By Mohammed Almahfali & James Root, original post here:

Ansar Allah, the armed movement from Yemen’s north widely known as the Houthis, drove the internationally recognized Yemeni government out of the capital, Sana’a, in 2014, and since then has been adapting the country’s existing republican political structures to its interests. That the Houthis are adherents of the Zaidi sect of Shia Islam has invited comparisons of the movement’s actions to the Iranian regime and the establishment of the Islamic republic following the fall of the monarchy in Tehran in 1979. Some Houthi adversaries have gone as far as alleging that the Houthis have converted to Twelver Shiism, seek to remodel Yemen along Iranian Twelver lines and to become themselves a Yemeni version of Lebanon’s Hezbollah.[1]

The available evidence does not bear out these accusations, but instead points to a relationship between Tehran and the Houthis that is far more nuanced. What this relationship is and what it is not, with its domestic, regional and international complexities, can be clarified somewhat by analyzing the ideological and theological underpinnings of both groups, and the power structures that currently govern Sana’a and large parts of northern Yemen. A preliminary reading of the structure of the Houthi regime and an examination of its discourse and imagery shows that the Houthis are in part indebted to the Islamic Republic of Iran for establishing a body of language, symbols of resistance and revolution, as well as an organizational structure to draw on.

The following paper examines this, as well as how the ideology of revolution, with its basis in Shia theological concepts and the realities of the regional order, underpins the connections between the Houthis and Iran. This paper does not, however, examine the extent of direct Iranian involvement in the Yemen War, which is the subject of much dispute. International reports have alleged that Iran is involved in illegally supplying the Houthis with arms, fuel and money.[2] Attempts by various media and political actors to describe the conflict, now in its fifth year, as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran usually overlook the Houthis’ other means of support in Yemen. For instance, on the financial front, the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen estimated the Houthis had access to a minimum of 407 billion Yemeni rials (US$1.62 billion at the fixed rate in 2017, the time of the research) annually from the national economy in areas they control, and that they generate revenues from taxes and customs, telecommunications, blackmail of merchants and fuel trading on the black market.[3] Thus, while the authors acknowledge that an assessment of any direct command-and-control links between Tehran and the Houthis deserves greater research, it is beyond the scope of this article.

Tehran’s Revolutionary Doctrine and the ‘Axis of Resistance’
A number of distinct historical processes resulted in the Iranian Revolution of 1979 that led to the fall of the repressive regime of the shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. It was a multi-class revolution with diverse bases of support, including left-wing workers’ unions, liberal intellectuals, the middle class, students, religious conservatives and more.[4] While Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s brand of clerical Islamism came to dominate the revolution, it was far from the only ideology motivating protesters. Anti-imperialism, nationalism, republicanism, socialism and non-clerical forms of Islamism featured prominently in anti-shah revolutionary discourses.[5]

While “exporting the revolution” was a key doctrine of the clerical regime established in Iran after 1979,[6] the long war with Iraq and the limited appeal of an explicitly Twelver Shia ideology in the majority Sunni Middle East led to a certain amount of pragmatism in Iran’s search for regional allies and proxies. As such, Iranian support for foreign groups is not necessarily tied to direct religious affiliation, but rather rests with wider ideological principles such as anti-imperialism and opposition to Israel, the United States and its allies such as Saudi Arabia.[7] Alongside military and political backing for Twelver Shia groups that Iran had a direct hand in founding and nuturing, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Kata’ib Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in Iraq, Tehran lends material support to the Alawite-dominated regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Sunni Palestinian groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ),[8] and it has increased its economic and diplomatic relations with (Sunni) Qatar following the Saudi-led embargo in 2017.[9]

Prominent figures within Iran, as well as scholars and analysts of the region, have come to consider various groups and regimes aligned with Tehran as part of an “Axis of Resistance”.[10] While formal alliances exist between some members of the axis,[11] it has not evolved into a formal collective arrangement involving all the state and non-state actors concerned. Of axis members, the Houthis would fit more among those loosely affiliated with Tehran as a result of their opposition to perceived US hegemony in the Middle East and their broadly sharing Iran’s regional aims, rather than those guided by Tehran’s specific interests and explicitly following a Twelver Shia doctrine.

