Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group have commanders on the ground in Yemen, where they are overseeing and directing Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping, according to four regional and two Iranian sources who spoke to Reuters. Iran, which has armed, trained, and funded the Houthis, has increased weapons supplies to the militia following the conflict in Gaza that began when Iranian-backed militants Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, the sources said.
The sources revealed that Tehran has provided the Houthis with advanced drones, anti-ship cruise missiles, precision-strike ballistic missiles, and medium-range missiles. In addition to weapons, IRGC commanders and advisers are reportedly providing support, intelligence, and know-how to identify which commercial vessels traveling through the Red Sea are heading to Israel and are therefore Houthi targets.
The United States has stated that Iran is deeply involved in planning the Red Sea attacks and that its intelligence is vital in enabling the Houthis to target ships. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman has consistently denied Tehran’s involvement in the attacks, while a spokesperson for the Houthis has also denied any Iranian or Hezbollah involvement.
The Houthis have targeted commercial ships they claim are either linked to Israel or are heading to Israeli ports in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. These attacks have impacted global shipping between Asia and Europe through the Bab al-Mandab strait off Yemen and have prompted US and British air strikes on Houthi targets in the country.
USA and Britain also have used air strikes on Houthi targets in the country. A senior insider stated that the Houthis lacked the means, resources, knowledge, or satellite information to find specific targets and execute the attacks, suggesting Iranian involvement.
The Houthis spokesperson stated that the group’s goal was to target Israeli ships without causing significant damage. While they acknowledged a relationship with Iran, they claimed that their decision to conduct the attacks was independent. However, a security official close to Iran confirmed that the Houthis have received guidance and advice from Iran, similar to the advisory role the country has taken in Syria.
According to the security official, a group of Iranian Guards members is currently in Sanaa, Yemen, to assist the operations. It was also revealed that the Houthis have drones, missiles, and other military equipment for their fight against Israel, but Iran provided them with advice on shipping routes and ships.
Furthermore, it was mentioned that Iran had sent hundreds of Revolutionary Guards to Syria, along with thousands of Hezbollah fighters, to help train and organize Shi’ite militia fighters from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.
Despite repeated denials from Iran, the United States and Gulf Arab states have accused Iran of arming, training, and financing the Houthis. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has praised the Houthis’ strikes and expressed hope that they would continue until “victory.”
A leader within the coalition of pro-Iranian groups stated that a team of Iranian and Hezbollah military experts had gone to Yemen earlier to train, equip, and build the manufacturing military capability of the Houthis. They also stressed that the military capabilities of the Houthis should not be underestimated.
The report also indicated that Iran had little choice but to demonstrate support for Hamas after years of anti-Israel rhetoric and was worried that using Hezbollah would trigger massive Israeli retaliation. However, a major war between Israel and Hezbollah would be disastrous for Lebanon and endanger the future of the group.
The report concluded by stating that the Houthis are in a unique strategic position to have a huge impact by disrupting global maritime activity with little effort.