Yemen’s embattled President Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Saturday called Shia rebels who forced him to flee the country “puppets of Iran,” directly blaming the Islamic Republic for the chaos there and demanding airstrikes against rebel positions continue until they surrender.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi called for a regional Arab military force and a Gulf diplomat warned that Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen could go on for months, raising the spectre of a regional conflict pitting Sunni Arab nations against Shia power Iran. The comments by Arab leaders including the Yemeni President, who fled his country only days earlier, came at an Arab summit largely focusing on the chaos there caused by the advance of the rebels, known as Huthis.
References to Iran
Leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait obliquely referenced Iran earlier at the summit held in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. They blamed the Persian country for meddling in the affairs of Arab nations, with Egyptian President Sisi saying, without mentioning Iran by name, that it was “spreading its ailment in the body.”
“This [Arab] nation, in its darkest hour, had never faced a challenge to its existence and a threat to its identity like the one it’s facing now,” Mr. Sisi said. “This threatens our national security and [we] cannot ignore its consequences for the Arab identity.” Iran and the Huthis deny that Tehran arms the rebel movement, though the Islamic Republic has provided humanitarian and other aid.
Officials in Iran had no immediate comment on Mr. Hadi’s remarks. Meanwhile, a news report on the Huthi-affiliated Al-Masirah television station referred to Mr. Hadi as a “puppet” of Saudi Arabia.
Ali al-Emad, a senior official of the Huthi movement’s political arm, Ansar Allah, told the station that nothing said at the summit came as a surprise. Saudi Arabia, he claimed, was taking charge of the Yemen issue, deciding alone what needed to be done.
Saudi warplanes carried out dozens of raids on military sites across the country overnight and into Saturday morning, striking targets in and around Sana’a, Marib, Dhamar, Lahj and other areas, security officials said.
‘Intervention was inevitable’
At the summit, Mr. Sisi also endorsed a resolution adopted by Arab Foreign Ministers on Thursday for the creation of an Arab military force, saying the Arab world was currently facing unprecedented threats. He also described the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen as “inevitable.”
A Gulf diplomatic official, meanwhile, told reporters that the airstrikes campaign was planned to last for one month, but that coalition nations were prepared for the probability of going on for five to six months.