The Houthis and Zaidism vis-a-vis Iran’s Twelverism
Despite adversaries alleging that the Houthi leadership has adopted Twelver Shiism,[12] it is difficult to determine the extent of the religious relationship or doctrinal connection between the Houthis and the Iranian regime. The Houthis adhere to the Zaidi sect (Zaidiyyah) of Shia Islam, which is distinct from the Twelver branch of Shia Islam practiced in Iran, and is often considered to be the closest Shia sect to Sunnism.[13] Zaidis revere the unsuccessful revolt of Zayd ibn Ali against the Umayyad Caliphate in the 8th century, holding him as the rightful fifth Shia imam following Ali ibn Husayn.

Doctrinally, the Zaidis differ from the Twelver school in a number of ways, particularly in their understanding of the concept of the imamate. In Twelver Shiism, there are considered to have been only 12 divinely ordained imams. These descended from the first imam, Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, to the last imam, also known as the Hidden Imam or the Mahdi, who is in occultation until his reappearance, at which point he will destroy evil and bring justice to the world. Zaidis do not believe in the doctrine of the Hidden Imam, and hold that the imamate can pass to any descendent of Ali and Fatimah (the Prophet’s daughter) who is suitably qualified in terms of religious knowledge. For Zaidis, in following the example of Zayd ibn Ali, true imams must fight corrupt rulers and as such they are loaded with social as well as religious symbolism. While Zaidis accept the authority of the imams, they consider them neither divinely ordained nor infallible, which historically has led to a considerable amount of doctrinal flexibility and diversity and has allowed for the incorporation of many Sunni elements into Zaidi religious thought.[14] A Zaidi imamate ruled northern Yemen, to a greater or lesser degree, for more than 1,000 years until the 1962 republican coup d’etat and subsequent North Yemen Civil War, which led to the establishment of the Yemen Arab Republic.[15] Many detractors have accused the Houthis of attempting to revive the Zaidi imamate.[16] Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, the founder and leader of the Houthi movement until his death in 2004, did not call for establishment of the imamate in his lectures,[17] and a spokesman for the Houthis, Mohamed Abdel Salam, explicitly rejected the idea in 2009.[18] However, it is unclear how the group’s ambitions have evolved since taking power in Sana’a.

Roughly a third of the Yemeni population follows Zaidi Islam. While not all Zaidis support the Houthis, and there are reports indicating Ansar Allah recruits from other religious groups,[19] the Houthi insurgency was born out of two Zaidi revivalist groups: the Believing Youth (al-Shabab al-Muminin), a Zaidi religious movement created in the 1990s in opposition to growing Wahhabi and Salafi influence in northern Yemen;[20] and the Party of Truth (Hizb al-Haqq), a Zaidi political party that Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi was a member of parliament for between 1993 and 1997.[21] The origins of the movement in Zaidi revivalism to some extent explain the ideology of the Houthis and their alleged connections with Iran.

Zaidism is not, however, a monolithic sect, and different schools of interpretation long have existed within it. Many of the accusations of the Houthis’ adoption of Twelver Shiism derive from Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi’s alleged adherence to the beliefs of an early school of thought, the Jarudi school (Jarudiyya) of Zaidism, which has been noted by several commentators and scholars.[22] While Zaidism is considered the Shia school of thought closest to Sunnism, within Zaidism the Jarudi school was considered the closest to Twelver Shiism. For example, while moderate Zaidis believe Ali was the rightful successor to the Prophet, they do not consider the companions of the prophet (sahaba) or first three caliphs as guilty of sin for not recognizing Ali’s right to rule. By contrast, and in line with Twelver Shia beliefs, the Jarudi school condemned Abu Bakr, Umar and Othman as unbelievers, and considered the other companions sinful for not recognizing Ali.[23] Zaidis today whose beliefs align with the Jarudi interpretation tend to be more hostile to what they view as the “Sunnification” of Zaidism, and have a strong commitment to the revolutionary elements of Zaidi political thought.[24]

