Sunni Vs. Shia: Yemen President Tells Iran To Stop Selling Weapons To Separatists Groups

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Yemen
Yemen's president called Iran's president to discuss a shipment of arms said to be headed to militants backed by Iran.

Two weeks after Yemeni officials seized a vessel filled with weapons destined for separatist groups and believed to have originated in Iran, Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi pointed and shook his finger in Tehran's direction, demanding they cease arming these groups.

Tehran, of course, shrugged its shoulders and claimed it had no idea what Mansour Hadi was talking about.

On Jan. 23, Yemeni forces discovered a boat off the coast loaded with Katyusha and Strella rockets, anti-aircraft missiles, rocket propelled grenades and C4 explosives, which Sanaa claimed was headed for anti-government militant groups, including Shia insurgent group the Houthis.

Now, Yemeni government officials told the BBC that Mansour Hadi had contacted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about the smuggling problem but declined to comment further on what the conversation entailed. 

The BBC also reported Yemen has requested the U.N. Security Council to investigate the shipment and that, if they determined that it did indeed originate in Iran, they should file notification that Iran has again breached Western sanctions. 

Yemen, an impoverished Sunni-dominated state and ally of Saudi Arabia, experienced its own bouts of instability during the Arab Spring in 2011 after the resignation of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Saudis, a Sunni-ruled kingdom, have long accused Shia-dominated Iran of arming and supporting Shia insurgencies across the region.

On Thursday, U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Jamal Benomar told journalist that the situation in Yemen "remains fragile.

“While progress has been made and the transition remains largely on track, it is clear that there has been active resistance to the transition,” Benomar said. He added that Yemen is still "awash with arms, light weapons and heavy weapons, which are available to private citizens and groups" and that Yemenis are "still waiting to see tangible improvements in their daily lives."

Yemen is also a known al Qaeda haven, but both the Yemeni and U.S. governments maintain they are united in fighting al Qaeda militants.

Iran and Yemen have had mostly good relations since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran but continued support by Iran for armed Yemeni rebels has degraded ties. When this particular weapons shipment was caught in January, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that this was "an escalation" by Iran.

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