Unnamed intelligence sources on the Saudi-Yemeni border detected a secret meeting between Yemen's Houthi rebels and an official from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and top Hezbollah leaders, press reports revealed Sunday.
Arab and Egyptian sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the meeting was held last month to plan for an escalation of the conflict between the Shiite rebels and the Yemeni and Saudi forces, London-based Asharq al-Awsat reported.
According to the sources, Yemen's refusal to receive Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki for the second time was motivated by knowledge of the meeting which Yemen sees as proof Tehran is backing the Houthis.
The Yemeni army says it recently thwarted several attempts by Iranian ships to smuggle weapons to the rebels. The ships in question, however, did not bear any official flag.
The sources told Asharq al-Awsat they were surprised by Jeffery Feltman's, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, statements that there is no evidence supporting the involvement of Iran in the Houthi conflict.
“Many of our friends and partners have talked to us about the possibility of outside support to the Houthis and we have heard the theories about Iranian support to the Houthis,” Feltman said in a regional security conference held in Bahrain.
“To be frank, we don't have independent information about this,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Ali Mohamed al-Ansi, director of the Yemeni National Security Bureau, said there is strong evidence that Iran is backing the Houthi rebels but he cannot disclose details to the media.
“The ship Yemen intercepted in October was smuggling arms to the Houthis,” he said on the fringes of the Manama dialogue, the conference held in the Bahraini capital to discuss the strategic and security challenges facing the Gulf region. “We also have proof that it was coming from Eritrea.”
In addition to Iran, Ansi said Houthi rebels are also backed by al-Qaeda.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)
Many of our friends and partners have talked to us about the possibility of outside support to the Houthis and we have heard the theories about Iranian support to the Houthis