Iran and Saudi Arabia are experiencing growing tensions over fighting in Yemen between government forces and the Zaydis, which is threatening to open up a regional sectarian divide.

The Zaydis, who are also called Houthis, are a Shia ethnic group that Yemeni authorities accuse of being backed by Iran. On the other hand, Iranian state media are carrying reports which accuse Saudi Arabia of providing weapons and aerial support to the Yemeni government against the Zaydis. Iranians have reportedly tracked the movement on their radars, of Saudi aircraft engaged in bombing the Zaydi fighters in their mountain strongholds in neighbouring Yemen.

Iran’s state-run Press TV reported on Saturday that a website of the Houthi fighters was showing footage which it said established that Saudi Arabia was arming the Yemeni forces. “The mortars shown in the footage have been provided by Saudi Arabia for the Yemeni government this is clear for everyone,” Houthi leader Abdolmalek Al-Houthi is quoted as saying.

The statement also denounced Yemeni accusations that Iran and Libya have been supporting the Zaydis with fighters and weapons. Despite the Yemeni government’s declaration of a ceasefire, fresh clashes have apparently broken out on Saturday, leading to dozens of casualties.

The Yemeni armed forces launched a major offensive three weeks ago against the Zaydis in the mountainous areas 240 km north of capital Saana. Yemen has accused the fighters of attempting to restore a Zaydi Imamate system, which was rooted out during a 1962 coup.

Tensions between the Saudis and Iranians have now begun to acquire a larger regional dimension. Amr Moussa, the head of the 22-nation Arab League, has urged Iran not to interfere in the Arab affairs. “This interference should not take place. This is a very serious situation,” Kuwait’s Al-Jarida newspaper quoted him as saying, in response to a question over Iran’s alleged meddling in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

Keywords: IranSaudi ArabiaYemenZaydis

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