The flashpoint between Shiite and Sunni Islam has erupted in Yemen. After Shiite Iran armed Houthi rebels to the hilt, they have ousted the Sunni regime of Sunni President Abd Mansour Hadi. Neighboring Saudi Arabia has had enough. The Sunni regime in Riyadh has launched a major offensive into Yemen with 100 aircraft and an estimated 150,000 troops. Egypt has also dispatched troops, ships and aircraft to fight against the Shiite rebels in Yemen.
In effect, a proxy war is now being waged with Iran. Tehran has extended its tentacles not only deep into Iraq but also further south to Yemen, which poses a subversive threat to Saudi Arabia. Egypt (another enemy of Iran) and Saudi Arabia have now drawn a line in the sand. Other Muslim states have also pledged to support them with military force:
Tehran has extended its tentacles not only deep into Iraq but also further south to Yemen, which poses a subversive threat to Saudi Arabia.
- Pakistan - has sent 3 naval vessels
- United Arab Emirates - 30 fighter aircraft
- Kuwait - 15 aircraft
- Bahrein -15 aircraft
- Qatar -10 aircraft
- Jordan - 6 aircraft
- Morocco - 6 aircraft
- Sudan - 3 aircraft
What makes this clash so critical is that Yemen's territory is at the entry to the Strait of Tiran, which empties into the Red Sea further north to Egypt's Suez Canal, and also Israel's shipping lanes to the Indian Ocean. (Egypt's illegal closure of the Strait of Tiran triggered the Six Day War in 1967).
Jerusalem, Riyadh and Cairo have a joint interest in barring an Iranian takeover of Yemen.
Obviously Israel also has its eyes peeled on the Yemen imbroglio that has now boiled over. What it means is that Jerusalem, Riyadh and Cairo have a joint interest in barring an Iranian takeover of Yemen. It would be similar to the Iranian extension of its control in Lebanon where the Shiite Hezbollah force is more powerful than the Lebanese Army and poses a dangerous strategic threat to the Jewish state. The U.S. has supported President Hadi against the rebels and will stand behind Saudi Arabia in the current conflict. This includes a pledge to keep the Strait of Tiran open if Iran tries to close it by its remote control of the Houthis.
Does Obama's right hand know what his left hand is doing?
While Washington and Tehran are on opposite sides over Yemen, this is not the case in Iraq, where they are pulling together against the maniacal Sunnis of the Islamic State. The U.S. has stepped up its air strikes against ISIS in support of Iranian forces on the ground. Does Obama's left hand know what his right hand is doing? Actually there is some 'method in this madness' of America's working hand-in-glove with Iran. President Obama is trying extremely hard to achieve a nuclear deal with Iran before he leaves office. The strategy is that Iran will chip in with boots on the ground in Iraq against ISIS in return for America's easing up on Tehran in the nuclear negotiations. But the Iranians are hanging tough, insisting that they be allowed to maintain their nuclear weapons facilities - but perish the thought they want to build A-bombs!
Both Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are going for broke and it appears they would have already wrapped up a deal if not for the French and British objections. The rest of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany apparently will go along with Kerry. This is what has Israel worried. The Iranians have an 'unblemished' record of lying and cheating about their nuclear weapons program for over ten years, so why would they suddenly change in light of their regional aspirations, such as now in Yemen? They already have made deep inroads in a crescent from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and down to Yemen's capital of Sana'a.
Obama has abdicated America's use of force...
...what will be the outcome if the Free World's leader has abdicated his option of resorting to power? Maybe it's a good thing that the Sunni Arab states are prepared to take on Iran.
Why is Obama doing it? Although he already has a Nobel Peace Prize under his belt - for what exactly? It does appear that the U.S. President is determined not to involve U.S. ground forces again in the Middle East in any major combat role. He has repeatedly said so, and truly believes this is in America's interests. But in the current confrontation with a diabolical Iran that is driven by visions of imposing its own brand of Shiite Islam on the Muslim world combined with reviving the great Persian empire, what will be the outcome if the Free World's leader has abdicated his option of resorting to power? Maybe it's a good thing that the Sunni Arab states are prepared to take on Iran.
