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Last updated: 09:25:40 PM GMT(+03) Tuesday, 12, February, 2013

United Nations inches toward an Iranian-al-Qaeda connection

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 Yemen Post Staff
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As the media is going on overdrive reporting how Iran is providing high-tech military weapons to the Houthis - Yemeni Shia rebel group based in the northern province of Sa'ada - fresh reports from the United Nations Security Council are indicating a link in between Ayatollah Iran and Al-Qaeda in Somalia.

Western Diplomats told Reuters earlier this week they had established a clear link in between Tehran and weapon movements to Somalia, indicating Iran was indeed arming al-Shabab - offshoot of al-Qaeda in the Horn of Africa - and the Houthis in Yemen in a bid to destabilize the region and further its own political agenda in the region.

The UNSC decided in February, following a request from Yemen President Abdo Rabbo Hadi to look into a recent spike in arm smuggling in the Horn of Africa - Gulf of Aden - Red Sea triangle as to identify guilt and work on setting up a series of deterrent under the watchful eye of the international community.

The move was prompted by the discovery of a large shipment of weapon, allegedly bearing proofs of its sender - Tehran - to its regional champion, the Houthis early February.

The Jihan which was flagged by the United States of America while traveling on Yemen national waters was boarded by the Yemeni Customs Authorities and seized after agents discovered -- surface to air missiles, C4 military-grade explosives, 122-millimeter shells, rocket-propelled grenades and bomb-making equipment, including electronic circuits, remote triggers and other hand-held explosives -- hidden in its hull.

Horrified at the sheer quantity of weapons and their level of sophistication, Yemen Foreign Minister Abdu-Bakr al-Qirbi and Yemen National Security Agency Chief, Ali Hassan al-Ahmadi, were quick to challenge Iran on its intentions, warning Yemen would not tolerate further "interference within its internal affairs".

However, while the net is slowly closing in on Shiite-led Iran, with more accusing fingers pointing toward Tehran than ever before, politicians and analysts, both at home and abroad, are wondering just how plausible an alliance between Iran and Sunni radicals could really be.

More importantly, many are questioning whose policy it will serve to establish such a link.


"The UN Security Council's Panel of Experts on Iran, which monitors compliance with the Iran sanctions regime, including the arms embargo on Tehran, also looked at Yemen and evidence of Iranian arms shipments across Africa," council diplomats told Reuters earlier this week.
The monitors found Iranian and North Korean-manufactured weapons that came to Somalia via Libya at a base of the UN-backed African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia.

Diplomats who follow the issue said the arms were apparently recovered by the peacekeepers and raised important questions.

"Why are Iranian and North Korean small arms finding their way into Somalia from Libya? Do they date from before the arms embargoes (against both North Korea and Iran)? How did they get there from Libya?" a council diplomat asked.

"It certainly emphasizes the point that Somalia is a country awash with arms and still very fragile," the diplomat said.

With such a great movement of weapons and men between al-Shabab and Ansar al-Sharia - offshoot of al-Qaeda in Yemen - and renewed fears Islamists are trying once again to expand their zone of influence in Yemen as the central government is trying to rally around the nation's many warring factions in a bid to save the Republic, onlookers are nervously trying to assess the situation and how best to de-tangle the region's political maze.

Yemen has always been by its geography a key player in the region stability; the fact that smugglers are now using a security vacuum to turn the poorest country of the Arabian Peninsula into a smuggler's hub is indeed troubling and could carry heavy repercussions.

Shiite Iran - Sunni Islamists
As always when its comes to foreign polices, one need to look at history and patterns nations follow to better understand the motivations behind one's government decisions.

For the past three decades - ever since Iran 1979 Islamic revolution - Saudi Arabia has defined its foreign policy around the fear that Iran Ayatollahs sought to destroy their Sunni-led Kingdom and over-run the Peninsula.
Justified or not, it is this very fear which pushed Saudi Arabia to ally itself to the most unlikely foreign power - the United States of America -
Despite its disdain for democracy and American values, al-Saud, whose house came to power on the back of the Wahhabis - Sunni radical sect which bears link to al-Qaeda - chose to offer Washington its unwavering support and friendship because it meant keeping at bay the fear of a Shiite invasion.

Iran, which distrusts Sunni radicals for its knows only to well how very much they would like to brand Shiite Muslims, heretics has for three decades worked at preventing Sunni extremists from spreading their influence across the region.

When Afghanistan Mujahideens - multi-national insurgent groups sent to fight the Soviet Union in Afhanistan in the 80s supported by both Washington, Saudi Arabia as well as the United Kingdom, among others - became somewhat of a liability with the rise of militant Jihadist Ossama bin Laden, Iran willingly stepped in to enable its foe, America to eradicate Sunni radicalism from the Western Asia' shores.

The September 11 attacks gave reconciliation between Washington and Tehran an urgent political logic. Iran was an implacable enemy of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, whose fanatical leaders wished death to Shiite Islam.
For several months after the attack, diplomats from the two countries met regularly. The United States asked Iran to expell hundreds of foreigners it believed were linked to the Taliban or al-Qaeda, tighten security along the Iran-Afghanistan borde, and place new names on its watch list of suspected terrorists; Iran did so. When the American decided to hire a proxy army to fight their anti-Taliban war in Afghanistan, Iran connected them to the Northern Alliance, with which it had worked for years. Then, after the Taliban was routed, Iran pressed the Northern Alliance to step back and allow Washington's favored Pashtun leader, Hamid Karzai, to become president of Afghanistan.

Why would Iran be arming al-Qaeda now and lay waste 30 years of clever maneuvering?

While a link between the Houthis or even Yemen Southern Secessionist Movement is not a far stretch given such an alliance can be explained both ideologically and pragmatically, a rapprochement with Sunni radicals is more than unlikely.

Marcy Kreiter, a political risk analyst based in Dubai advanced that while she did not believe Iran was smuggling weapons to Islamic extremists, Washington could be seeking to establish a link in between terrorists and Tehran as a mean to justify its aggressive political stance and justify a potential military escalation, in alignment with Israel wishes.








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