Houthis fuel war with Iran finance — UN report

FIle photo of oil barrels. Fuel loaded from ports in Iran has generated revenue to finance the Yemen Houthi rebel war effort.

UNITED NATIONS — Fuel loaded from ports in Iran has generated revenue to finance the Yemen Houthi rebel war effort against the legitimate government, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, according to a report by a UN panel of experts seen by AFP.

The findings are expected to again raise questions about Iran’s support for the Houthis in the war that has pushed Yemen to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe.

In its final report for 2018, the panel said it had “identified a small number of companies, both within Yemen and outside, which operated as front companies,” using fake documents to conceal fuel donations.

The fuel was “for the benefit of a listed individual” who is on a UN sanctions blacklist, it added.

“The revenue from the sale of this fuel was used to finance the Houthi war effort,” said the 85-page report sent to the Security Council.

The panel found that the “fuel was loaded from ports in the Islamic Republic of Iran under false documentation” to avoid UN inspections of the cargo, it added.

The experts have in past reports pointed to a possible Iranian link to missiles fired by Houthi rebels at Saudi Arabia, after they traveled to Riyadh to examine weapons debris.

In a previous report, the experts said they were investigating monthly fuel donations from Iran valued at $30 million.

Iran has repeatedly denied that it is providing military support to the Houthis, who seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to intervene a year later to push back the rebels.

The Houthis control the city and key port of Hodeida, a main entry point for imports to Yemen that pro-government forces had planned to capture in a new offensive launched in June.

A ceasefire in Hodeida was agreed during UN-brokered talks last month in Sweden and UN monitors are on the ground to oversee a pullback of forces from the port.

“Throughout the reporting period of 2018, Yemen continued its slide toward humanitarian and economic catastrophe,” said the panel, which described the country as “deeply fractured” with a broken economy.

Government forces and the coalition have made “significant progress” on the ground against the Houthis, but “the aim of restoring the authority of the government throughout Yemen is far from being realized,” said the report. — AFP