US envoy to Sanaa tells ‘al-Hayat’ that Washington believes Tehran working with Shi’ite Muslim rebels in northern Yemen.
Washington believes that Hezbollah and Hamas are helping their backers in Iran to expand its influence in Yemen at the expense of Yemen’s Gulf neighbors, the US envoy to Sanaa told pan-Arab daily al-Hayat on Sunday.
In a London interview, Gerald Feierstein was quoted as accusing 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.
Iran is working with Shi’ite Muslim rebels in northern Yemen and secessionists in the country’s south to expand its influence, Feierstein said.
“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 and how.
“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 US 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 political union.
That sentiment, based in charges of economic and political marginalisation, 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.
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