While the U.S. Mulls a Response to Syria, Iran Mulls a Response to Israel

April 13 2018

On April 7, the Syrian government unleashed a massive chemical-weapons attack on a rebel enclave. Two days later, there was a strike on its T4 airbase—used primarily by Iran—that destroyed several unmanned aircraft and left fourteen dead, including some Iranian soldiers. Israel is thought to have carried out this strike, although Jerusalem, in keeping with its usual policy, remained mum. Thus, write Assaf Orion and Amos Yadlin, America’s expressed desire to keep Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons has converged with Israel’s determination to restrict Tehran’s presence in Syria:

In operational terms, the region is now anticipating two developments that ostensibly run separately along parallel axes: Iran’s response to the attack on its forces at the T4 airbase, attributed to Israel, and the American response to the Assad regime’s chemical attack in Duma. Iran’s expected response will be an attack, not necessarily immediate, either with a clear Iranian signature or by proxy, the latter being Iran’s preferred modus operandi. The action will likely not be launched from Iranian territory but rather from Syria or from other operational theaters such as Yemen (which is adjacent to the navigation lanes in the Red Sea), or from Lebanon, although an attack from Lebanon would pose a risk of wide-scale escalation. There is also the possibility of attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide, as has occurred in the past. . . .

The attack on the T4 airbase falls within the context of the last red line that Israel drew, whereby it cannot accept Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. . . . The very timing of the events has triggered a convergence between critical trends: the Israel-Iran confrontation in the Syrian context; the unfinished chapter of the Assad regime’s recurring use of chemical weapons; and the United States’ enforcement of non-proliferation. . . . Thus, Israel’s enforcement of its red line and the United States’ enforcement of its red line have met, while Russia finds itself exerting efforts to deter both countries from taking further action that could undermine its own achievements in Syria and its attempt to position itself as the dominant world power in the theater.

This [situation] has created an operational and perhaps even a strategic convergence in Israel’s and the United States’ efforts in the Syrian theater, first, through a sharpening dialogue with Russia, in which Israel would do better not to stand alone; second, by resumed U.S. engagement in Syria beyond the . . . containment of the Islamic State; and third, through the possibility of combining the issues of chemical weapons and the future of the Assad regime with the issue of Iran’s entrenchment in Syria.

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More about: Chemical weapons, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

“Ending the War in Yemen” Would Lead to More Bloodshed and Threaten Global Trade

Dec. 13 2018

A bipartisan movement is afloat in Congress to end American support for the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. With frustration at Riyadh over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, reports of impending famine and a cholera outbreak in Yemen, and mounting casualties, Congress could go so far as to cut all funding for U.S. involvement in the war. But to do so would be a grave mistake, argues Mohammed Khalid Alyahya:

Unfortunately, calls to “stop the Yemen war,” though morally satisfying, are fundamentally misguided. . . . A precipitous disengagement by the Saudi-led coalition . . . would have calamitous consequences for Yemen, the Middle East, and the world at large. The urgency to end the war reduces that conflict, and its drivers, to a morality play, with the coalition of Arab states cast as the bloodthirsty villain killing and starving Yemeni civilians. The assumption seems to be that if the coalition’s military operations are brought to a halt, all will be well in Yemen. . . .

[But] if the Saudi-led coalition were to cease operations, Iran’s long arm, the Houthis, would march on areas [previously controlled by the Yemeni government] and exact a bloody toll on the populations of such cities as Aden and Marib with the same ruthlessness with which they [treated] Sanaa and Taiz during the past three years. The rebels have ruled Sanaa, kidnapping, executing, disappearing, systematically torturing, and assassinating detractors. In Taiz, they fire mortars indiscriminately at the civilian population and snipers shoot at children to force residents into submission.

[Moreover], an abrupt termination of the war would leave Iran in control of Yemen [and] deal a serious blow to the global economy. Iran would have the ability to obstruct trade and oil flows from both the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb strait. . . . About 24 percent of the world’s petroleum and petroleum products passes through these two waterways, and Iran already has the capability to disrupt oil flows from Hormuz and threatened to do so this year. Should Iran acquire that capability in Bab el-Mandeb by establishing a foothold in the Gulf of Aden, even if it chose not to utilize this capability oil prices and insurance costs would surge.

Allowing Tehran to control two of the most strategic choke points for the global energy market is simply not an option for the international community. There is every reason to believe that Iran would launch attacks on maritime traffic. The Houthis have mounted multiple attacks on commercial and military vessels over the past several years, and Iran has supplied its Yemeni proxy with drone boats, conventional aerial drones, and ballistic missiles.

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