The Houthi Leadership’s Stance Toward Iranian Ideology
Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi did not conceal his fascination with the Iranian model, and he held Ayatollah Khomeini as a just and righteous leader whose efforts to resist Western influence in the Middle East should be imitated. He suggested that the model of the Iranian Revolution was the best example to follow, arguing: “Look at those who have managed to build a great nation. This can be applied to Iran, which has achieved a huge leap since the Islamic Revolution. Are not those (the Iranians) who secure life and produce men and build nations?”[25] Concerned by what he believed to be the humiliation of the Arabs by their Western enemies, most prominently the US and Israel, Al-Houthi saw in Iran the possibility of leading the Arabs toward “dignity and glory,” given its appeal as a Shia and anti-imperialist revolutionary model.[26]

Nevertheless, Al-Houthi on many occasions explicitly rejected Twelver Shiism, for example mocking the concept of the Mahdi and the doctrine of the Hidden Imam.[27] Instead, he distinguished Zaidis as the “elite” among all Islamic sects, the “true believers,” and claimed that revolution against injustice formed the main principle of Zaidi Islam.[28] His commitment to revolution came from “an absolute commitment to the principle [of] ‘commanding what is just and forbidding what is wrong’” in Zaidi thought,[29] a classical Zaidi political theory following from belief in divine justice.[30] While Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi criticized Twelver doctrine, he justified his admiration for Iran, Khomeini and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in terms of administration and action: “Because they went beyond their doctrine, we do not notice at all the doctrinal side of them, because if they abided by the principles of their faith, there would be no jurisprudence and movements and Islamic government.”[31] Alignment with Iran, therefore, did not necessarily come from doctrinal or theological affiliation, but rather a shared ideological principle of revolution against perceived injustices, particularly those stemming from the geopolitical regional status quo.

Through the course of the ongoing conflict in Yemen, however, Iranian influences have increasingly been seen in the promotion of many cultural and religious activities that have no clear links to Zaidi history in Yemen. This includes the commemorations of Ashoura (the mourning of the marytrdom of Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed) and Al-Quds International Day (a yearly event declared by Khomeini to express support for the Palestinian cause and oppose Israel and Zionism). Under the Houthis, Eid al-Ghadir (celebrated by Shia Muslims on the 18th of Dhul-Hijjah, the twelfth month in the Islamic calendar, as the day the Prophet Mohammed designated his son-in-law Ali as his successor to the caliphate)[32] was declared an official holiday with compulsory rallies. Prior to the Houthi takeover, celebrations for Eid al-Ghadir in Yemen were limited to private commemorations in the country’s northern areas. In addition, the widespread use of sectarian symbolism (such as references to the revered Shia imam, Hussein) has been enshrined in Houthi communications and in areas of the country controlled by the group.[33]

From this basis, the discourse, imagery and structure of the Houthi regime under the leadership of Abdelmalek al-Houthi, the current leader of the movement and the brother of Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, will be addressed and compared to that of Iran. While still considered a Zaidi religious leader, Abdelmalek al-Houthi’s rhetoric since the Arab uprisings of 2011 and the takeover of Sana’a in 2014 has emphasized nationalism and the Houthi brand of social justice, downplaying the Zaidi revivalist origins of the Houthi movement.[34]

Slogans and Imagery Reflect Shared Revolutionary Themes
Like Iran’s other allies and proxies in the region, the Houthis draw on a body of anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist and Islamist slogans and images which became popularized by Iran’s Islamic Republic. Indeed, the mindset of the Houthi insurgency owes much to “the scream” (al-sarkha): “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, a curse upon the Jews, victory to Islam.”[35] In this slogan, three pillars of the Houthi ideology with similarities to those of the Iranian revolution are apparent: anti-imperialism (through opposition to the US), anti-Zionism (through opposition to Israel) and Islamism.

Opposition to imperialism, and specifically to US support for the shah’s regime, was one of the main rallying cries of the Iranian Revolution. The Iranian regime since 1979 consistently has stated its opposition to the United States, describing it as the “Great Satan.” As the dominant global power and one with extensive interests in the Middle East, the US is taken as a proxy for imperialism and foreign domination and is highlighted, along with its regional allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, as the key enemy of the “Axis of Resistance.” The slogan of “death to America,” repeated in Iranian mosques throughout the years since Iran’s revolution, was also adopted in the slogan of the Houthi movement, and opposition to the US sits at the heart of its ideology.

