CAIRO — Yemen's president lashed out at Iran Thursday for allegedly meddling in his country's internal affairs, after suspected members of an Iranian spy ring were arrested.
Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi blasted Iran for allegedly spying on his country, insisting that Tehran would “pay a price” if it continued to do so. He went on to urge Iran to “mind its own business.”
President Hadi stressed that Yemen was recovering from months of chaos, pointing to what he called “delicate circumstances” that Iran should take into consideration. Hadi also praised his own armed forces for holding the country together:
He says that the army is a safety valve that protects the unity of the country and its security and that it is not answerable to individuals, but to the people.
Few details were given by government media about the alleged spy ring which was dismantled. President Hadi also offered no specifics, but threatened to “embarrass [Iran] in front of the world” at some point in the future.
Iran did not immediately respond to the Yemen allegations.
Yemeni officials have accused Iran in the past of aiding Houthi rebels in the north of the country. The rebels have fought a series of wars against the government in recent years.
Veteran Saudi editor and publisher Jamal Khashoggi notes that Iran has a habit of creating problems in various countries by supporting one faction against the rest of the country.
"The Iranians are quite sectarian," he says. "They go and support a segment of the Yemeni society: they inflame it, they strengthen it and that society or that group or that community will go against the majority of the people and that will lead to a confrontation in the society."
He goes on to say that Iranian meddling “destroys the unity of Yemeni society.” He adds that Iran has done the same thing in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria by supporting specific minorities.
Yemen analyst Stephen Steinbeiser, who heads the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, points out that Iran initially became involved in Yemen by opening health clinics.
"Iran, either officially, or in name, opened up a number of hospitals and health clinics several years ago," says Steinbeiser. "A lot of them have been shut down. I think most of them are probably pretty poor quality and under that pretext the government shut them down.”
Steinbeiser goes on to say that the Yemeni government is convinced that Iran is meddling in its affairs but that it's “difficult to judge.” “It's possible in the north,” he says, “and ideologically, it probably makes sense, but....there is no real, hard evidence of that.”