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Arab commentators in the Gulf have warned in recent years about this Iranian push.
For example, economic analyst Muhammad Abduh al-Absi said in an interview to that Iran has long been trying to take over the sea lanes surrounding the Arab world.
It commands the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf (through which five million barrels of oil pass daily) and now is trying to seize the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (through which three million barrels of oil pass daily), which forms a key conduit of trade for all the states along the Red Sea.
Al-Absi emphasized that Houthi control of the strait will have a harmful impact on the entire world, but those that will suffer the most will be the Gulf states, which will be at Iran’s mercy.
From the African side, Eritrea and Djibouti overlook the strait.
Iran views Yemen, in general, and the northern Shia sector in particular, as a convenient staging ground for subversive activity against Saudi Arabia, its main religious-political rival in the Middle East, via the Saudis’ “backyard.” Iran also sees Yemen as an important factor in its policy of establishing a physical Iranian presence, both ground and naval, in the countries and ports of the Red Sea littoral, which control the shipping lanes that lead from the Persian Gulf to the heart of the Middle East and onward to Europe.
If the Shia rebels gain control of the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, Iran can attain a foothold in this sensitive region giving access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, a cause of concern not only for its sworn rivals Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf states, but also for Israel and European countries along the Mediterranean.
This conflict, which has already gone on for over 10 years, stems from feelings of political, economic, and social discrimination among the Zaidi Shia residents of Yemen’s north.
The Houthis constitute about 30 percent of Yemen’s population, which totals over 25 million people.