The pernicious US role in the region was also a focus of Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi’s lectures, in which he argued among other things that the US was attempting “to force their culture upon us, to occupy our countries and to wage a war against our religion.”[36] Given that the Saudi-led military coalition’s efforts in Yemen have been heavily supported by arms sales and intelligence provided by Western powers, the Houthis see themselves as engaged in a broader anti-imperialist struggle.[37]

Similarly, both Iran and the Houthis share an opposition to Israel, although the Iranian government has been much more careful to avoid language targeting Jewish people as a whole, focusing instead on opposing Israel as a political entity. Abdelmalek al-Houthi has stated that in a future conflict between Hezbollah and Israel in Lebanon, he would send Houthi fighters to support Hezbollah.[38] It should be noted that both groups claim to reject literal interpretations of such slogans, saying it is the death of US and Israeli policies rather than that of Americans and Israelis themselves that they seek.[39]

Figure 1 – Image of the scream, which is used as a Houthi movement flag, its translation, and the flag of Iran

The takbir, “God is great”, is a widely used Islamic phrase that can be seen repeated along the red and green bands in the Iranian flag (as well as in the flags of Iraq and Afghanistan). There are also similarities between the Houthi and Iranian flags in terms of the three basic colors: green, which in Iran has historically represented nature, unity and growth, but also has Quranic associations with paradise; white, representing peace; and red, representing the blood of martyrs.[40]

As a political entity the Houthis dubbed themselves Ansar Allah (Supporters of God), similar to Lebanese Hezbollah (Party of God). An early emblem widely associated with the Houthis and used outside of Yemen by Iranian and Lebanese media, apparently without the group’s objection, shared common elements and features with those of Hezbollah and the seal of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary groups such as Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and Kataeb Hezbollah also employ similar images in their logos.

Figure 2 – Logo of the IRGC, logo ascribed to Ansar Allah and logo of Hezbollah

The three designs contain the same elements and structure:

A Quranic verse above the logo, emphasizing an Islamic ideology, suggests that support for the group is a religious obligation. The three verses are as follows:
“Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power”[41] — Iranian Revolutionary Guards
“Oh you who believe! Be you helpers (supporters) of God”[42] — Ansar Allah
“It is the fellowship (party) of God that must certainly triumph”[43] — Hezbollah
The symbol of the globe, suggesting a universalist ideology and ambition, and connections to groups beyond the local and national level.[44]
A raised hand holding a rifle, followed by the name of the organization, symbolizing resistance and (armed) struggle.
An olive branch, symbolizing peace.
A book, the Quran, further emphasizing the Islamic ideology of the groups.
The similarity of these slogans and symbols is evidence not necessarily of direct Iranian command and control, but rather of the shared revolutionary objectives among the groups. The emblem associated with Ansar Allah seen above circulates on Iranian and Lebanese media, and a similar version of it against a yellow background (also the main color of Hezbollah’s flag) was displayed alongside flags associated with other Iran-aligned militias behind Iranian Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh during a January 2020 press conference on Iran’s missile strikes against US bases in Iraq.[45] Notably, however, such an emblem for the Houthis is not used by the Ansar Allah website, the group’s media outlets or at events inside Yemen, where the most common branding is simply the scream.[46] An official emblem currently used by the Houthi movement is less directly comparable visually to the IRGC and Hezbollah logos, missing the gun, fist and olive branch, though it retains the Quranic verse and incorporates the scream:

Figure 3 – Current official emblem of Ansar Allah

Regime Structure: Setting Iranian-Style Controls into Yemen’s Republican Model
Since the 1979 Revolution, the Iranian political system has been based on the doctrine of velâyat-e faqih, The Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist, in which Twelver Shia clerics hold ultimate political power. This system involves both an elected government and a theocratic element.[47] While the elected part, including the parliament (majlis) and the president, does hold significant amounts of power, important decisions on matters such as foreign policy are taken by the supreme leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Guardian Council, with six members chosen by the supreme leader and six by the majlis, provides a check on parliament, ensuring laws are in keeping with Iran’s constitution and the principles of Islamic law. Further, it verifies the outcome of elections and vets candidates for nationwide public office, limiting the democratic element of the political system by disqualifying “insufficiently qualified” candidates, a power regularly used to block the candidacies of reformist politicians.[48]

