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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

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen