By Alireza Hashemi

Why does Western MSM doggedly insists on branding Yemen’s Ansarullah “Iran-backed”?

October 9, 2019

TEHRAN - During the past five years, the western audience has been repeatedly told by the western mainstream media that those fighting Saudi Arabia in Yemen are Iran’s puppets fighting to take the helm in the country.

The latest wave of such reports came following the September 14 strikes into Aramco facilities in Saudi Arabia when a mountain of commentary emerged blaming Iran as the main culprit. 

This is while Yemen’s Ansarullah had claimed responsibility for the attack, and no compelling evidence was suggested confirming Iran had anything to do with the attack.

Both Tehran and Ansarullah have denied claims of Iranian weapons deliveries to Yemen, a country awash in weapons. 

A senior Iranian general recently told China’s Phoenix TV Iran “provides advisory and intellectual assistance” to the popular forces in Yemen. This support is within the framework of the Iranian Constitution, which says the country is obliged to assist the oppressed around the globe. 

Interestingly, the same media outlets that are screaming about Iran almost never point to the full-fledged western military support for Saudi Arabia in a comparable fashion. 

It’s now public knowledge that most of the arms used to bombard Yemen are made in the US, UK and other self-proclaimed champions of human rights. 

They also prefer not to highlight the fact that Saudi Arabia itself is widely seen to be a British creation. 

Moreover, we never see a similar branding in the MSM narrative on other conflicts, notably in Syria, where Saudi Arabia and the US have been exposed to be funding and training militants fighting to topple the Syrian government. 

Good guys and bad guys

The western outlets, claimed to be freest and fairest in the world, have for a long time been favoring Saudi Arabia and its wealthy Arab neighbors in their reporting. 

But this pro-Saudi narrative was apparently woven by the western governments and parroted by a wide array of MSM outlets in the mid-2010s. 

In fact, Saudi Arabia and the US predicated the 2015 invasion of Yemen at least in part on the Iran-Ansarullah connection, arguing that the group is an Iranian proxy destroying democracy in Yemen. 

But Ansarullah, of which the Houthis are only a part, are homegrown. They launched a religious revival in northern Yemen in the 1990s, after Saudi-funded preachers started propagating the Saudi brand of Wahhabi Islam in their country. 

Besides, they have fought a couple of wars against Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-backed government of Yemen since the 1980s.

In fact, disputes between Yemen and Saudi Arabia have a quite long history. 

The three southern Saudi provinces of Jizan, Asir, and Najran were incorporated into the country in 1934, when Ibn Saud, who had founded Saudi Arabia just two years earlier, won a war of aggression against Yemen. 
So why are the western governments and media bent on portraying Ansarullah as Iran-backed?

Pigeonholing technique

The narrative of “state-controlled” insurgents is a common one for governments to use when facing a movement they cannot overcome. 

In the propaganda war, the last thing any dictatorship wants is for the public to view the forces fighting them as common people.  

So they come up with a story in which the rebellion is actually a villainous conspiracy plotted by a foreign power. 

Once a rebellion against foreign-backed dictators is pigeon-holed as a proxy controlled by a foreign power, few among the public will listen to what they have to say no matter how factual it may be. 

And this will prevent the movement from raising public awareness of the dictator’s crimes and encouraging others to join the movement. 

Saudi Arabia and the U.S. are going to rewrite the narrative to fit their agenda, no matter if Ansarullah are legitimate or they have real grievances against Saudi Arabia. 

Killing two birds 

The branding will also help propagate an Iranophobic narrative that has been pushed by the western media since the 1979 revolution. 

The western media has in recent years increasingly lamented Iran’s “regional influence” and its desire for world domination. 

The key to this narrative is that the villainous regime in Iran is supporting proxy groups in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria to project its power on the whole region. 

Iran is also locked in a cold war-like showdown with Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, according to this narrative. 

In Yemen, the western media implies Iran is the wicked mastermind behind an insurgency led by the Houthi family, and Saudi Arabia is a savior bent on rescuing democracy in its southern neighbor.

This the narrative would allow the western politicians and media to kill two birds with one stone: Damaging legitimacy of Yemen’s desperate struggle for independence and survival, and tarnishing Iran’s image and bolstering the case for a war against the country. 

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