US calls on Iran to halt weapons transfers to Yemen's Houthis

AP , Tuesday 14 May 2024

Washington called on Iran late Monday to halt its transfer of what it claims “unprecedented” amount of weaponry to Yemen’s Houthi rebels, enabling their fighters to carry out “reckless attacks” on ships in the Red Sea and elsewhere.

A Houthi soldier stands alert on board the Israeli Galaxy ship which was seized by the Houthis, in t
A Houthi soldier stands alert on board the Israeli Galaxy ship which was seized by the Houthis, in the port of Saleef, near Hodeidah, Yemen, Sunday, May. 12, 2024. AP


U.S. Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood told the U.N. Security Council that if it wants to make progress toward ending the civil war in Yemen, it should collectively “call Iran out for its destabilizing role and insist that it cannot hide behind the Houthis.”

He claimed there is extensive evidence that Iran is providing advanced weapons, including ballistic and cruise missiles, to the Houthis in violation of U.N. sanctions. Wood did not provide such evidence. 

The Houthis are attacking shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden aiming at pressuring Israel to end its war on Gaza, which has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians there. 

The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, the U.S. Maritime Administration said late last month.

Houthi attacks have dropped in recent weeks as a U.S.-led airstrike campaign in Yemen has targeted the rebels. Shipping through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden has declined because of the threat.

Hans Grundberg, the U.N. special envoy for Yemen, warned the council that “hostilities continue,” even though there has been a reduction in attacks on commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, as well as a reduction in the number of U.S. and British airstrikes on targets in Yemen.

He pointed to an announcement by the Houthis that they will “expand the scope of attacks," calling this "a worrisome provocation in an already volatile situation.”

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council that the Israeli announcement on May 6 that it was starting its military operation in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, where 1.2 million Palestinians had sought safety, ratcheted up the spiral of escalation in the region “another notch further.”

“There’s no doubt that this will have an impact on the situation in Yemen’s surrounding waters,” he said, noting the Houthis’ opposition to Israeli attacks that harm Palestinian civilians.

“We call for a swift cessation of the shelling of commercial vessels and any other actions that hamper maritime navigation," Nebenzia added.

He sharply criticised the United States and its Western allies, saying their “totally unjustified aggressive strikes” in Yemen violate the U.N. Charter. He said they further complicate an already complex situation in the Red Sea.

The war between the Houthis and pro-government forces in Yemen backed by a coalition of Gulf Arab states has raged since 2014. The Houthis swept down from the mountains, seized much of northern Yemen and the country’s capital, Sanaa, and forced the internationally recognised government to flee into exile to Saudi Arabia. Since then, the violence has killed more than 150,000 people and 3 million have been displaced.

Fighting has decreased markedly in Yemen since a truce in April 2022, but there are still hotspots nationwide.

Grundberg recalled that in December, the Houthis and the government “took a courageous step towards a peaceful solution” by agreeing to a series of commitments to provide for a nationwide cease-fire, ensure desperately needed humanitarian aid, and initiate a political process to end the conflict.

However, U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths reported “alarmingly high” levels of severe food deprivation across the country that are expected to worsen during the lean season for crops, starting in June.

Griffiths also expressed serious concern about a rapidly worsening cholera outbreak. He cited reports of 40,000 suspected cholera cases and over 160 deaths — “a sharp increase” since last month, the majority in Houthi-controlled areas “where hundreds of new cases are reported every day.”

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