Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani tried to pit his authority against the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) over a militant stance against the Islamic Republic’s enemies in the Gulf – and lost.
DEBKA Weekly’s exclusive intelligence sources reveal that, on Nov. 5, he issued a secret presidential directive banning the transfer to Yemeni Houthi insurgents of surface ballistic Burkan 2H missiles of 1,000km range and more.
Twenty-four hours later, the Revolutionary Guards mouthpiece, the Kayhan daily ran this headline: “Ansar-Allah’s missile fires at Riyadh, the next target, Dubai.” The Guards were crowing over the missile fired from northern Yemen to Riyadh’s international airport a day earlier, which was intercepted before it struck. Not only had they got away with mocking the presidential directive, they had ordered the Houthis to go for the United Arab Republic as well as Saudi Arabia.
Wednesday, Nov. 8, DEBKAfile’s military sources disclosed that the Iranian-backed Yemeni insurgents were getting set to hit the UAE ports of Khalifa, Zayed and Mirfa, elements of the free trade zone which has made the emirate rich. The UAE has put air defense missile batteries in place at the three ports and placed its air force, which is bigger and more modern than the Iranian air force, on the ready.
On the day of Rouhani’s directive, the IRGC commander Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari put out a statement: “Shipping missiles to Yemen is not even possible,” he claimed, “and those missiles that are being launched belong to Yemen and are rebuilt with increased range to pursue revenge for the blood of their martyrs.”
This false statement was issued to sow confusion while two maneuvers were afoot:
- The IRGC had already dispatched those very missiles to Yemen.
- Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hizballah officers had been posted to Yemen to man the new missile batteries and conduct the launchings. He falsely depicted the Yemeni rebels as firing them to gloss over the fact that they were nothing but IRGC pawns.
The first time the Burkan 2H was aimed at Riyadh occurred on May 16, 2017, just hours before US President Donald Trump’s Air Force One touched down at that city’s King Khalid airport. It missed its mark. Another Burkan 2H, which targeted the same airport again on Saturday, Nov. 4, was intercepted by a Patriot missile defense system supplied by the United States. The wreckage landed on the outskirts of the airport, which abuts the northern edge of the Saudi capital. The Iranian missile had clearly flown over the densely populated city.
Trump’s response: “A shot was taken by Iran, in my opinion, at Saudi Arabia. Our system knocked it down.”
It is obvious that the Yemeni rebels would not have fired an Iranian-supplied missile against Saudi Arabia without orders from the highest levels in Tehran. It has also become obvious that the IRGC deliberately flouted President Rouhani’s directive and trampled on his authority for any role in decisions about Iran’s next military moves in the Gulf and Middle East at large. This authority has passed to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Amid the rising war tensions, President Rouhani Wednesday, Nov. 8, made a show of being in charge with a warning to Saudi Arabia: “You know the might and place of the Islamic republic. People more powerful than you have been unable to do anything against the Iranian people,” he said. “The United States and their allies have mobilized all their capabilities against us and achieved nothing.”
He was whistling in the dark to disguise his fragile position as the only member of the Islamic regime opposed to the war confrontation eagerly stoked by the Guards. It remains to be seen whether the ayatollah lets them off the leash to go all the way.