LONDON, March 27, (Agencies): Iran’s Revolutionary Guards denied on Tuesday Saudi accusations that Tehran has provided the Houthi movement in Yemen with ballistic capabilities, a day after a Houthi missile hit the Saudi capital, Riyadh. “Everyone knows that all routes to send arms to Yemen are blocked,” political deputy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Brigadier General Yadollah Javani was quoted as saying by tasnim news agency.
“Yemenis have reached the capability to produce their own defensive weapons including missiles; an achievement that has been inconceivable to Saudis,” he said. But while deriding the threat of direct Saudi military action, conservative analysts in Tehran did express worry about what they said were increasingly coordinated efforts by the United States and its allies to destabilise the country.
The latest flashpoint in the ever-volatile region came on Sunday when Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired seven missiles into Saudi Arabia. Riyadh said the missiles were Iranian-made and vowed “to respond against Iran at the right time and right place”. Iran supports the Houthis, but denies any military ties. “The aim of such claims by Saudi Arabia is to divert public opinion from the atrocities (they) are committing in Yemen,” said Yadollah Javani, a political officer for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, according to the conservative Tasnim news agency.
“The reality is that the nation of Yemen is standing up to Saudi aggression and has managed to build defence tools by relying on its own capabilities, including missile power, and this is the very thing Saudi Arabia never imagined,” he added. Javani said it was impossible to send weapons to Yemen due to the blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition, which has been engaged in an aerial bombing campaign against the Houthis since 2015.
Analysts in Tehran dismissed the threats from Riyadh, saying the Yemen conflict had exposed Saudi Arabia’s weakness. “The Saudis are incapable of defeating one of the poorest countries in the world,” said Mohammad Reza Marandi, a political analyst at the University of Tehran. “The people of Yemen are fighting the Saudis in their slippers. They don’t even have boots. Even though the Saudis have hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons from Western countries to massacre these people and impose starvation, they have failed completely,” he added.
The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen says it does what it can to avoid civilian casualties and investigate civilian deaths, but has been accused by rights groups of possible war crimes. Military confrontation aside, there are concerns in Iran over what appears to be the increasingly coordinated attempts to target Tehran by Gulf Arab monarchies, the United States and Israel. “What I am concerned about is the Saudis’ intensified efforts to unite all anti-Iran elements including non-state actors … with the political and military support of its allies, particularly the US,” said Mojtaba Mousavi, a conservative political analyst in Tehran.
He cited the alleged support Riyadh has given to anti-Iran jihadist militias and the exiled opposition group, the People’s Mujahideen, considered a terrorist organisation by Tehran and blamed for stoking recent protests in the country. “While a direct military war against Iran, either by Saudi or the US, is unlikely, there are efforts to destabilise Iran by empowering militia groups and increasing economic pressure on its society,” said Mousavi. US President Donald Trump has threatened to walk away from a 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran when it next comes up for renewal in May.
Mousavi said the economic pressure on Iran was aimed at reducing public support for the Revolutionary Guards and their ballistic missile programme. Widespread protests in Iran in December and January included chants against Iran’s overseas interventions, which some Iranians see as draining much-needed money from the struggling economy. Iran’s enemies are seeking “to persuade the Iranian government and people to decrease the role of the IRGC (Revolutionary Guards) and their military capabilities like the missile programme,” said Mousavi. Such efforts are not new, he said, but “a coalition of the US, Israel and Arab states is what makes it different from the past.” There are recurrent rumours that