Iran–Yemen relations

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Iran-Yemen relations
Map indicating locations of Iran and Yemen



Iran and Yemen have had cordial, if tepid, relations since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Ties between the two states, however, have been damaged in recent years by the Islamic Republic’s alleged support for Shi’ite rebels engaged in armed conflict with Yemeni government forces. Yemeni officials have repeatedly accused Iran of providing funding and weapons to the Zaydi Shi’ite Houthi rebels and on one occasion claimed to have discovered Iranian-made arms in rebel weapons caches. Iran has also deployed submarines and warships off Yemen’s coast, in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea, ostensibly to conduct anti-piracy operations.[1]


In the 1960s, Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi supported Yemeni fighters against militant Marxists.[2] In the late 1980s, the Islamic Republic of Iran moved more closely to Yemen following the end of the Iran–Iraq War. In the early 1990s, Iran accommodated Houthi religious students. Among those students was Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, who led the Houthi insurgency in Yemen against local government.[2] Following the departure of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012, Iranian officials began to rhetorically support the Houthis.[2]

In January 2013, a Yemeni boarding team operating from the USS Farragut (DDG-99) seized an Iranian dhow off the coast of Yemen that was found to be carrying Chinese QW-1 MANPADs.[3] Relations between the two nations soured as Iran denied Yemeni assertions that the shipment was an Iranian attempt to arm rebel forces.[4] The ship's movements had been tracked by American forces from the point when it loaded cargo at an Iranian military base until it was seized.[3]

On 2 October 2015, the Yemeni government Aden television reportedly announced that Yemen had severed diplomatic relations with Iran due to alleged Iranian support of Houthis to overthrow Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.[5] A Yemeni government spokesman later denied the television report, saying that "the cabinet has not discussed until now the matter of severing diplomatic relations with Iran and no decision was taken".[6]


  1. ^ “Leader Calls Iran's Naval Presence in High Seas "Promising" ,” IRIB, July 24, 2011,
  2. ^ a b c "Iran's Yemen Play". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 2 October 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Robert F. Worth; C.J. Chivers (3 March 2013). "Seized Chinese Weapons Raise Concerns on Iran". New York Times. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 
  4. ^ "Iran escalating efforts to destabilize region, says Panetta". Haaretz. Reuters. 2 February 2013. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 
  5. ^ "Yemen cuts diplomatic relations with Iran: spokesman". Xinhua. 2 October 2015. Retrieved 2 October 2015. 
  6. ^ "Yemen govt. spokesman denies severing of ties with Iran". Reuters. 2 October 2015. Retrieved 2 October 2015.