Iran working with Shi´ite rebels in north, south Yemen: report (REUTERS) Writing by Joseph Logan; Editing by Karolina Tagaris DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES 03/25/12 8:50am EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Washington believes Iran is working with Shi´ite Muslim
rebels in northern Yemen and secessionists in the country´s south to
expand its influence at the expense of Yemen´s Gulf neighbors, the
U.S. envoy to Sanaa was quoted as saying on Sunday.
The pan-Arab daily al-Hayat cited Gerald Feierstein, in an interview
in London, as accusing Lebanon´s Hezbollah and Hamas of helping their
backers in Shi´ite Iran at the expense of the Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC), a bloc in which Sunni-led oil giant Saudi Arabia´s
influence is dominant.
"The Iranians want to build influence in Yemen... both internally and
more broadly in the region by establishing a foothold in the Arabian
Peninsula," the paper quoted Feierstein as saying in remarks
published in Arabic.
"It´s something that´s naturally regarded as a security threat to
Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC states."
Feierstein told Reuters in an interview last month that there were
signs of greater Iranian activity in Yemen, but did not specify where
"There is evidence that Hezbollah and Hamas support this Iranian
effort. We are aware of a southern Yemeni presence in Beirut that has
been used as a conduit for Iranian support for obstruction in
southern Yemen," he said.
A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Yemen did not immediately respond
to a call seeking comment on the published remarks.
Feierstein was referring to the resurgence of secessionist sentiment
in the south, formerly a separate socialist republic which fought a
civil war with the north in 1994 after four turbulent years of formal
That sentiment, based in charges of economic and political
marginalization, gained strength in the final years of former
President Ali Abdullah Saleh´s rule, and the south saw a boycott of a
vote last month to replace Saleh with his deputy.
That election was a key to a transition deal, crafted by the GCC with
U.S. and U.N. endorsement to avert civil war after mass protests
against Saleh turned into fighting among a divided military and
territorial gains by the country´s al Qaeda wing.
Feierstein said the group had benefited from Yemen´s political
turmoil, but could be defeated by a reunited Yemeni military. The
U.S. has backed units of the military led by Saleh´s relatives as
part of its campaign against al Qaeda, which has plotted abortive
attacks abroad from Yemen.
"If we solve some of the political problems that created chaos in the
Yemeni military, we will have improved the possibility of succeeding
in our initiatives against al Qaeda," he said.
Washington has carried out a campaign of drone strikes - including
one last year to assassinate a U.S. citizen it claims played a role
in plotting an attack - against alleged al Qaeda members in Yemen.
Its top "counter-terrorism" official has made co-ordination with a
united Yemeni military a priority in relations with the
administration of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. An attack claimed
by al Qaeda killed at least 26 people hours after Hadi was sworn in,
vowing to fight the group.
Feierstein refused to comment when queried about the present U.S.
role in airstrikes earlier this month that killed dozens in areas of
south Yemen controlled by an al Qaeda-linked Islamist group.
"I can say that we are working closely with the security institutions
of the Yemeni government regarding counter-terrorism initiatives,
specifically those aimed at defeating al Qaeda," he was quoted as
saying. (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 03/25/12)
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