The United States is speeding up arms supplies and bolstering intelligence sharing with a Saudi-led alliance bombing a militia aligned with Iran in neighboring Yemen, Reuters reported, citing a senior US diplomat.
US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US had also set up a coordination center in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, whose forces have led an air campaign against the Shi’ite Houthi group which rules most of Yemen.
“Saudi Arabia is sending a strong message to the Houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun Yemen by force,” Blinken told reporters in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
“As part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation center,” he added.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday his country opposed the coalition’s 13-day air assault.
“Our view is that the solution for the crisis in Yemen is to stop the attacks and foreign interference against the people of this country,” Khamenei was quoted as saying by Iran’s state TV.
“It’s the Yemenis who need to make the decisions about the future of their country,” he added.
Exploiting Yemen’s collapsed central authority, gunmen believed to be from al Qaeda stormed a remote Yemeni post on the border with Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
Sources in Yemen’s eastern province of Hadramawt said the gunmen took over the desert base near Manwakh, about 440 km northeast of the capital Sanaa, killing at least two soldiers including a senior border guard officer.
The attack happened less than a week after al Qaeda gunmen attacked the Arabian Sea port of Mukalla, in a sign that Yemen’s weakened army is failing to secure broad swathes of the country.
The Saudi-led campaign has failed stop the Houthis and allied soldiers loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh from pushing into the heart of Aden and up to the perimeter of its main port. Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was forced to flee Aden late last month.
But the air strikes — and three airdrops of weapons — have helped fighters push back the Houthis and their allies from some of their positions in the southern provinces around Aden, and to disrupt Houthi supply lines.
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