WikiLeaks Cable From 2009 About Houthis and Iran

The Trump administration consider the Houthi Rebels in Yemen to be an Iranian proxy and have accused Tehran of sending arms to the group. Trump blamed Iran for the war in Yemen in a statement from November of last year, “the country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen". But the Houthis have been fighting their own battle against the Yemeni Government since 2004.

A WikiLeaks cable dated December 9th 2009 from former US Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche in Sa’na, Yemen addressed to the CIA and the Secretary of State, makes a strong case against claims that Tehran was arming the Houthis at the time:

"WEAPONS SUPPLY ————– 12. (S/NF) Contrary to ROYG(Republic of Yemen Government) claims that Iran is arming the Houthis, most local political analysts report that the Houthis obtain their weapons from the Yemeni black market and even from the ROYG military itself. According to a British diplomat, there are numerous credible reports that ROYG military commanders were selling weapons to the Houthis in the run-up to the Sixth War. An ICG report on the Sa’ada conflict from May 2009 quoted NSB director Ali Mohammed al-Ansi saying, “Iranians are not arming the Houthis. The weapons they use are Yemeni. Most actually come from fighters who fought against the socialists during the 1994 war and then sold them.” Mohammed Azzan, presidential advisor for Sa’ada affairs, told PolOff on August 16 that the Houthis easily obtain weapons inside Yemen, either from battlefield captures or by buying them from corrupt military commanders and soldiers. Azzan said that the military “covers up its failure” by saying the weapons come from Iran. According to Jamal Abdullah al-Shami of the Democracy School, there is little external oversight of the military’s large and increasing budget, so it is easy for members of the military to illegally sell weapons."

The cable went on to address claims of Houthis use of Katyusha Rockets, one was reportedly found Sunday near the US Embassy in Iraq:

"13. (S/NF) ROYG officials assert that the Houthis’ possession and use of Katyusha rockets is evidence of support from Iran and Hizballah, arguing that these rockets are not available in Yemeni arms markets nor ROYG stockpiles. (Comment: Given Yemen’s robust arms markets, especially in Sa’ada, it is possible that Katyushas are available on the black market even if they are not in ROYG stockpiles. According to sensitive reporting, there is at least one instance of Somali extremists purchasing Katyusha rockets in Yemen in 2007. End Comment.) However, according to sensitive reporting, it may have been the ROYG military who aided the Houthis in obtaining a shipment of 200 Katyusha rockets in late November 2009. SECHE"

While the more hawkish members of Trumps cabinet may be looking for a reason to bomb Iran, it is important to look back at the history of the conflict in Yemen and not just dismiss it as an Iranian proxy war.

Tehran has admitted they back the Houthis politically, but also denied arming them.

Dave DeCamp is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn NY, focusing on US Foreign policy and wars. He is on Twitter at @decampdave.