Dubai: Iran may deploy more advanced military capabilities to Yemen to support the Al Houthis and militia of former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, warns a group of analysts known for research in global security threats.

The analysts say the increase in Iranian involvement is to offset the gains made by Yemeni government troops supported by the Saudi-led Arab coalition forces.

Increased Iranian role will prolong Yemen’s civil war and make the conflict more sectarian, worsening Yemen’s humanitarian crisis and allowing Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to expand its support base within Yemen, they say.

“The deployment of inter-operable proxy forces is part of Iran’s evolution of a form of hybrid warfare that will allow it to project significant force far from its borders and fundamentally alter the balance of power in the region. Iran may increase its engagement in Yemen if US support for the Saudi-led coalition threatens the Al Houthi-Saleh faction’s survival,” they say.

The Critical Threats Project run by the public policy think tank the American Enterprise Institute has published the analysis on their website, providing information on Iranian military assistance to Yemeni rebels.

“Iran may attempt to incorporate the Al Houthis into its Axis of Resistance coalition, which Iran uses to contain the US and its regional allies,” the report stresses, warning that further escalation in the Yemeni civil war will threaten freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, risking both global commercial markets and the US Navy’s freedom of movement in the region.

The analysis claims that Iran had attempted to smuggle over 2,000 small arms into Yemen in 2015 and 2016, in addition to a large stockpile of other weapons.

“Iran likely facilitated the development of an Al Houthi-Saleh naval mining program. Mines struck a government coast guard ship near Mokha port, Taiz governorate on March 11 and a fishing vessel near Midi district, northwestern Hajjah governorate on March 8. Iran provides sophisticated weaponry that allows the Al Houthi-Saleh faction to hold terrain, counter Saudi-led coalition capabilities, and threaten US freedom of movement in the Red Sea,” it warns.

The Al Houthi-Saleh militias possess a large number of Iran-supplied sophisticated weapons and technological devices, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, the technology for unmanned remote-controlled boat attacks as happened to a Saudi vessel in the Red Sea on January 3, anti-ship cruise missiles used to fire at the USS Mason in October 2016, and anti-tank guided weapons that were not part of Yemen’s pre-civil war stockpiles, the analysis asserts.

It reveals that Al Houthi-Saleh ballistic missile launches increased in 2017 and argues that Hezbollah or IRGC-QF likely provided technical expertise to modify pre-existing Scud missile stockpiles for longer range capabilities.