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Wednesday, July 20, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Lack of authority in northern Yemen seen as 'golden opportunity' for Iran

CAIRO — Iranian-backed Shi'ite rebels have renewed their war in Yemen.


Officials said the Believing Youth movement has renewed military operations near the Yemeni border with Saudi Arabia. They said Shi'ite rebels, called Houthis, were battling regime-backed tribes in the northern Yemeni province of Jawf.

"The assessment by the Shi'ites and the Iranians is that neither Saleh nor his successor will be capable of restoring control over the north, and this presents a golden opportunity for Teheran," an official said.

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Officials said the Shi'ite rebels were exploiting the absence of a central authority in northern Yemen. They said the Believing Youth was receiving aid and training from Iran in an effort to destabilize the Yemeni-Saudi border.

"The Shi'ites are fighting the Sunnis and the regime is playing a very minor role," an official said.

Officials said more than 30 people have been killed in fighting between the Believing Youth and Sunni militias. They identified the main militia as belonging to the Islah opposition party, with elements aligned with Al Qaida.

The Shi'ites have been deployed in army bases and other checkpoints abandoned by the Saleh regime in May 2011. Officials said Islah has demanded that the Believing Youth withdraw from an army base in Jawf that controls key areas of the province.

The Believing Youth has staged several rebellions against Saleh, the last of which ended in early 2010. During the last revolt, Shi'ite fighters captured at least two Saudi towns just across from the border with Yemen.

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