Two other unelected bodies exercise a huge amount of influence in the Islamic Republic of Iran: the Expediency Council and the IRGC. The Expediency Council, whose members are selected by the supreme leader, was originally created as an advisory body to the supreme leader to mediate disputes between the majlis and the Guardian Council. This has grown into a powerful organization; since 2005, its powers have expanded to include general oversight of other branches of government, and it has the ability to make law that cannot be amended or revised by other elements of government.[49] The Revolutionary Guards are a military organization running parallel to the Iranian Armed Forces (although both are accountable to the supreme leader). As well as fulfilling internal and external security functions – specifically, protecting the regime and coordinating with allied paramilitary groups – the Revolutionary Guards have widespread business interests and many of its veterans hold political office.[50] They have been instrumental in maintaining internal order and crushing opposition, as for example during the 2009 “Green Movement,”[51] and allegedly have provided support in terms of weapons and training to the Houthi movement.[52]

The Houthis effectively seized power in Yemen in September 2014, capturing the capital Sana’a and forcing the Hadi government’s resignation by January 2015. Since ousting the internationally recognized Yemeni government, the Houthis have begun to construct a regime that corresponds to their aspiration to emulate the Iranian revolutionary system. Initially, they formed the Supreme Revolutionary Committee (SRC), which carried out the functions of state administration during their early period in power. In response to an interviewer’s question in 2018 over who has the right to be a part of the committee, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the SRC, said: “The revolution is every member in the integrated and harmonious Yemeni fabric who rejects corruption and believes in values and freedom. It is every member who has rejected tyranny, tutelage, invasion and occupation and who resists aggression, siege and blind dependency.”[53] In reality, however, only trusted relatives of Houthi leader Abdelmalek al-Houthi and loyalists to the movement have occupied committee positions.

In February 2015 the SRC dissolved parliament and, the following year, announced the formation of the Supreme Political Council, which would work under the tutelage of the SRC and consist of five civil and military figures belonging to the Houthi movement and five from the General People’s Congress party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, with whom the Houthis were then allied.[54] Under the supervision of the Supreme Political Council and its president, there is a government theoretically headed by the prime minister and his cabinet, drawing on existing republican structures in Yemen. However, in every ministry, body and government institution, there is a Houthi-appointed supervisor, known as a mushrif, who has final say over decisions in those institutions, a power analogous to the oversight authority of the Iranian Expediency Council. Abdelmalek al-Houthi, the so-called “leader of the revolution,” holds decisive power in Houthi affairs, similar to the position of the supreme leader in Iran, held by Ayatollah Khamenei.

By observing the choice of the president of the Supreme Political Council, an idea can be formed about the nature of the council’s composition and identity. The first president of the council was Saleh al-Sammad, who continued in this position until he was killed by a Saudi-led coalition airstrike in the port city of Hudaydah in April 2018.[55] He was succeeded by Mahdi al-Mashat, a long-time member of Ansar Allah. He worked as office director for Abdelmalek al-Houthi until the movement’s takeover of Sana’a in 2014.[56] This position of power is held by someone intimately linked to the Houthi leader.

The Houthi regime, therefore, seems to be an attempt to maintain the pre-2014 Yemeni republican structure but under the oversight and control of Houthi revolutionary elements. However, it is difficult to make concrete judgements because the roles of Houthi officials are not formally laid down in a constitution or legal framework. The system is nevertheless comparable to, although not an exact mirror of, the Iranian political system. Like in the Iranian system, the “leader of the revolution” (analogous to the supreme leader) is the pre-eminent authority and holds decisive sway over political decisions. With its control and oversight of the various departments of government, the Supreme Political Council can be compared to the Iranian Expediency Council. The Supreme Revolutionary Committee appears comparable to the Guardian Council, in that it seeks to ensure the continuation of the revolution as evidenced by the dismissal of parliament and its initial establishment of a temporary government. The military wing of the Houthi movement is analogous to the Revolutionary Guards, responsible for security and defending the revolution in the ongoing civil war.

