One day, almost ten years ago, when I was still in high school, our “Religion and Life” teacher showed us a propaganda clip explaining the signs of the Apocalypse! One of the assured signs was the rebellion of the “Yamani.” That was the first time I heard of the “Houthis.” Not by that name, of course, but as the Shias of Yemen. The Islamic regime in Iran doesn’t like to use the term “Houthis” too much, preferring the “Ansar Allah.” They also don’t like to talk about the beliefs of the Yemeni Shias. Usually they don’t even mention that the Houthis are “Zaydi” and different from the Twelver Shias that the regime tried to teach us in schools as the purest and only true version of Islam.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has provided weapons to a variety of rebel groups with different beliefs. Perhaps the only common element in the doctrines of all these groups was and is antisemitism. The Houthis are one of the new groups supported by Iran, and they are so important because of their strategic location and their ability to seriously threaten the global trading system. This makes them a crucial card for Iran to play in the game of international relations. Moreover, the Houthis are part of what I call “Pan-Shi’ism.” The Islamic Republic in Tehran intends to unite all Shias. Henry Kissinger explained this in a 2014 interview with NPR:
“There has come into being a kind of a Shia belt from Tehran through Baghdad to Beirut. And this gives Iran the opportunity to reconstruct the ancient Persian Empire – this time under the Shia label. From a geo-strategic point of view, I consider Iran a bigger problem than ISIS. ISIS is a group of adventurers with a very aggressive ideology. But they have to conquer more and more territory before they can became a geo-strategic, permanent reality. I think a conflict with ISIS – important as it is – is more manageable than a confrontation with Iran.”
We all know that Kissinger was a wise politician, and furthermore, we have additional evidence for his claim that the Islamic Republic wants to build a Shia empire. In an interview with Abolhassan Banisadr, the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in January 2002, he said:
“Saddam wanted to re-establish the Abbasid Empire. Also, Khomeini had similar thoughts. Khomeini had the illusion of defeating Iraq and, with the Alevi Syria and Shia control over Lebanon, making the Shia belt in the middle of the Islamic world. Yasser Arafat warned him that a single Iranian soldier would never enter Baghdad, and I told Khomeini not to be deluded, that he could not be the King of Shias.”
Now we can say that Ayatollah Khomeini wasn’t deluded at all. In fact, some scholars who are sympathetic to the Islamic regime often speak of the resurrection of the Persian Empires. It’s not uncommon to hear them say that under Ayatollah Khamenei’s rule and Qasem Soleimani’s command, Iran reached the Mediterranean sea for the first time since the 6th century.