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Stopping Iran’s Missile War on Saudi Arabia

Nov. 10 2017

This weekend, Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a missile at Riyadh, which was successfully intercepted by the anti-missile system provided to the Saudis by the U.S. The strike is part of the bloody civil war in Yemen, in which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and their allies are trying to drive out the Houthis and their allies and restore the internationally-recognized government—thus preventing Yemen from becoming another satellite of Tehran. Michael Knights writes:

Since the Saudi-led intervention began in March 2015, Houthi rebels have fired hundreds of short-range tactical rockets and missiles into Saudi Arabia, along with at least 30 longer-range ballistic missiles. The vast majority of these strikes have . . . targeted Saudi border towns and military bases, resulting in thousands of civilians wounded or displaced. Other types of systems have also been used in large numbers, including unguided Qaher-1 free-flight missiles launched at targets up to 250 km inside Saudi Arabia, particularly King Khaled Air Base and the adjacent Khamis Mushait Military City. . . .

Iran has a long history of helping foreign militant allies with missile programs, providing Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad with expert support operatives and a series of rocket and missile systems. More to the point, Iran has openly acknowledged its military assistance to the Houthis. . . .

For Iran, providing missile and other military support to the Houthis is a no-brainer. At very little cost, its Revolutionary Guard can strengthen ties with a regional ally and demonstrate its ability to threaten Saudi Arabia, and perhaps the UAE and Qatar as well, where vital U.S. bases lie just outside the current range of Houthi missiles. And if the rebels manage to hit a crucial U.S. or allied target, the Iranians are confident that the Houthis will pay the price, not them.

At the tactical level, the Revolutionary Guard is well aware that every missile attack drains Saudi capabilities, since a Houthi missile costing at most $1 million must be intercepted by Patriot missiles costing $2-3 million each. Continued attacks could even force the Saudis to develop another axis of expensive missile defenses in addition to the set required to defend itself against Iran across the Persian Gulf. The Revolutionary Guard is also learning valuable lessons about how its own missiles might perform against U.S.-provided defenses. For all these reasons, the missile war needs to stop.

Knights suggests how the U.S. can help make this happen by tightening the arms blockade on Yemen, providing intelligence and air support to Saudi Arabia, and other measures.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen

Israel Agreed Not to Retaliate During the Persian Gulf War—and Paid a Price for It

Feb. 19 2018

During the Persian Gulf War of 1991, Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel, killing one person and causing extensive property damage. Under intense pressure from the first Bush administration to sit still—ostensibly because Israeli involvement in the war could lead Arab states to abandon the White House’s anti-Iraq coalition—Jerusalem refrained from retaliating. Moshe Arens, who was the Israeli defense minister at the time, comments on the decision in light of information recently made public:

[W]hat was George H.W. Bush thinking [in urging Israel not to respond]? His secretary of state, James Baker, had accompanied the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles (Chas) Freeman, on a visit to King Fahd in Riyadh on November 2, 1990, two-and-a-half months before the beginning of the war, to obtain the king’s approval for additional deployment of U.S. troops in his kingdom in preparation for the attack on Iraq.

He was told by the king that although they would not welcome Israeli participation in the war, he understood that Israel could not stand idly by if it were attacked by Iraq. If Israel were to defend itself, the Saudi armed forces would still fight on America’s side, the king told Baker. So much for the danger to the coalition if Israel were to respond to the Scud attacks. Israel was not informed of this Saudi position.

So why was President Bush so intent on keeping Israel out of the war? It seems that he took the position, so dominant in the American foreign-policy establishment, that America’s primary interest in the Middle East was the maintenance of good relations with the Arab world, and that the Arab world attached great importance to the Palestinian problem, and that as long as that problem was not resolved Israel remained an encumbrance to the U.S.-Arab relationship. If Israel were to appear as an ally of the U.S. in the war against Iraq, that was likely to damage the image the U.S. was trying to project to the Arabs.

In fact, immediately upon the conclusion of the war against Saddam Hussein, Baker launched a diplomatic effort that culminated in the Madrid Conference in the hope that it would lead to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It didn’t. . . .

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: George H. W. Bush, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Peace Process, Persian Gulf War, US-Israel relations