On Thursday, Reuters tapped U.S., European, and even Iranian sources to report that Iran “has stepped up weapons transfers to the Houthis, the militia fighting the Saudi-backed government in Yemen.”
The weapons are being smuggled through Oman, using overland routes across the “porous borders” between the two countries – an uncomfortable revelation, since Oman has been viewed as a U.S. ally.
According to Reuters’ information, the government of Oman is not an active participant in supplying the Houthis with weapons, but is “turning a blind eye and aggressively failing to crack down on the flow.”
“We have been concerned about the recent flow of weapons from Iran into Yemen and have conveyed those concerns to those who maintain relations with the Houthis, including the Omani government,” said an American official.
Oman has denied allegations of weapons smuggling across its border, although multiple U.S. officials confirmed it. The Iranians have also denied they are supplying the Houthis, as frequently alleged by Saudi Arabia, which is leading a military intervention in the Yemeni civil war, causing it to be viewed by many as a proxy war between the Sunni and Shiite super-powers of Saudi Arabia and Iran.
One American official said Iran is sending the Houthis “anti-ship missiles, explosives, money, and personnel” through Oman, while a source within the region said surface-t0-surface short-range missiles were included in the shipments.
Of course, the U.S. military is especially interested in the missiles that have been flying out of Yemen toward ships in the Red Sea’s shipping lanes, including U.S. Navy destroyers. Reuters reports that assessments of these missiles’ possible Iranian origin are “so far inconclusive.”
U.S. Central Command leader General Joseph Votel, speaking at the Center for American Progress in Washington, said on Wednesday that he thinks “Iran is playing a role in some of this,” citing Tehran’s “relationship with the Houthis.”
Votel also voiced suspicions that forces loyal to the previous Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, could have been involved in the attack. Saleh has been a key backer of the Houthi insurgency.
“What we are trying to do is make sure we understand this as much as we can so we can properly attribute what is happening and understand how these attacks are taking place and, more importantly, how the decisions are being made to launch these attacks so we can take action against that,” said Votel.