The Houthi movement is best not viewed as a proxy of Iran, but rather as a movement with similar ideological aims and interests which has sought to imitate some aspects of the Iranian Revolution.

In terms of regime structure, discourse and imagery, the Houthis appear to owe a great deal to the experience of the Islamic Republic. Nevertheless, this is not to suggest that the Houthis are trying to recreate the Iranian experience — even though comments from Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi suggest the organization was built on an ideology that viewed Iran as a model for emulation. Rather, in pursuit of their own ends, and with their own religious and ideological commitment to revolution, they have drawn on resources shared by members of the so-called “Axis of Resistance”, portraying themselves as a potential part of an overall movement of regional anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist groups.

Mohammed Almahfali is a research fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University. He received his Ph.D. in Arabic literature from Cairo University in 2014 and worked at Hadramawt University in Yemen as an assistant professor. Dr. Almahfali’s research interests include equitable access to health, youth initiatives, capacity-building in higher education and sustainable post-conflict recovery strategies to address coming challenges in Yemen.

James Root recently completed his MA in Middle Eastern Studies at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University, with a thesis titled “Imagining a Revolutionary Iran: National Narratives in the Revolutionary Discourse of the Mojahedin-e Khalq.” His research interests include revolutionary Islam, historical narratives and ideology.

The Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies is an independent think-tank that seeks to foster change through knowledge production with a focus on Yemen and the surrounding region. The Center’s publications and programs, offered in both Arabic and English, cover diplomatic, political, social, economic and security-related developments, aiming to impact policy locally, regionally, and internationally.

