A Houthi delegation from Yemen visiting a string of Iran-allied countries to drum up support for their cause has stoked controversy, after they were filmed alongside a notorious Iraqi militia fighter threatening Saudi Arabia.
The Houthi delegation, led by spokesman Mohammed Abdel Salam, arrived in Baghdad from Oman on Sunday evening.
A source inside the Iraqi foreign ministry told the pan-Arab daily al-Araby al-Jadeed that: "Upon arrival, the delegation met with the Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Iraqi politicians and leaders in the ruling national coalition.”
On Monday evening and Tuesday morning, the Houthis also held talks with al-Hashd al-Shaabi, a coalition of Iraqi Shia militias.
During these meetings, the Houthi delegates were filmed meeting Ayyub al-Rubaie, better known by his nom de guerre Abu Azrael or "Angel of Death", who pledged to fight in Yemen alongside the Houthis against Saudi Arabia.
An Iraqi, al-Rubaie is a high-ranking commander in the Imam Ali Brigades, which are part of al-Hashd al-Shaabi.
In a video clip shared widely on Arab social media on Monday, he is seen with the Houthi delegation threatening Saudi Arabia.
“We are coming for you, Saudis, from Yemen,” he is heard saying. “Where will you flee? We will grind you into dust!” he threatened as the Houthi delegation laughed in the background.
The Iraqi source added “The two sides discussed a joint strategy to co-operate with the Houthis against the Arab Coalition and carry out joint operations in Yemen.”
“The militia leaders agreed with the Houthi delegation that they would begin creating a faction of the Imam Ali Brigades to be sent to Yemen as the first step in their cooperation,” the source said.
The delegation's visit is part of efforts to drum up support for their "High Political Council", which is comprised of both Houthis and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his party, the General People’s Congress (GPC).
The Houthis and forces loyal to Saleh seized control of Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, in 2014, forcing Yemen's internationally recognised President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi into exile in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have been battling the Houthis in support of forces loyal to Hadi since March 2015.
The Saudi-led coalition had banned the High Political Council from returning to Sanaa, meaning they were forced to stay in neighbouring Oman.
Arab media reported that the delegation would travel on from Baghdad to Beirut in Lebanon and then Tehran, the Iranian capital.