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GCC Braces Itself For Iran’s Retaliation to Airstikes on Houthis Writes Analyst Leila Hatoum

GCC Braces Itself For Iran’s Retaliation to Airstikes on Houthis
By Leila Hatoum

Dubai — Arab gulf states expect Iran to violently attack their interests in the region in response to airstrikes carried out by those states against what they deem “an Iranian-bred insurgency in Yemen.”

Iran’s retaliation, according to Arab Gulf diplomatic officials may take any form, including explosions targeting Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) businesses and/or embassies, among other means.

The anticipated violence may be carried out by “Iran’s regional operatives,” according to several officials in retaliation for the GCC-led coalition of 10 states targeting Shia insurgents known as Ansar Allah (God’s Supporters) in Yemen.

The coalition’s initial plan, under the banner of the Decisive Storm operation, is for a month of airstrikes. However, GCC diplomatic officials also say the airstrikes “may carry on for another five or six months.”

With the possibility of the military action dragging towards September 2015, Arab Gulf states are therefore looking at enlarging the coalition in any way possible, including having states join via humanitarian aid and logistical support.

The USA has been supplying technical support to the coalition in the form of intelligence reports and satellite images.

Oman, which shares common borders with Yemen, is the only GCC state refusing to take part in the military ops or bless it.

Ansar Allah, also known as the Houthis, (named after the founder Hussein al-Houthi), is a Zaidi group representing a minority percentage of Yemen’s 24 million-strong population.

The quick rise of the Houthis across most of Yemen’s northern territories became alarming to its neighboring majorly-Sunni Saudi Arabia, which also shares borders with northern Yemen.

What made the insurgency particularly dangerous were satellite images provided by the USA in January showing SCUD missiles in northern Yemen pointed towards Saudi Arabia.

GCC states believe Houthis are holding most of Yemen’s 300 SCUD missiles, with ranges of “250km and 650km.” If true, that means the Houthis can reach any city within the Kingdom.

News of Iran aiding the Yemeni insurgents with arms and funding doesn’t help Houthis’ case either.

Arab Gulf diplomats say “nearly 5000 Iranian, Hezbollah and Iraqi militia personnel are currently present in Yemen training and aiding the Houthis in their coup versus legitimacy.”

Though Houthis deny any Iranian affiliation with their proclaimed revolution, some slogans painted in Houthi-controlled areas are a replica of those used by Iran during their own Islamic revolution, as well as those used in the 1990s by Lebanon’s Hezbollah in its Beirut southern suburbs’ stronghold.

Wall graffiti painted in Iran’s flag colors, the red, green and white bearing slogans of “Death to America (USA); Death to Israel; Damn the Jews; Victory to Islam,” can be seen across Houthi-held areas. The slogans are often painted over in anti-Houthi areas by opposing tribes.

Houthis, who base some of their gains on a claim that current transitional president Mansoor Hadi is illegitimate as his term ended in 2014, also blame the state for marginalizing them.

However, it is understood that Houthis’ rise to power wouldn’t have been as swift as it was had it not been for the fact that the majority of northern yemenis are Zaidi.

The Zaidis are a part of Shia Islam. Shia in Yemen constitute about 35% of the population, of which the 400 zaidi tribes are the majority, with minor Shiaas belonging to the ismaili and twelvers divisions.
The remaining 65% majority of the population are Sunni, however, with most living in the south and southeastern regions, where Houthis are yet to have a foothold.

On the other hand, GCC states claim that Hadi’s transitional presidency remains legitimate until new presidential elections take place.

Following the Houthis’ takeover of the capital Sanaa, Hadi was forced to take refuge in the southern town of Aden, which he declared as a temporary capital.

Iran, which has publicly said it sympathizes with the Houthis, denies igniting sectarian strife. But its Arab gulf arch rivals blame it for taking advantage of anti-Israeli sentiment as well as the aspirations and fears of minorities in the region.

An endless bickering between the Shiite Iranian regime and its Sunni Arab counterparts, continues to feed into the region’s sectarian tension as well.

The Houthis’ insurgency has, so far, pushed some Sunni tribes to sympathize with the ultra-Sunni terrorist group Al-Qaeda, which has a strong foothold in Yemen’s southern region.

Meanwhile, the Decisive Storm operation that is supposed to strike military targets in Yemen, has also seen civilian casualties among Yemenis,  including children. The Houthis have taken advantage of the images of dead civilians, circulating them across social media to gather support.

The coalition has repeatedly said it does not target civilians and that the Houthis have spread some civilians in its military zones.

For now, GCC states say the solution to halt its airstrikes would be for Hadi to return to power and a cessation of Houthi hostilities. Only then could a return to dialogue be possible, a matter that Houthis see as unlikely at the moment.

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Written by nickbiddlenoe

March 31, 2015 at 12:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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