The US stance on Yemen is defined by two factors. One of them is internal political situation. The two leading parties differ in their views on the Middle East policy, especially when it comes to the question who America should rely on in the region. In some aspects the difference is substantial.
The Democratic Party (or at least the fraction united around President Obama) believes that peaceful settlement of Iranian nuclear issue is crucial for success of US Middle East policy. The White House is ready to make concessions. Actually, it puts up with the fact that finally Iran will go nuclear in about ten years. The US expects Iran to make concessions too, including curbing its regional ambitions. In other words, Iran should not use its influence on Shia communities to detriment of US interests. Probably, a part of US liberal establishment believes it possible to go back to the days before 1979, when Iran played a pivotal role in US Middle East policy and Americans were immediately involved in its nuclear program. At present this scenario is hardly feasible, but nothing can be excluded as events unfold.
The Republican Party takes quite a different stand. Ayatollah Khomeini called the United States «the Great Satan». Now Republicans play «the Great Satan’s» role. They oppose any concessions on the Iran’s nuclear program and insist on toughening sanctions (which are tough enough as they are). Many of them are ready to start a war. They rely on unconditional support of Israeli and Saudi lobbies, which are scared to death by prospects of US-Iran reconciliation. Republicans control Congress. They can oppose the Obama’s Middle East policy, including Iran, Yemen etc.
At that, the US foreign policy decision making needs interparty consensus based on basic premises. The main thing is that, no matter America is still the world leading state, it has already seen its best days. Today the United States is not able to shoulder the burden of funding its clients abroad alone or win wars without allies. It has a great advantage compared with any potential adversary, but not to the extent to justify its claims to global leadership Bush and Clinton aspired to.
The USD is still a global reserve currency, but more and more countries, including US allies, are involved in currency swaps with China. It gradually undermines the position of greenback. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank may become a serious competitor to existing financial institutions led by US. China has become the second largest world economy and is on the way to catch up. The US military doctrine does not include the capability to fight a few wars simultaneously in different parts of the world. The US military budget goes through a period of cuts.
The US might is on the wane. Soft power, economic competition, gunboat diplomacy – nothing can guarantee its global leadership anymore. Today, the United States is gradually losing its might. On international arena it has to hob-nob with dubious allies, rely on terrorists making them attack the US competitors and inciting them against each other. It does its best to foster tension in large regions. The US acts as kind of «moderator» and it brings in some dividends.
The events in Yemen and other parts of Middle East bring back to memory the somewhat forgotten maps of Lt.Col. Peters. In 2006 Ralph Peters, a retired military intelligence officer, published an article in Armed Forces Journal called Blood Borders.
He wrote that the borders established by European colonial powers were unjust. Peters suggested that a reimagining of Middle Eastern and Asian borders along ethnic, sectarian and tribal lines might ease regional tensions. He shared some thoughts with American politicians. According to him, «ethnic cleansing works». Winding his piece up he wrote, «If the borders of the greater Middle East cannot be amended to reflect the natural ties of blood and faith, we may take it as an article of faith that a portion of the bloodshed in the region will continue to be our own». The article was written when the war in Iraq was in full swing and Americans were looking for ways to put an end to the conflict.
No need to retell the whole article. The gist of it is the need to remap the «Greater Middle East» starting from Iran and Saudi Arabia.
According to Peters, «Iran, a state with madcap boundaries, would lose a great deal of territory to Unified Azerbaijan, Free Kurdistan, the Arab Shia State and Free Baluchistan, but would gain the provinces around Herat in today’s Afghanistan — a region with a historical and linguistic affinity for Persia. Iran would, in effect, become an ethnic Persian state again, with the most difficult question being whether or not it should keep the port of Bandar Abbas or surrender it to the Arab Shia State». Peters believes that the Shia-populated areas of Saudi Arabia in the south-east should become a part of Yemen. The north-eastern part of the kingdom is to be included into a new Shia state emerged mainly on the territory of contemporary Iraq. He believes the status of Mecca and Medina should change, «While non-Muslims could not effect a change in the control of Islam’s holy cities, imagine how much healthier the Muslim world might become were Mecca and Medina ruled by a rotating council representative of the world’s major Muslim schools and movements in an Islamic Sacred State — a sort of Muslim super-Vatican — where the future of a great faith might be debated rather than merely decreed». Peters thinks this is the best scenario, because «The rise of the Saudis to wealth and, consequently, influence has been the worst thing to happen to the Muslim world as a whole since the time of the Prophet, and the worst thing to happen to Arabs since the Ottoman (if not the Mongol) conquest».
Democrats and Republicans may continue to argue who the US should rely on in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia or Iran. The substance of its policy will always remain destruction, inciting rebellions, conflicts and wars. Those in the Middle East who seriously believe America could guarantee their state sovereignty, territorial integrity and system of governance, may be greatly frustrated.