A member of the Kassam Brigades.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ismail Zaydah)
Washington believes that Hezbollah and Hamas are helping their backers
in Iran to expand its influence in Yemen at the expense of Yemen's Gulf
neighbors, the US envoy to Sanaa told pan-Arab daily al-Hayat on Sunday.
In a London interview, Gerald Feierstein was quoted as accusing
Hezbollah and Hamas of helping their backers in Shi'ite Iran at the
expense of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a bloc in which Sunni-led
oil giant Saudi Arabia's influence is dominant.
Iran is working
with Shi'ite Muslim rebels in northern Yemen and secessionists in the
country's south to expand its influence, Feierstein said.
Iranians want to build influence in Yemen... both internally and more
broadly in the region by establishing a foothold in the Arabian
Peninsula," the paper quoted Feierstein as saying in remarks published
in Arabic. "It's something that's naturally regarded as a security
threat to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC states."
told Reuters in an interview last month that there were signs of
greater Iranian activity in Yemen, but did not specify where and how.
is evidence that Hezbollah and Hamas support this Iranian effort. We
are aware of a southern Yemeni presence in Beirut that has been used as a
conduit for Iranian support for obstruction in southern Yemen," he
A spokesman for the US embassy in Yemen did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment on the published remarks.
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was referring to the resurgence of secessionist sentiment in the south,
formerly a separate socialist republic which fought a civil war with
the north in 1994 after four turbulent years of formal political union.
sentiment, based in charges of economic and political marginalisation,
gained strength in the final years of former President Ali Abdullah
Saleh's rule, and the south saw a boycott of a vote last month to
replace Saleh with his deputy.
That election was a key to a
transition deal, crafted by the GCC with US and UN endorsement to avert
civil war after mass protests against Saleh turned into fighting among a
divided military and territorial gains by the country's al-Qaida wing.
said the group had benefited from Yemen's political turmoil, but could
be defeated by a reunited Yemeni military. The US has backed units of
the military led by Saleh's relatives as part of its campaign against
al-Qaida, which has plotted abortive attacks abroad from Yemen.
we solve some of the political problems that created chaos in the
Yemeni military, we will have improved the possibility of succeeding in
our initiatives against al-Qaida," he said.
carried out a campaign of drone strikes - including one last year to
assassinate a US citizen it claims played a role in plotting an attack -
against alleged al-Qaida members in Yemen.
"counter-terrorism" official has made co-ordination with a united Yemeni
military a priority in relations with the administration of President
Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. An attack claimed by al-Qaida killed at least 26
people hours after Hadi was sworn in, vowing to fight the group.
refused to comment when queried about the present US role in airstrikes
earlier this month that killed dozens in areas of south Yemen
controlled by an al-Qaida-linked Islamist group.
"I can say that
we are working closely with the security institutions of the Yemeni
government regarding counter-terrorism initiatives, specifically those
aimed at defeating al-Qaida," he was quoted as saying.
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