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Iran’s Revolutionary Guard On The Ground In Yemen To Assist Houthis, U.S. Official Says

Brian Bushard

In a bombshell revelation, a U.S. Navy official revealed on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” that Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops are working on the ground with Houthi rebels in Yemen, providing assistance to the group that has escalated attacks on U.S. military targets in the region and shipping vessels in the Red Sea, as U.S. forces step up counter-measures amid fears of an escalating Middle Eastern conflict.

U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Brad Cooper confirmed in an interview with “60 Minutes” correspondent Norah O’Donnell that members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps are on the ground in Yemen “serving side-by-side” with the rebel group and providing advice and target information.

When asked what U.S. forces have done to counter that partnership, Cooper said that “will obviously end up being a policy decision,” and adding: “Our role at this point is to simply be ready and continue to be aggressive in exercising our right to self-defense.”

 

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary group that answers directly to the country’s Supreme Leader, has provided assistance to militant groups throughout the Middle East, according to the State Department, which has designated the Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.

U.S. officials redesignated the Houthis as a global terrorist group last month following an uptick in attacks on U.S. targets and shipping vessels that have caused severe disruptions in trade and threatened to further destabilize the region, just three years after the Biden administration removed the terrorist label.

The Houthi rebels, a Shia Islamist group that controls territory in northern Yemen, including the capital city Sana’a, is believed to be funded primarily by Iran.

 

KEY BACKGROUND
U.S. forces have turned their attention in recent months to militant groups in the Middle East and Somalia with ties to Iran, following a steady stream of attacks on U.S. bases, shipping vessels and troops. Those groups include the Houthis, who in late December attacked a shipping vessel in the Red Sea, as well as the al-Shabab rebel group in Somalia that seized a United Nations helicopter and captured six crew members in a January attack that left one crew member dead, and the Kataib Hezbollah, the Iran-aligned militia in Iraq that injured three U.S. troops at the al-Harir airbase in December. British and American forces last month launched strikes against Houthi targets in parts of Yemen controlled by the rebel group, a sudden rebuke coming just hours after Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi reportedly warned U.S. attacks “won’t go unpunished” if military action is taken. In that warning, al-Houthi vowed to take a “big” response should the U.S and its allies’ militaries take action against Houthi rebels. The conflict continued to escalate into February, with U.S. forces striking Iran-backed groups in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and in the Red Sea in three consecutive days earlier this month, which White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said was a retaliatory effort against the drone strike on the Tower 22 base in Jordan last month, in which three American service members were killed—Iranian officials warned again the country would retaliate against any attack.

CONTRA
U.S. officials have also issued warnings stemming from escalating incidents with the Houthis, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken warning last month there “will be consequences” for more attacks. Officials from the U.S. and 13 other countries called for an “immediate” stop to the attacks last month, labeling the seizure of vessels and crews as “illegal, unacceptable, and profoundly destabilizing,” while the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution demanding the rebel group end its attacks.

TANGENT
Around 1 a.m. local time Wednesday morning, a major natural gas pipeline in Iran was severely damaged after two explosions were reported, a disruption that halted the supply of gas and that Iranian officials called an act of sabotage and terrorism. Javad Owji, Iran’s petroleum minister, did not name any group he believed to be involved.

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