Yemeni Rebels’ Stinging Slap for Their Sponsor – Tehran

Yemen’s Houthi rebels are pressing forward with Saudi Arabia to build on their shaky, partial ceasefire accord – called “calm border” – for direct talks to end the bloody civil conflict. The rebels have risked going over the head of their sponsor, Iran, a move understandably welcomed by Riyadh.
The limited nature of the ceasefire was demonstrated on March 14, when Saudi-led coalition warplanes struck a market in the Mustaba district of Haija province, leaving 41 people dead and scores injured.
The targeted area was outside the “calm border” zones, which cover Houthi-controlled border areas in Yemen and obliges them to discontinue cross-border Scud missile strikes and ground attacks on military bases and transportation routes in southern Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis, for their part, undertook to halt air and artillery attacks on Houthi border areas.
The rest of Yemen, including its big towns, is outside the Saudi-Houthi deal, which DEBKA Weekly’s sources say, has carved out a sort of safety zone for Houthi forces to stay clear of the raging civil war in the rest of the country.
This week, the rebel leaders sent a delegation to the border to meet Saudi officials and launch negotiations for a truce. Some sources claimed that Oman brokered the encounter with Tehran’s support, when in fact it was the outcome of direct contacts between Houthi leaders and Riyadh. The two sides decided to dispense with all foreign third-party intercession. They arranged their meeting through intelligence channels with the help of local tribal chiefs, who had stayed neutral in the war.
Iran was firmly excluded from the picture.
Tehran was not surprisingly outraged at Houthi perfidy and tried to strike back.
Deputy chief of staff, Gen. Masoud Jazayeri announced March 15, that Tehran was prepared to deploy military troops and advisers to assist the Houthis in the war against Saudi Arabia “in any way we can, and at every level necessary”
He drew a parallel between Yemen and Iran’s intervention in Syria to buttress Bashar Assad.
This proposal was taken as a threat to introduce Iranian troops to the Yemen-Saudi border and an attempt to sabotage the Houthi peace track with Riyadh.
Senior Houthi official Yousef Al Feshi responded by publicly rebuking Tehran in a Facebook post: “Iran should shut up and leave off exploiting the Yemen file,” he said.
In Tehran, this comment went down as crass impudence – equal to Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, or a senior aide, daring to tell Iran in public to hold its tongue and stay out of Lebanese affairs.
The Houthis are not put off from the resolve to go ahead with the Saudis in an effort to expand their “calm border’ ceasefire to the rest of Yemen.
Other interested parties are trying to get in on the act.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was rumored to have put a proposition to Iran when he visited Tehran last week: Iran would try and mediate the Russian quarrel with Ankara, he suggested, while Turkey would reciprocate by acting as peacemaker between Iran and Saudi Arabia on such issues as Yemen.
A DEBKA Weekly investigation found that the rumor had no basis in fact.
And indeed how could Tehran patch up the Russian-Turkish quarrel, when Iran itself was at extreme odds with Moscow on the Syrian conflict? And how could Ankara mend fences between Iran and Saudi Arabia, after the Saudis and Houthis had together hung a “Keep out” sign for Tehran?

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