[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader’s awareness.]
Takeaway key: Iran could provide technical assistance to bolster the Houthi movement’s ability to gather intelligence and suppress dissent. A Yemeni non-governmental organization (NGO) reported that Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah sent logistical and technical support to Yemen to help the Houthis exploit their control over the national telecommunications infrastructure. This support will help the Houthis suppress domestic dissent and strengthen their control over northern Yemen.
The Houthi movement is likely acquiring new systems to increase its ability to monitor private communications. TeleYemen, a telecommunications company likely controlled by the Houthis, may have started using a “bandwidth management system” in 2021. Such a system would allow the Houthis to control information and monitor private communications, according to the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen. TeleYemen defended this purchase, affirming the bandwidth management system simply filters out content that violates “Islamic law and doctrine”. The source of this bandwidth management system is unclear. The Yemeni government has intercepted other telecommunications equipment smuggled across the Yemeni-Omani border, a known transit route for Iranian weapons bound for the Houthis.
Iran is likely helping the Houthis use telecommunications data to monitor and control Yemenis. Yemeni NGO Regain Yemen *reported that Iranian intelligence organizations and companies and Lebanese Hezbollah provide logistical and technical expertise to the Houthi movement to “exploit [telecommunications]for intelligence as part of an “Intelligence Investment Partnership”. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps may have become *involved in the Yemeni telecommunications sector from 2018 by buying shares. The Iranian regime has experience in building a police and surveillance state and is likely seeking to share that expertise to strengthen the Houthis’ already strong control over Yemen’s telecommunications sector and move the Houthis forward*efforts build an equally strong authoritarian state.
Tehran’s support for Houthi social control efforts is part of a broader effort to shield regional allies from internal instability. The Iranian regime built an adaptive and sophisticated police and surveillance state domestically and is now exporting its social control capabilities to friendly states to help them suppress dissent. Tehran shipped internal security forces, such as its national police, in Iraq and Syria to quell civil unrest in 2019 and 2011, respectively. The diet tooshare Techniques on Internet Surveillance and Disruption” with Syrian President Bashar al Assad at the start of the Syrian Civil War.
The Houthis will use increased surveillance and control of the Yemeni population to consolidate their position in northern Yemen, cementing an Iranian partner along the Red Sea and Saudi Arabia’s southern border. Investments in telecommunications infrastructure are not always smart, of course, and a more efficient telecommunications infrastructure would probably to improve economic conditions in Yemen. However, the Houthis have already demonstrated their willingness to exploit this infrastructure. Collecting alms from the telecommunications sector is the goal of the Houthi-led government. second plus profitable source of income. The Houthis too *use telecommunications control finance war effort. Abdullah Musfir al Shaer, the Houthi official in charge of the telecommunications sector, is the brother of Saleh Musfir al Shaer, the Sanctioned by the United States head of the Houthi military logistics support organization. Saleh Musfir and the Houthis used this authority to *to input the resources and assets of the Yemeni telecommunications company Sabafon in September 2019. seizures help fund the Houthi war effort.
The Houthis will use enhanced surveillance and censorship capabilities to more effectively suppress internal opposition. Already the Houthis to possess and harass political opponents and religious minorities. They will likely use a more capable monitoring device to identify, detail, and then torture activists and other political opponents, especially in urban areas where threatens of protests can be bigger. This consolidation of Houthi control will harm human rights in Houthi-controlled areas and promote the spread of digital authoritarianism in the Middle East.