The war in north Yemen has escalated after Saudi Arabia became directly involved in combat, causing Iran to issue a warning on Tuesday that regional countries should refrain from intervention in the conflict.
Without directly naming Riyadh, Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has asserted that “those who choose to fuel the flames of conflict, must know that the fire will reach them”. For more than a week, Saudi Arabian planes have been bombing the Houthis, a Shia ethnic group in Yemen, which the Iranians have been accused of supporting. Tens of thousands of civilians have fled the war-zone, resulting in a humanitarian crisis in the area.
Mr. Mottaki advised “regional and neighbouring states not to interfere in Yemen’s internal affairs and try to restore peace and stability to the state”. “Providing extremists and terrorists with money and weapons and conducting oppressive actions and military attacks against civilians will have negative consequences,” he added.
Mr. Mottaki warned that “instability in Yemen, in Iraq, in Afghanistan or in Pakistan will leave its impact on the whole region”.
Saudi Arabian forces began their air and ground assault after the Houthis killed a Saudi Arabian security officer during a cross-border raid in the kingdom’s south-western Jizan region. Saudi Arabian authorities say they will not end their offensive until the Houthis retreat from their soil.
“We are not going to stop the bombing until [they] retreat tens of kilometres inside [the Yemeni] border,” AFP quoted Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defence Minister Prince Khaled Bin Sultan, as saying. The Houthis, on their part, claim that the Saudi Arabian planes have been bombing villages on the Yemeni side including the hamlet of Shida.
Analysts say Saudi Arabia has been drawn into the conflict because Abu-Basir Nasir Al-Wuhayshi, head of the Arabian Peninsula branch of Al-Qaeda, operates from Yemen. Besides, the fighting in Yemen’s Sadah mountains is being widely viewed as flashpoint of a wider externally backed Sunni-Shia conflict, with Saudi Arabia and Iran being its main pillars.
The Saudi-owned Al Hayat daily pointed out that, “Iran is attempting to sow discord and to destabilise the security of the countries in the region, especially in the Arab Gulf States, after having had their way in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine”.
Clashes between the pro-Saudi Arabia Yemeni forces and the rebels began in August, with San’a accusing the Houthis, also called Zaydis, of plotting to establish a clerical Imamate.