In order to understand the Islamic Republic's link with the Huthi (Houthi) of Yemen, one must be open to appreciate the significance of the religious dimension of that relationship. Ties between the Houthi and the Shi'a seminaries in Qom quickened more than a decade ago. Many young Houthi Shi'a joined the "Association of Believing Youth,"* some of whom attended summer camps where instructors helped shape their political and religious values. Often, these mullah teachers were Iranian and most of the texts were tracts from Lebanon-based religious figures like the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. When these students matured, they altered the daily focus of Zaydi Shi'ism * ("The Fivers") in Yemen. Heretofore the Zaydi were more concerned with issues of a local interest.


Moreover, the Zaydi who comprise at least one-third* of Yemen's population in the recent past, had proper relations with the largely Shafi'i School (Mandhab) Sunni of Yemen. This too changed with the arrival of Believing Youth to leadership positions in Houthi communities. Now many Houthi Zaydi became intolerably sensitive to aggressive proselytizing efforts by Saudi-sponsored Wahhabi missionaries in Yemen. In the last two years Yemenite mullahs* attended the Iran-hosted "World Congress on Extremism and the Takfiri* Phenomenon." This event is the primary engine of the Islamic Republic's Qom-based theocratic infrastructure to combat Riyadh's Salafist Sunni line throughout the world. Delegates attends from over 80 countries, both Shi'a and Sunni theologians meet in an effort to isolate the Wahhabi Sunni Sect which is dominant on the Arabian Peninsula. The delegates seek to label Saudi Islam as extremist, heretical, and un-Islamic in nature. Senior Iranian clerics have made sustained efforts to lend spiritual guidance and political support for their Houthi comrades. For example, just recently, Iranian Ayatollah al-Shirazi lent encouragement to the Houthi by predicting that Allah will provide them with ultimate victory over the Wahhabi scourge. Militarily, Iran has developed close links with Houthi fighters, especially with the Ansar Allah (The Supporters of Allah). Thousands of tons of weaponry have arrived on Iranian vessels which dock at Houthi controlled ports along Yemen's Red Sea Coast.

While Yemen's Zaydi Shi'a have not been as embraced by Iran's clerical leadership as closely as have the Alawis of Syria, nevertheless the spiritual affinity is potent enough to sustain Iran's continued support of their Zaydi Shi'a cousins across the Gulf. The religious foundation is solid. The military assistance lines of support will follow and endure. Already, there are reports that advisors from Iran's Special Forces have secretly deployed to Bahrain in plain clothes for military training of resistance cells. Along with these IRGC/Qods trainers come their religious counterparts, Qom-based Mullahs.