This week, the Senate will likely vote in favor of ending American support for Riyadh in its war with the Iranian proxies known as the Houthis in Yemen. Tony Badran believes it would be a mistake to do so:
The notion, [put forward by some critics of the Saudis], that it was Riyadh’s intervention [in Yemen’s civil war] that “pushed” the Houthis into Iran’s arms is ludicrous, as their relationship goes back years before the war. In 2012, Gerald Feierstein, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen under President Barack Obama, explained that Hizballah was helping Iran extend its influence both in northern Yemen, via the Houthis, and in southern Yemen. Feierstein’s comments came after reports of increased arms smuggling by Iran to Yemen. In January 2013, [further] arms shipments were intercepted. Those shipments were found to be carrying a number of weapons systems from Iran, including surface-to-air missiles intended for the Houthis.
No sane government would accept a growing Iranian missile threat on its border: just ask Israel. More importantly, it is distinctly in the American interest to prevent Iran and its proxy militias, including sanctioned terror groups like Hizballah, from positioning missiles, speedboats, and other weapons on a waterway that is critically important for the global economy. Ensuring safe transit for ships carrying oil through that waterway is a crucial part of America’s role in the global security architecture that makes the functioning of Western economies possible.
The question of whether America sides with Iran or with Saudi Arabia is not a beauty contest between two distasteful Middle Eastern theocracies, neither one of which is particularly attractive by Western standards.
What matters more, Badran concludes, is where America’s interests lie.