State-sponsor of terrorism Iran may be seeking to establish naval bases in Yemen or Syria, according to the chief of staff of the Shiite Islamic Republic’s military.
“We need distant bases, and it may become possible one day to have bases on the shores of Yemen or Syria, or bases on islands or floating (bases),” the Shargh Daily newspaper quotes Iranian Gen. Mohammad Hossein Baqeri as saying to a gathering of naval commanders, according to Reuters.
He suggested that distant military bases may prove to be more valuable militarily to Iran than nuclear technology.
“Is having distant bases less than nuclear technology? I say it is worth dozens of times more,” added Gen. Baqeri in his remarks, which were published on Sunday.
In a rare response denouncing Iran’s plan, a Shiite Houthi official slammed the general’s comments, urging the Islamic Republic to familiarize itself with the history of failed attempts to occupy Yemen.
“Not one inch of Yemen’s land or waters will be forfeited to any foreign party… whether a friend or an enemy,” said Saleh al-Samad, political council chief for the Houthi rebels, in a statement on Facebook, notes Reuters.
Iran has denied accusations by the United States and Sunni Saudi Arabia that it is providing military assistance to the Houthis in Yemen.
A U.S.-backed coalition, led by Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, has been fighting the Shiite rebels in Yemen since March 2015 in an effort to restore the internationally backed Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.
The Iranian general’s comments are likely to intensify concerns among Saudi Arabia and its allies.
In a letter to the United Nations General Assembly earlier this month, 11 Arab nations in the Middle East and North Africa accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism by “funding and arming militias that destabilize our region,” echoing an official U.S. position.
Iran is “constantly interfering in the internal affairs of Arab nations, sparking tension and instability in the region,” argued the 11 countries, specifically citing the Islamic Republic’s activities in Yemen and Syria, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The Arab nations accuse the Islamic Republic of providing support to the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen and the regime of dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Both Iran and Syria are officially listed as state-sponsors of terrorism by the U.S. government.
Iran has deployed thousands of members of its narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) along with Shiite fighters from Afghanistan and Iran.
Russia and Iran have kept Assad afloat as the dictator’s primary benefactors.
The recent declarations by the Iranian general come as dangerous confrontations between the Iranian navy and its American counterpart in the Persian Gulf are on the rise.
Iran appears intent on expanding the reach of its navy.
Last week, Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, commander of the Iranian Navy, boasted that the Islamic Republic’s 44th flotilla of warships had entered the Atlantic ocean for the first time.
The Iranian commander argued that the fleet’s mission is to protect Iranian vessels and oil tankers against pirates.
Iran contends that its military presence in international waters is in line with international efforts against piracy.
Since March, claims Rear Adm. Sayyari, the Iranian navy has traveled to India, Pakistan, Oman, Tanzania, Azerbaijan, and South Africa and plans to go to Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, in addition to countries that border the Indian Ocean and are located in Southeast Asia.