The Houthi Hezbollah

Iran's Train-and-Equip Program in Sanaa

A Houthi militant shouts slogans as he stands next a poster of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during a rally against U.S. support to Saudi-led air strikes, in Yemen's capital Sanaa, February 19, 2016. Mohamed al-Sayaghi / Reuters

On February 24, the Saudi Arabia–­owned Al Arabiya news network posted a video of what it claimed was a meeting last summer between Hezbollah commander Abu Saleh and Houthi forces in Yemen. The video shows a man in military fatigues addressing a group in Lebanese-accented Arabic about training for assassination operations inside Saudi Arabia, including a specific attack against an unnamed Saudi commander of border forces.

The current war in Yemen began with the country’s unsuccessful political transition following the ouster of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Popular protests in 2011, led by youth who were inspired by protests in Egypt and Tunisia, quickly turned violent. Soon after, Yemen faced the prospect of a civil war. A Saudi-brokered initiative, backed by the European Union, United Kingdom, and United States, transferred power from Saleh to his vice president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, during a one-candidate election in February 2012.

This transition was faulty from the start. Yemen’s youth and the Houthis rejected the election as an establishment-brokered arrangement. They were soon joined by Saleh loyalists, who witnessed their political and military clout diminish. The UN-sponsored National Dialogue Conference tried to work with Yemeni political parties to implement constitutional reforms but was stymied when it came to establishing power-sharing agreements. Political deadlock soon turned into armed conflict, and Houthi forces—backed by Saleh’s General People’s Congress—defeated their political rivals in the north over the course of 2013 and 2014.

By September 2014, a coalition of Saleh loyalists and Houthi militants moved south, capturing Sanaa and pushing Hadi to relocate to the southern city of Aden. From there, Hadi attempted to reestablish the Yemeni government. Soon after, however, the coalition pushed south and made the country turn ever closer to a civil war. That is, until March 26, 2015, when an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia began launching air strikes against Houthi positions, supporting Hadi’s beleaguered government. The Saudis claimed that the Houthis were an Iranian-backed entity and that Tehran was attempting to establish

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