Yemeni PM and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia in Moscow. February 26, 2024 (X/@Yemen_PM)

Why’d the Houthis Twist the Truth by Claiming To Have Ties With Russia, China and BRICS?


Mon, 18-03-2024 04:09 PM, Aden

Houthis are unhappy with Russia and China's lack of stronger support for Gaza and condemnation of coalition bombings in Yemen. The two countries will not risk a conflict with Israel and US-UK to back Hamas and Houthis.

Andrew Korybko (South24) 

Houthi Politburo member Ali al-Qahoum tweeted on Saturday that “with the intersection of regional interests, there is a continuous building and development in international relations between Yemen, Russia, China, and the BRICS countries, and the exchange of expertise and experiences in various fields. There is a common interest in drowning America, Britain, and the West in the swamp of the Red Sea and on the high seas, and it is intended for it to sink, disappear, and weaken its unipolarity.”

For as much as some Palestinian supporters might wish that this was true, it’s actually not. The truth is that the Houthis don’t have any formal ties with BRICS since they’re not part of Yemen’s UN-recognized government, even though some members like Russia have political dialogue with them. Iran is their ally as anyone who’s casually covered that conflict over the past nine years knows, but nobody else other than the Islamic Republic “exchanges expertise and experience in various fields” with it. 

In fact, Russia’ Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzia condemned the Houthis’ attacks on civilian vessels at the start of the year and even declined to veto the West’s UNSC Resolution shortly thereafter despite accurately predicting that it would be exploited as the pretext to bomb that group. Russia’s response predictably remained limited to rhetoric, and while it condemns the coalition’s campaign, it also still condemns the Houthis’ continued attacks on civilian vessels too. 

Hammering home the point, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov even told Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak during his trip to Moscow in late February that “We do not condone the shelling of commercial vessels, regardless of the underlying motives.” This was significant since Mubarak, who’s served as Foreign Minister since 2020, just assumed his additional post earlier that month and then chose Moscow as the first place that he traveled to abroad. 

Statecraft is sometimes conducted in the shadows and diplomats don’t always tell the truth, but in this case, there are no credible reasons for doubting the sincerity of Russia’s officially stated position. New BRICS member Saudi Arabia with whom the Houthis have been warring for nearly a decade already is much too important of a partner on the global energy market for Moscow to go behind Riyadh’s back by secretly cultivating military-strategic ties with that group like its Politburo member implied. 

Al-Qauhoum’s announcement came right after the Houthis claimed to be in possession of hypersonic missiles, which itself shortly followed President Putin reminding a top Russian media boss during an interview about their country’s hypersonic missile superiority over the US. This sequence of events coupled with Russia and the Houthis’ separate proxy wars against the US therefore explains why some Palestinian supporters sincerely believe that Russia might have passed these arms along to them. 

The narrative icing on the cake was that the Financial Times claimed a little over a week ago that “Russia’s rail boosted by demand to move goods to Europe after Red Sea attacks”, which was subsequently amplified by Newsweek to make it seem like Russia has a hand in the Houthis’ blockade. This preceded last week’s Russian-Chinese-Iranian naval drills in the Arabian Sea that Tehran’s representative there inaccurately described as “a new international alliance”. 

To the casual observer influenced by the non-Mainstream Media dogma into imagining that all countries at odds with the US are secretly coordinating some “5D chess master plan” with one another to topple unipolarity, it looked like al-Qahoum was simply revealing the worst-kept secret in the world. The reality is that nothing of the sort is going on behind the scenes, but the heavy innuendo that there is – not to mention the specific hypersonic missile context – risks complicating the Kremlin’s foreign policy. 

Its fellow Indian and Chinese core members of BRICS have had their European trade disrupted due to the Houthis’ blockade of the Red Sea, which both of them oppose for that self-interested economic reason, but some in their civil and expert societies might now wonder whether Russia is somehow involved in it. India also dislikes the Houthis since they target Indian-bound tankers, while China always opposes armed anti-government insurgencies in principle due to its position towards Taiwan. 

As for the remainder of the group, the UAE still supports the Southern Transitional Council against the Houthis despite withdrawing its own troops from the conflict a few years back, while Egypt is rankled after their blockade slashed its revenue from the Suez Canal by half. Nearby Ethiopia, meanwhile, depends on the Red Sea for fertilizer and fuel imports so Addis obviously isn’t too pleased either. This leaves just Brazil and South Africa, which have absolutely no influence whatsoever on the region. 

Related: Regional Crises Offer Unique Strategic Opportunities for South Yemen 

Iran is therefore the only member of BRICS that “exchanges expertise and experiences in various fields” with the Houthis, including the military one, which could account for how they got their hands on hypersonic missiles after the Islamic Republic unveiled an upgraded domestic version in November. By claiming otherwise and specifically alleging to have ties with Russia and China, which they explained on the basis of shared global interests, the Houthis are trying to pressure them into taking their side. 

To explain, the Houthis are unhappy with those two major countries not taking a stronger stance in support of Gaza and against the coalition’s bombing of Yemen, though no observer should have expected anything different since neither has the capabilities nor the will to do so. Russia and China aren’t going to risk war with Israel and the US-UK just for the sake of Hamas and the Houthis respectively despite opposing Tel Aviv’s collective punishment of the Palestinians and the coalition’s campaign in Yemen. 

Nevertheless, the Houthis are keenly aware that the pro-Palestinian movement with which they’ve sought to associate themselves since the start of their Red Sea blockade is the most popular in the world, and most of its members have very favorable opinions of Russian and Chinese foreign policy. They’re also optimistic about BRICS’ prospects for gradually reforming the global financial system in a more multipolar direction, and it’s these sentiments that the Houthis want to manipulate.  

By twisting the truth in claiming to have ties with Russia, China, and BRICS, they want to obscure their military cooperation with Iran that’s likely responsible for them obtaining hypersonic missiles, if they actually have them, that is. They also want to pressure those two and the association that they co-founded to do more in support of their cause and Gaza’s lest they disappoint their many followers across the world who already wrongly imagine that they support the Houthis. 

If the West takes advantage of al-Qahoum’s tweet to pressure Russia and China even more than before on that false pretext, then the Houthis might hope that this could finally get them to support their group in a meaningful way, though that’s nothing but a political fantasy to be sure. His tweet is bereft of factual substance and a typical example of a psychological operation against supposed friends and indisputable foes alike, which suggests that the Houthis are the ones under pressure, and more now than ever before. 

Andrew Korybko 

Moscow-based American political analyst