But surely Obama does not want to go down in history as the man who was duped by Iran and triggered a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. And it has to be more than ‘he is furious with Bibi Netanyahu’ and a subsequent desire to punish Israel. Maybe Obama believes that he is endowed with some magical abilities as a world leader that will enable him to win over the Ayatollahs and the Revolutionary Guards, and that by lifting the sanctions they will see the light and not want to try and make A-bombs anymore. In other words, an extension of his campaign pledge of 'Yes we can' into 'Yes I can!’ But what is really dangerous is the possibility that he tends to live in a world of pipe dreams and is out of touch with Middle East realities. It's somewhat in line of his weird comparison with the atrocities of the Islamic State sadists of today with the Christian crusaders and Inquisition of hundreds of years ago.
But what was truly surrealistic was Obama sending a Persian holiday greeting to the Iranian people while Ayatollah Khamenei incited a throng of his followers into chanting: 'Death to America!" It is the result of a convoluted U.S. foreign policy that has lead America's allies in the region to realize that Obama has abdicated America's former traditional role and that they must play a greater role - Yemen appears to be the first sign of this shift.
Bibi should try and ride out the storm...
The leak to the Wall Street Journal ... was designed to discredit Israel in the eyes of Americans and to lessen any domestic or Congressional blowback when the final terms of the nuclear deal are revealed.
Obama is keeping his word about reassessing America's relationship with the Jewish state. The most hurtful charge was that while the Americans were spying on the Israelis, lo and behold they discovered that Israel was spying on the U.S. in the nuclear talks with Iran! It would appear this applied to the electronic cyber space where everybody watches and listens to everybody else. But the leak to the Wall Street Journal tried to make it sound like Israel had mounted a campaign of secret agents playing dirty tricks on America. It was designed to discredit Israel in the eyes of Americans and to lessen any domestic or Congressional blowback when the final terms of the nuclear deal are revealed.
What really annoyed the administration was that Israel had also informed American senators and congressmen about what was really going on in the negotiations. On the other hand, Obama has signaled that he has no plans to change military aid and cooperation with Israel. Diplomatic support at the UN and elsewhere may be another story; there has already been an example of that at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where the Arab delegations other sundry concentrate on bashing Israel to the near exclusion of everyone else. The U.S. delegate who usually stands up and tells the council that its anti-Israel resolutions are a lot of hogwash, deigned not to do so this time.
Does it portend future American policy?
It did seem to catch the powers to be in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem municipality suddenly struck from its agenda a resolution about building a new neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Back in the days when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir clashed with President George Bush Senior on settlement building, the American leader threatened to slash any the Israeli expenditure on new settlement building on the West Bank from America's military aid to Israel. At present, the U.S. grants Israel $3 billion annually, all of which must be spent on buying arms solely in the U.S. The idea was known as fundability - Israel's defense budget would have to foot the bill for new settlement construction. It was a new variation to the old adage of: 'Speak softly but carry a big cheque!'
(Photo: Amit Shabi)
Bibi Netanyahu is now in the political horse-trading for forming a new coalition government, and it is turning out to be more difficult then it first seemed. Part of this procedure includes the guidelines for the new government, which boils down to its overall objectives - in light of the gathering storm that is brewing in Washington, Bibi would be wise to persuade his Right wing partners to moderate their demands on settlement building and any other steps that could supply ammunition for Obama's campaign to turn American public opinion against Israel.
PS: If the Sunni Arab states have realized they cannot depend on America, what will their reaction be when they see what Israel's Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz has called a 'bad nuclear deal that the great powers are about to sign with Iran'? Steinitz has just returned from an urgent visit to Paris and London to warn officials of the dangers, but apparently to no avail. He stressed that allowing Iran to continue research and development with the use of advanced centrifuges (for enriching uranium) will cut Iran's breakout time for an A-bomb from a year to only three months. If so, more U.S. Congress members will think twice about the deal.