1. “The Houthis .. A Jaroudian division that has shifted from Zaydism to Shiism, believes in Yemen’s role in “Resurrection Wars,” attacks the companions and is linked to Iran, [AR]” CNN Arabic, March 26, 2015,; Adel al-Selwi, “Journey of the Houthis from Maran Caves to the Republican Palace in Sanaa [AR],” Alkhaleej, March 23, 2015,
2. “Letter dated 25 January 2019 from the Panel of Experts on Yemen addressed to the President of the Security Council,” Security Council, January 25, 2019,; 3. “Letter dated 26 January 2018 from the Panel of Experts on Yemen addressed to the President of the Security Council,” Security Council, January 26, 2018, 24, 28-31,
“Letter dated 26 January 2018 from the Panel of Experts on Yemen addressed to the President of the Security Council,” Security Council, January 26, 2018, 185-199,
4. See, for example, John Foran & Jeff Goodwin, “Revolutionary outcomes in Iran and Nicaragua: Coalition fragmentation, war, and the limits of social transformation,” Theory and Society 22, 1993, 209-247; and V. Moghadam, “Populist Revolution and the Islamic State in Iran” in Revolution in the World System edited by T. Boswell, (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1989), 147-163.
5. G. Burns, “Ideology, Culture, and Ambiguity: The Revolutionary Process in Iran,” Theory and Society, 25:3, 1996, 349–388.
6. See, for example, Shireen T. Hunter, “Iran and the spread of revolutionary Islam,” Third World Quarterly 10:2, 1988, 730–749; and D. Menasheri, The Iranian Revolution and the Muslim World, (San Francisco: Westview Press, 1990).
7. Thomas Juneau, “Iran’s policy towards the Houthis in Yemen: a limited return on a modest investment,” International Affairs, 2016, 92: 3, 647–663.
8. Daniel Levin, “Iran, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” July 9, 2018,
9. “Qatar blockade: Iran sends five planeloads of food,” BBC, June 11, 2017,
10. Also known as the “Axis of Refusal”, usually the Axis of Resistance is taken to include Iran, the Syrian regime under Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah. Iran-sponsored and -aligned Popular Mobilization Front groups in Iraq as well as Hamas and/or PIJ are also sometimes included. For more information see: Payam Mohseni and Hussein Kalout, “Iran’s Axis of Resistance Rises, How It’s Forging a New Middle East,” Foreign Affairs, January 24, 2017,; Also see Ewan Stein, “Ideological Codependency and Regional Order: Iran, Syria, and the Axis of Refusal”, Political Science & Politics 50:3, 2017, 676-680; and Rola El Husseini, “Hezbollah and the Axis of Refusal: Hamas, Iran and Syria,” Third World Quarterly 31:5, 2010, 803-815.
11. Farhad Pouladi, “Iran and Syria sign pact against ‘common threats’”, Agence France Presse, June 16, 2006,
12. Ghamdan al-Doqaimi, “Has the Houthi group turned to the Twelver Doctrine? [AR],” Iraa Sawtak, December 22, 2017:
13. “Zaydi Shia,” World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. Minority Rights Group International, January 2018,
14. B. Salmoni, B. Loidolt, and M. Wells, “Zaydism: Overview and Comparison to Other Versions of Shi’ism,” Appendix B, Regime and Periphery in Northern Yemen: The Huthi Phenomenon, (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2010).
15. “The Houthis: The Military Power and Sources of Support [AR],” Strategic Fiker Center for Studies, May 18, 2015,
16. Nadwa Al-Dawsari, “The Houthis’ endgame in Yemen,” Aljazeera, December 21, 2017,
17. Hamad H. Albloshi, “Ideological Roots of the Ḥūthī Movement in Yemen,” Journal of Arabian Studies, 6:2, 2016, 147.
18. “The imbalance between the Zaydis and the Salafists ignites the war in Yemen [AR],” Al-Etihad, October 3, 2009,
19. Charles Schmitz, “Yemen’s Ansar Allah: Causes and Effects of Its Pursuit of Power,” Middle East Institute, February 14, 2015,
20. For a detailed look at the origins of the Zaidi revivalist movement and the Zaidi-Wahhabi conflict, see Ahmed Nagi, “Yemen’s Houthis Used Multiple Identities to Advance,” Carnegie Middle East Center, March 19, 2019,
21. Najam Iftikhar Haider, “What do the leaders of Yemen’s Houthis want?” Aljazeera America, February 7, 2015,
22. Jamal Eddin Esmaeel Abo Husain, “Ansar Allah the Houthis’ organization.. their sectarian composition and political battles, [AR],” al-Sabah Newspaper, September 2, 2014,; Abdullah Lux, “Yemen’s last Zaydī Imām: the shabāb al ‘muʾmin, the Malāzim, and ‘ḥizb allāh’ in the thought of Ḥusayn Badr al‐Dīn al‐Ḥūthī,” Contemporary Arab Affairs, 2:3, 2009, 369-434.
23. Etan Kohlberg, “Some Zaydi Views on the Companions of the Prophet,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Volume 39, Issue 1, February 1976, 91-98.
