For Iran, Ansarallah (more commonly known as the Houthis) is, arguably, the most convenient proxy to leverage in its current conflict with the United States. Unlike Hezbollah or the Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq, Iran has hidden its support for the Houthis. And while activating its Syrian or Iraqi assets risks provoking a confrontation with US forces, Tehran knows that the US has no direct strategic stake in Yemen—outside of combatting ISIS and al-Qaeda.
For the Houthis, their partnership with Iran became necessary after they alienated nearly every single Yemeni ally they once had, leaving Iran and its transnational network as their sole source of support.
Even so, Iran’s weaponization of the Houthis was only possible because the Islamic Republic spent several years arming and training the group and decades cultivating critical intellectual, cultural, and ideological ties with North Yemen’s Zaidi community—the religious sect from which the Houthis originate.