Iran’s Unconventional Warfare in Yemen

An article by our editor on Iranian unconventional warfare in Yemen  appeared this morning on Small Wars Journal. Written from the Iranian point of view, the article analyzes the Iranian conduct of unconventional warfare in Yemen, and addresses the feasibility of the operation, suitability to the strategic position of Iran, and acceptability of likely costs. As the article points out,

This conflict represents a complex proxy war between Iran and the U.S./Saudi coalition. Iran provides support directly to the Houthis, but also via its proxy Hezbollah (both deny providing any support), while the U.S. provides support to Saudi Arabia in its operations in Yemen, which include both direct military action and foreign internal defense in support of the Yemeni government.

But as complicated as a this is as a two-sided proxy war, this is not simply a conflict between these two camps:

Complicating the analysis is the fact that rival armed groups, including local affiliates of Al Qaida and Daesh, are also fighting against the Yemeni government and sometimes each other, and that other states are providing support to the government. This creates a highly unstable security environment, which the Houthis could benefit from, but it makes planning more difficult and increases the number of possible adversaries. However, instability in Yemen is itself a valuable objective for the Iranian sponsor, since this creates friction for Saudi Arabia, other Sunni states, and the U.S., all of which represent a bloc against which Iran is seeking to balance.

The article steps through some of the operational considerations affecting the feasibility of Iranian support to the Houthis as well as some of the political considerations that must be taken into account by Iranian decision-makers, concluding that:

Taking into account the factors affecting the feasibility, acceptability, and suitability of an Iranian unconventional warfare campaign in Yemen, and the strategic interests of Iran in the Arabian Peninsula, the balance of factors suggests that Iranian sponsorship of the Houthi rebels is a viable option with a strong chance of success at an acceptable level risk. [italics added]

In other words, it should be little surprise that Iran is supporting the Houthi rebellion, and we can expect only more of the same for the foreseeable future.

Read the article here.

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