Iran's supreme leader: US will fail in Yemen

Iran's supreme leader: US will fail in Yemen
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Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Thursday escalated a war of words with the U.S. and Saudi Arabia over a Saudi-led airstrike campaign in Yemen to shore up government forces against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. 

"The Saudis will certainly face loss in this issue and won't emerge victorious at all," he said on Twitter. "The US will also fail & face loss in this issue." 

Khamenei called the airstrike campaign a "genocide" against Yemeni civilians that can be prosecuted in international courts. 

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Although he called for peace talks earlier in the day, fighting between the Shia Houthi rebels and pro-Western government forces continued Thursday, threatening to drag the U.S. into a proxy war with Iran. 

The U.S. is part of the Saudi-led Arab coalition against the rebels, which began airstrikes two weeks ago. About a dozen U.S. military personnel are supplying the coalition with intelligence and logistics support. On Wednesday, the U.S. military began to refuel Saudi fighter jets, and officials said the U.S. was boosting weapon supplies. 

Support for the coalition has called into question whether the U.S. can negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran but counter its proxy forces in Yemen. 

On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry warned Iran that the U.S. is "not going to stand by" while the region is destabilized. 

“What we’ve made clear to our friends and allies is we can do two things at the same time. We have an ability to understand that an Iran with a nuclear weapon is a greater threat than an Iran without one," he said on "PBS NewsHour."

"And at the same time we have an ability to be able to stand up to interference that is inappropriate or against international law, or contrary to the region’s stability and interest and those of our friends.” 

The Houthis unseated the pro-Western government under Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi from Sanaa in October, leading to chaos throughout the country and disrupting U.S. counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda's affiliate there.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter acknowledged on Wednesday that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has made territorial gains in Yemen. 

With the conflict entering its third week, there is no signs of abatement.  

On Thursday, local reports said the Houthi rebels had seized Ataq, a provincial capital in southeastern Yemen, which represents their first significant gain since the Saudi-led airstrike campaign began two weeks ago. 

Although the coalition has also imposed an air and sea blockade on Yemen, Iran sent a destroyer and another naval ship to waters off Yemen on Wednesday — raising the risks of confrontation.

So far, the Houthis and affiliated forces have seized 10 of Yemen's 21 provinces, according to The Associated Press.