June 12, 2024 | Flash Brief

Houthi Rebels Claim to Break Up “American-Israeli Spy Ring” in Yemen

June 12, 2024 | Flash Brief

Houthi Rebels Claim to Break Up “American-Israeli Spy Ring” in Yemen

Latest Developments

Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed on June 10 to have arrested members of an “American-Israeli spy network” in Yemen. Houthi intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Abdulhakim al-Khayewani said the network originally operated out of the U.S. Embassy in the capital Sanaa. After the Houthis seized Sanaa and the U.S. Embassy closed in 2015, the network “continued their subversive agenda under the cover of international and UN organizations,” al-Khayewani alleged. The Houthis did not say how many individuals they arrested, but released footage of what they alleged were the confessions of 10 Yemeni citizens.

Expert Analysis

“The threat posed by the Iran-backed Houthis is not only external, as seen in their targeting of commercial shipping in the Red Sea, but also internal, aimed at stifling any sort of opposition within their territory. The Houthis’ claim of uncovering an American Israeli spy network exemplifies the tactics oppressive movements use to justify repressive actions against their own population. By creating such threats, they foster an atmosphere of fear and suspicion to consolidate their control.” — Ahmad Sharawi, FDD Research Analyst

“The terrorist Houthi movement has been trained by the regime in Tehran to rule with an iron fist by labeling dissidents as ‘foreign conspirators’ and ‘Zionist spies.’ The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force is responsible for exporting the Islamic Revolution to the region and the world, and it does so by instructing its proxies to terrorize their respective local populations by cracking down on those who object to the expansion of the Axis of Resistance. So long as the Islamic Republic does not fear repercussions, it will continue to bolster these illegitimate movements to destabilize the region.” — Janatan Sayeh, FDD Research Analyst

Houthis Abduct UN Workers

The June 10 arrests come just days after the Houthis abducted at least 15 Yemeni employees of the United Nations (UN) and other international agencies. On June 7, Houthi enforcers detained nine employees of UN agencies, three from the U.S.-funded pro-democracy group National Democratic Institute, and three employees of a local human rights group. They also raided the homes and offices of the detainees and confiscated phones and computers. The Associated Press (AP) cited regional officials who said that the UN staffers detained were Yemeni citizens who worked for the “UN human rights agency, its development program, the World Food Programme and one working for the office of its special envoy.” The officials told AP that the wife of one of the staffers was detained as well.

Houthi Record of Human Rights Abuse

The most recent State Department Human Rights and Practices report, published in April 2024, charged the Houthis with a litany of abuses, including torture, forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and extrajudicial killings. The report found that the Houthis and other Yemeni groups committed “significant abuses with impunity.” In addition, the State Department’s 2023 Trafficking in Persons report found that the Houthis continue to hold “summer camps” within Yemen to “indoctrinate, recruit, and use child soldiers” as young as 10 years of age. The Houthis also have a track record of stealing aid from Yemen’s starving and impoverished population.

Iran-Backed Houthi Rebels Abduct UN Employees,” FDD Flash Brief

10 Things to Know About the Houthis,” FDD Insight

Houthis attack four ships and threaten to expand operations against U.S. forces,” by Ahmad Sharawi


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