24. Eleonora Ardemagni, “The Huthis: Adaptable Players in Yemen’s Multiple Geographies,” Center of Research on the Southern System and the Wider Mediterranean of the Catholic University of Milan-CRiSSMA Working paper n. 25/2019, EDUCatt, Milano 2019, pp. 31-39.
25. Yehya Qassem Abo Awadhah, (2014). Bright Pages of the Life of the Martyred Leader Hussein Badr al-Din al–Houthi [AR], 2nd Edition, (Sa’ada, Yemen: Martyred Zaid Ali Foundation, 2014), 46.
26. Albloshi, “Ideological Roots of the Ḥūthī Movement in Yemen,” 155.
27. Lux, “Yemen’s last Zaydī Imām …,” 397-398
28. Hussein Badreddin al-Ḥouthi, “In the shadows of a prayer of ‘The Honorable Morals’ (Second Lesson) [AR] (Fī zilāl duʿāʾ makārim al-akhlāq (al-dars al-thānī),” Saʿda, 2 Feb. 2002, as quoted in Albloshi, “Ideological Roots of the Ḥūthī Movement in Yemen,” 157.
29. Lux, “Yemen’s last Zaydī Imām …,” 387.
30. Najam Haider, “Zaydism: A Theological and Political Survey,” Religion Compass 4/7, 2010, 436-442.
31. Ahmed Mohammed al-Dughaish, Houthis and the Houthi Phenomenon [AR], (Sana’a: Khalid ibn al-Waleed Publishing, 2009) 37.
32. Al-Dughaish, Houthis and the Houthi Phenomenon [AR], 46-52.
33. Farea al-Muslimi, “How Sunni-Shia Sectarianism Is Poisoning Yemen,” Carnegie Middle East Center, December 29, 2015,
34. Tom Finn, “Abdel-Malek al-Houthi: from shadow rebel leader to kingmaker,” Middle East Eye, September 26, 2014,
35. “The scream” was allegedly first formulated by Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi in response to the killing of a Palestinian child by Israeli soldiers in 2000 and was first used publicly in a lecture he gave in 2002. Abdullah Lux, “Yemen’s Last Zaydi Imam,” p. 390.
36. Albloshi, “Ideological Roots of the Ḥūthī Movement in Yemen,” p. 151.
37. Alex Emmons, “Secret Report Reveals Saudi Incompetence and Widespread Use of U.S. Weapons in Yemen,” April 15, 2019,
38. Elie Hanna, Khalil Kawtharani and Doaa Sweidan, “Al-Houthi: We are ready to fight alongside Hezbollah against Israel [AR],” Al-Akhbar, March 23, 2018,
39. “Rise of the Houthis,” Newsweek, February 9, 2015,
40. “40 Years Later, Iran’s Flag Remains a Unique Symbol of its Revolution,” Ajam Media Collective, February 11, 2019;
41. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, “The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an,” Apple Books,
42. “Supporters” is closer to the slogan’s intended meaning; Abdullah Yusuf Ali, “The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an.”
43. “Party” serves better in this context than fellowship; Abdullah Yusuf Ali, “The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an.”
44. “What is the symbol of the Revolutionary Guards Corps? [Farsi]” Fars News Agency, August 1, 2012,
45. “IRGC Aerospace Force Commander: Iran Missile Strike Eradicated US Horror Formula Imposed Since WWII,” Al Manar TV, January 9, 2020,
46. See, for example, “A charitable response to Ansar Allah’s response to America’s decision regarding the Revolutionary Guards,” Al-Alam TV, April 9, 2019, رد مفحم لأنصار الله على قرار اميركا بشأن حرس الثورة or “Ansar Allah: Flying operations carry out extensive operations towards Abha International Airport,” Elnashra TV, June 17, 2019, انصار الله: الطيران المسير ينفذ عمليات واسعة باتجاه مطار أبها الدولي
47. For an overview of the Iranian political system, see, “The Islamic Republic’s Power Centers,” Council on Foreign Relations, January 5, 2018,
48. Ali Alfoneh, “The Revolutionary Guards’ Role in Iranian Politics”, Middle East Quarterly, 2008, 3-14.
49. Maziyar Ghiabi, “The council of expediency: crisis and statecraft in Iran and beyond,” Middle Eastern Studies, 2019, 55:5, 837-853.
50. Wehrey et al., The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp., (Arlington, RAND Corporation, 2009).
51. Ray Takeyh, “How Powerful Is Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps?” Council on Foreign Relations, June 16, 2016,
52. “Iran’s Revolutionary Guards deny giving missiles to Houthis: Tasnim news,” Reuters, March 27, 2018;
53. Ahmed Abdulwahab, “Sputnik publishes the first part of its interview with Mohammed Ali al-Houthi [AR]”, July 8, 2018, Sputnik News,محمد-علي-الحوثي-أنصار-الله/
54. “Yemen’s Shiite rebels announce takeover of country,” The Columbian, February 5, 2015,
55. Marwa Rashad and Sarah Dadouch, “Saudi-led airstrike kills top Houthi official in Yemen,” Reuters, April 23, 2018,
56. Brecht Jonkers, “Mahdi Al-Mashat sworn in as president of Yemen,” Uprising Today, April 25, 2018,

Original: How Iran’s Islamic Revolution Does, and Does Not, Influence Houthi Rule in Northern Yemen – Sana’a Center For Strategic Studies

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