on Thursday 22 September, 2022

A New Iran Deal Would Empower the Houthis

by : The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD)

Latest Developments

Iran would receive approximately $275 billion in sanctions relief during the first year of a new nuclear deal and more than $1 trillion by 2030, according to an FDD assessment. If past is prologue, a significant portion of these funds would flow to Iran’s network of terror proxy groups, including the Houthis in Yemen. In the year after the implementation of the original 2015 nuclear accord, Tehran’s military budget increased by 90 percent, enabling the regime to send additional weapons and funding to its proxies throughout the region.

Expert Analysis

“If Tehran receives a massive infusion of cash accompanying a new nuclear deal, expect more weapons flowing from Iran to the Houthis, resulting in more conflict and humanitarian suffering in Yemen. More broadly, the success of Tehran’s regional strategy depends on division and insufficient coordination between Washington, Jerusalem, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. The Islamic Republic of Iran benefits when these capitals neglect the strings connecting the puppet master in Tehran with the terror proxy puppets launching the attacks.” – Bradley Bowman, FDD’s CMPP Senior Director

Why Iran Supports the Houthis

Iran uses terrorist proxy groups to undermine, control, and attack regional governments. By employing proxies, it seeks to methodically advance its radical agenda while avoiding direct consequences. Support for the Houthis in Yemen is part of this longstanding strategy, accruing significant gains for the regime in return for relatively limited investment.

In Lebanon, Iran supports and arms Hezbollah to control the Beirut government and threaten Israel.
In Iraq, Iran supports Shia militias to enable a land bridge to the Levant and undermine Iraqi sovereignty.
In Gaza, Iran supports Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to conduct attacks against Israeli civilians and threaten Israel.
Each of these groups employs human shields, deliberately targets civilians, and has the same benefactor in Tehran.

By funding, arming, and training the Houthis, Tehran empowers a group it can control or at least influence, enables attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and establishes strategic depth alongside the Red Sea—one of the world’s most important commercial and military maritime routes. In 2014, soon after the Houthis seized Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, an Iranian member of parliament reportedly bragged that Sanaa would be the fourth Arab capital under Iranian control.

Iran Supplies the Houthis with Missiles and Drones

The extensive military support from Iran enables the Houthis to execute missile and drone attacks against Saudi Arabia, and to a lesser extent the United Arab Emirates. Between 2015 and 2021, Houthis reportedly launched 430 missiles and 851 drones at Saudi Arabia from Yemen. “The Houthis launch these terrorist attacks with enabling by Iran, which supplies them with missile and UAV components, training, and expertise,” said National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in March 2022. In January 2022, the Houthis also launched two attacks against the United Arab Emirates, one of which targeted the Al Dhafra Air Base, where American troops are housed. In 2016, Houthis fired anti-ship cruise missiles at a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Mason, while it was operating in international waters near Yemen.

The Houthis Terrorize Yemen

In addition to attacks outside of Yemen’s borders, the Houthis have terrorized the Yemeni population, significantly contributing to what is widely viewed as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The Houthis withhold aid from civilians, torture their opponents, attack refugee camps, recruit child soldiers, and use human shields to deter coalition strikes. Despite continuing to earn its U.S. designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and doing nothing to warrant a change in U.S. policy, the Biden administration revoked the designation in February 2021. Additional support from Tehran could allow the Houthis to rearm and break the cease-fire once they regenerate their forces. This would undermine further humanitarian conditions in Yemen.