Yemen or Iran: Which One is in US Sights?
Nikolai BOBKIN | 01.04.2015 | OPINION

Yemen or Iran: Which One is in US Sights?

The situation in the Middle East has been deteriorating since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Whatever has happened in the region since then was the result of US intervention into the internal affairs of the Middle East countries, let it be Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria or Yemen. In an interview with Vice News, President Obama said the rise of Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL) can be directly linked to America’s excursion into Iraq under Bush. «Two things: One is, ISIL is a direct outgrowth of Al-Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion,» Obama said in an interview with VICE News. «Which is an example of unintended consequences. Which is why we should generally aim before we shoot». 

Saying yes to the operation against the Shia movement Ansar Allah (Houthis) Americans risk facing «unexpected consequences» one more time. No doubt the Houthi movement is the only force in Yemen able to counter the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State (IS). The Yemen’s overthrown President Hadi was blamed for his close ties with Sunni radicals connected to AQAP and IS. As soon as the Houthis came to power, the AQAP militants gave an oath of allegiance to the Islamic State and started to fight the Houthis. Once again Obama aims at wrong terrorists. 

The United States has been considering Iran to be the main evil in the Middle East, no matter there has been no evidence of any terrorist threat coming from this country. Moreover, today Washington has to look for ways to cooperate with Tehran to fight Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria. But in Yemen Americans side with these forces to counter the Iran’s influence. Making a theatre of the absurd out of foreign policy decision making process has become a routine matter in the United States. Saudi Arabia affirms that the air campaign in Yemen is conducted upon the request of the overthrown Sunni government. Washington says the same thing. Moscow has called for immediate end of bloodshed in Yemen and rebuked Washington for failing to see the difference between the conflicts in Yemen and Ukraine. The United States supports the escaped President of Yemen but it did not support former President of Ukraine Yanukovych which had to leave the country. The US sticks to the policy of double standards again – the both situations could be managed with the help of negotiations. "I have to use the hoary old cliché - the double standards are evident - although we wanted neither the developments in Ukraine nor the current events in Yemen," Lavrov told a news conference at the end of his recent visit to Guatemala on March 27. 

The belated reaction of the United States on the change of power in Yemen shows that the Washington’s decision to support the aggression against Yemen was motivated by its policy aimed at countering Iran. Barack Obama was elected for the second term to strengthen the US international stand, especially in the Islamic world, as he seeks a place in history. The main mission to accomplish in the Middle East is the closure of Iranian nuclear dossier and, the normalization of relations with Iran, if possible. For 35 years (since Jimmy Carter) no one of US presidents has been able to do it. Obama will hardly become the one. It’s not only because of the Iran’s obstinacy or the special position taken by Congress – the obstacles on the way of reaching the nuclear agreement with Iran. 

The decision to join the war against Yemen was taken under the influence of the American establishment which believes that Iran should be prevented from becoming a regional leader. According to Washington’s vision, the war against Yemeni Shiites backed up by Tehran is waged to show the Islamic Republic that it lacks strength to dominate the Middle East. The United States had no problem with finding those who would do the job. Saudi Arabia considers Iran as a rival to threaten its position. Egypt has never supported the Islamic revolution in Iran and has always been hostile to Iran. The neighboring Gulf states have traditionally been afraid of the Persian state being protected by the Saudi Arabia’s umbrella. Morocco and Jordan have joined the war «to keep company» and please Washington. 

A two-day Arab summit ended on March 28 with a vow to defeat Iranian-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen and the formal unveiling of plans to form a joint Arab intervention force, setting the stage for a potentially dangerous clash between U.S.-allied Arab states and Tehran over influence in the region. A summit resolution said the newly unveiled joint Arab defense force would be deployed at the request of any Arab nation facing a national security threat and that it would also be used to combat terrorist groups. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby is responsible for preparations. The chiefs of staff of the Arab League will meet within a month and would have an additional three months to work out the details to be presented at a meeting of the league's Joint Defense Council. Arabs have not taken such a consolidated decision since the war with Israel. 

Turkey has joined the Arab coalition against Iran. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said that Tehran had to revise its stand on the conflicts raging in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. According to him, "Iran is trying to dominate the region" and must withdraw forces from Yemen, Syria and Iraq». The Turkish President said in a press conference recently: «Iran is trying to dominate the region. Can this be allowed? This has begun annoying us, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. This is really not tolerable and Iran has to see this,» adding that the conflict in Yemen has evolved into a sectarian fight and urging Iran to withdraw. "Iran has to change its view. It has to withdraw any forces, whatever it has in Yemen, as well as Syria and Iraq and respect their territorial integrity," he continued. His words evoked a wave of indignation in Iran. Mansour Haghighatpour, a member of the parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, said that Erdogan’s visit should «come under review». The events in Yemen could spark a serious crisis in the relations between Iran and its Arab neighbors. Pakistan has already joined the Arab coalition and promised to fully support the war led by Saudi Arabia against the Yemeni Shiites. 

The military operation is code-named Operation Decisive Storm. Indeed, the whole region appears to be hit by a big storm. The moment to launch the operation was not chosen at random. Iran is on the brink of reaching an agreement on nuclear program and closing the dossier. The chances are high for achieving a success at the talks with the P5+1 group. The Iran’s enemies in the region have understood that the confrontation between Tehran and the West may be over soon. Few believe Iran will really go nuclear. The threat is not measured by the number of centrifuges but rather by the number of the countries where Iran has strong influence. The diplomatic solution of the Iran’s nuclear problem will change the whole situation in the Middle East. Yemen is not a periphery in the system of regional security. 

The country lies along the main sea route from Europe to Asia and the sea lanes going across the Red Sea. Huge supplies of oil are daily transported across the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean, from Saudi Arabia to Asia. The Bab-el-Mandeb is a strait located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has defined seven world oil chokepoints which are a critical part of global energy security because of the high volume of petroleum and other liquids transported through their narrow straits. The Bab-el-Mandeb is one of them. Iran controls another critically important checkpoint - the Hormuz Strait. The West views the prospects for a Shia government coming to power in Yemen from point of view of its energy security. Those who control Yemen can block the Persian Gulf preventing tankers from reaching the Suez Canal and leaving Europe without oil. Saudi-led naval forces say they have taken full control of Yemen’s ports and have imposed a blockade on them as Saudi Arabia’s deadly airstrikes continue in the Arabian Peninsula country. Riyadh plans to stay. 

The war in Yemen is a challenge to Tehran, an attempt to provoke it into taking retaliatory measures. True, Iran did not wait for settlement of the conflict in Yemen and started to establish government-to-government relations with the Houthis leadership. De facto it has recognized it as Yemeni government.

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