South Asia Center Nonresident Senior Fellow Barbara Slavin joins PBS’s Frontline to discuss the alliance between the Houthis and Iran:
Slavin: The alliance with the Iranians is more an alliance of convenience than something that’s based on religion.
The Houthis also had a falling out with the previous president [of Yemen, Ali Abudullah] Saleh, and they apparently are now back in with him again against Hadi. It’s a combination of things: It’s religious. It’s tribal. It’s political. This is a group that feels they haven’t had the influence they’ve wanted under the administration of Hadi for the last couple of years.
But they also understand that they don’t have support, particularly in the south of the country. I don’t think they believe they can rule the country by themselves. There has to be some kind of coalition or the place just falls apart.
Iran has apparently stepped up its support to this group since 2011. They saw an opportunity there to annoy the Saudis. But it’s not been a very robust relationship, and those who try to compare it to the relationship Iran has with Hezbollah in Lebanon, for example, are greatly exaggerating the relationship. Iran essentially helped create Hezbollah in Lebanon, while the Houthis have been there a long time.