military equipment, which was seized last Saturday in Hodeidah, was for this to be transferred to establish a factory to manufacture short-range missiles and deploy these in mountainous regions of the Saada governorate that are controlled by the Huthi rebels, which is close to the port of Hodeidah.”
The source confirmed that “the Huthis are manufacturing short-range missiles to increase their [military] capabilities, with the help of Hezbollah experts and technicians.”
The Yemeni political and military sources also confirmed that “over the past period, Hezbollah experts have aided the Huthi rebels to manufacture and assemble some missiles in assembly workshops in the mountainous regions” adding “these experts have trained some Yemenis on how to assemble [missiles].”
As for the objective of deploying short-range missiles in northern Yemen, the sources said “it is likely that Tehran believes that there is an impending Israeli or American military strike [on Iran], and it wants to store these missiles close to the Yemeni shoreline to use them to attack international power lines in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea”
Yemeni security sources previously revealed that Tehran has been attempting to utilize Yemeni territory as a “way-station” to manufacture and store missiles and arms. This was revealed following investigations into “espionage rings” working for Tehran uncovered by the Yemeni security authorities.
A high-ranking Yemeni security source, speaking to CNN, revealed that Tehran had planned to establish a secret weapons factory in Yemen. The source added that he had personally seen equipment that could be used to manufacture and assemble missiles and ammunition.
For his part, during his recent visit to Washington, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi announced that Tehran was providing support to some political and armed movements in Yemen, as well as recruiting clandestine espionage rings.
The Yemeni Ministry of Defense revealed that Yemeni authorities had recently uncovered and dismantled a spy ring, including Iranian citizens who had entered the country posing as investors looking to set up a factory. Reports claimed that Iranian, Syrian and Yemeni nationals had been arrested. Sources also revealed that Iranian citizens had begun importing illegal “military” equipment through the port of Aden that could be used to make missiles and other weapons.
Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Hadi has accused Tehran of “supporting some armed and political movements in Yemen”, adding that “five spy networks working for Iran have been discovered and referred to justice, whilst a sixth network was recently dismantled.”
The Yemeni President also accused Tehran of attempting to “derail the political process in Yemen”, and even backing factions of Yemen’s separatist Southern Movement which is seeking to secede from Yemen by force of arms.
For its part, Iran strenuously denied the accusations, summoning the Yemeni ambassador to Tehran and handing him an official letter of protest, describing the Yemeni president’s accusations as “baseless.”