Press Memo: How Iran-Backed Houthi Terrorists Help Hamas and Threaten the U.S.

Jan 17, 2024

To: Interested Parties
From: The 10/7 Project
Re: How Iran-Backed Houthi Terrorists Help Hamas and Threaten the U.S.
Contact: [email protected]

The Houthi militia, a Zaydi Shiite group in Yemen, has recently drawn international attention for its attacks on global commerce and ties to Hamas’s terror tactics. Funded by Iran, the Houthis have threatened violence in response to U.S. intervention and have initiated missile attacks on civilian merchant vessels. The Houthis now wield de-facto control over Yemen’s northwestern Saada province, including the capital city of Sana’a. They view themselves as the only legitimate authority to represent Yemenis, as outlined in their “cultural and intellectual document.” The Houthi slogan’s literal translation reads: “God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam,” demonstrating their ire for Americans, Israelis, and Jews everywhere.

Just days after Hamas carried out the October 7th massacre on Israel, the Houthis declared support for Hamas. In the aftermath of October 7th, Houthi spokesman Yahya Sarea posted on X a video of a mass gathering of Yemeni people to “support . . . the blessed operation carried out by the Palestinian resistance.” The Houthis view themselves as part of the Iranian-led “axis of resistance” along with Hamas and Hezbollah.

Iran funds the Houthis’ violence. The Houthis’ ideological and tactical links to Iran have grown thicker in recent years. The Houthi attacks coincide with strikes by other regional terrorist organizations backed by Iran, forming a coalition of anti-American and anti-Israel groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met with a Houthi official this week, praising the Houthis “continuous support to the Resistance Front.” Further, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei celebrated the Houthis’ recent attacks in the Red Sea, calling them a crucial blow to “vital arteries of Israel.” This echoes Iran’s financial and military support for Hamas, and Iran’s declaration that the October 7th massacre was a “success.”

Former State Department official Jon B. Alterman said “the Iranians have been supporting the Houthis for more than a decade, probably at a pace of about $100 million per year.” Knowledge of Iran’s financial backing of militant and terror groups in the region is not new. In 2007, Yemen’s Interior Minister Rshad al-Alimi affirmed that Iran has provided military support and “funds from religious institutions” for the Houthis.

Iran’s involvement extends beyond financing. Members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are on the ground in Yemen and playing a direct role in Houthi attacks. According to U.S. and Middle East officials, the IRGC has stationed missile and drone operators in Yemen, and is providing tactical intelligence support and overseeing the transfer of attack drones, cruise missiles, and medium-range ballistic missiles used in Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea. Two U.S. Navy Seals went missing this week during an operation to interdict Iranian ballistic missiles destined for the Houthis.

The Houthis have a history of threatening U.S. allies and American citizens. In 2016, Houthi forces launched a failed missile attack against a U.S. Navy destroyer, prompting retaliatory actions authorized by President Obama. In 2022, the Houthis unleashed a barrage of missile and drone attacks on civilian sites across the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – where some 65,000 Americans reside. President Biden swiftly condemned the act of violence on U.S. citizens and the global community, while Houthi Brigadier-General Abdul Ghani Al-Zubaidi declared: “If it turns out that the Americans attacked in Yemen… we will target the American interests wherever they may be.” In response to the recent attacks, a U.S.-led naval task force involving more than 20 countries has shot down over 60 Houthi missiles and drones aimed at ships transiting the Red Sea.

The Houthis have continued to target the U.S. in the aftermath of the October 7th massacre. Houthi leader Abdul-Malek al-Houthi threatened that the group would respond to U.S. intervention in the conflict with violence. On October 20, the Houthi militia claimed responsibility for firing missiles at a U.S. Navy destroyer, beginning a Houthi missile campaign against military and civilian vessels in the Red Sea, amounting to at least 27 attacks interrupting more than $200 billion in international trade to date. In November, Houthi fighters seized the Japanese-operated cargo ship Galaxy Leader and took the multinational crew hostage. On Monday, a Houthi missile hit an American cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden. A Houthi spokesperson has said that the maritime attacks will continue until the siege on Gaza is lifted – a threat that aims to further destabilize the region. Over the weekend, Houthi supporters gathering in Yemen’s capital chanted, “we don’t care and make it a world war.” On Monday, the U.S. Maritime Administration warned of a continued high risk to commercial vessels traveling through the Red Sea as a result of Houthi missile attacks. The same day, Houthi spokesperson Nasruldeen Amer confirmed the expansion of Houthi maritime targets: “The ship doesn’t necessarily have to be heading to Israel for us to target it; it is enough for it to be American.” Houthi officials have doubled down, announcing that U.S. and U.K. interests are “legitimate targets.”

The U.S. designated the Houthis as a terrorist group. In response to Houthis’ attacks against U.S. military forces and civilian vessels, the United States today designated the group as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. While the Houthis were removed from the U.S. Department of State’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) in 2021 in recognition of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen at the time, the Houthis’ violent attacks against civilian infrastructure prompted calls for the group’s re-designation. More than a dozen senators wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last year demanding the re-designation of the Houthis due to their relentless attacks on U.S. interests and allies. Following a coordinated multinational response to Houthi attacks, President Biden last Friday condemned the Houthis as “terrorists.”


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