In an interview with Seyyed Mohammad Sadr, who serves as a senior advisor to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Aftab Yazd daily has asked the veteran diplomat to dissect Iran’s stance on developments of Yemen. What comes next is the translation of an excerpt of the interview the newspaper published on July 5:
Tell us about the Houthi line of thinking? Is there any affinity between Iran and Yemen when it comes to ideology? If so, does this closeness go far enough to warrant Iran’s strong support for this faction in Yemen?
Houthis are Zaidiyyah [Shiites]. They have ruled Yemen for over 1,000 years. In fact, the Imams of Yemen [Zaidiyyah Imams] were in power up until 50 years ago, but in the aftermath of a coup, mounted when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was in power, Yemen was divided into two parts. Zaidiyyah people account for 37 percent of the Yemeni population.
Affinity is not at issue here. Prior to the current developments, during the Arab Spring when the democratic movement was in full swing, Iran supported the Yemeni people.
Before the Arab Spring when Ali Abdullah Saleh was still in office, I traveled to Yemen. As a matter of fact, we had logical relations with Yemen and there was not much sensitivity about Tehran-Sana’a ties.
One of the miscalculations of Saudi Arabia is that it views Yemen and Iraq as its enemies and believes that because the two neighboring countries have a large population and enjoy rich resources, the best course of action is to have them divided into some smaller countries to counter the perceived security threat they pose to Saudi Arabia.
Iran has relations with all Muslim countries, whether Shiites or Sunnis. That Iran only supports Shiites is a plot. You never heard the late Imam Khomeini call our revolution a Shiite revolution. His line of thinking focused on the Islamic world. Imam Khomeini even designated a week as Shiite-Sunni Unity Week which was a right strategy because in the Muslim world, unlike Iran, Shiites are in minority.
Imam Khomeini acted in a way that he could address America and the West on behalf of 1.2 billion Muslims. Therefore, sectarianism is not in play. Iran deems Israel as a made-up occupier and backs anyone who fights it, whether Shiite like Lebanon’s Hezbollah or Sunni like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Our relations with the Islamic and Arab countries are in keeping with the strategy of unity within the Muslim world.
The Muslims unity strategy and Iran’s interests require it to act in line with the framework of the Islamic world rather than get itself isolated on the one hand and have America and Israel lined up against it on the other.
Is Iran as influential in Yemen as Saudi Arabia claims?
Such statements are part of the Shiite Crescent plot. Some simpletons in Iran get pleased at the mention of such remarks. Whoever makes such comments intends to incite others against Iran and deal a blow to us.
Iran has vehemently said that it favors peace and wants all Yemeni people to form a government which is approved of by all. Such a thing happened four years ago.
These simpletons at home are not aware that sometimes some people intentionally play up the influence of someone they intend to bring down. These comments about Iran are not true; Tehran has ties with the entire Muslim world. We go out of our way to promote peace, freedom movements and respect for the rights of the public, be it in Yemen, Tunisia or Egypt.