Why the U.S. Should Stand with Saudi Arabia in Its War in Yemen

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.

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

Israel Should Try to Defang Hamas without Toppling It

Feb. 22 2019

For the time being, Hamas has chosen to avoid outright war with the Jewish state, but instead to apply sustained, low-intensity pressure through its weekly border riots and organizing terrorist cells in the West Bank. Yet it is simultaneously engaged in a major military build-up, which suggests that it has not entirely been deterred by the previous three Gaza wars. Yaakov Lappin considers Jerusalem’s options:

In recent years, the Israel Defense Force’s southern command, which is responsible for much of the war planning for Gaza, identified a long-term truce as the best of bad options for Israel. This is based on the understanding that an Israeli invasion of Gaza and subsequent destruction of the Hamas regime would leave Israel in the unenviable position of being directly in charge of some two-million mostly hostile Gazans. This could lead to an open-ended and draining military occupation. . . .

Alternatively, Israel could demolish the Hamas regime and leave Gaza, putting it on a fast track to a “Somalia model” of anarchy and violence. In that scenario, . . . multiple jihadist armed gangs lacking a central ruling structure would appear, and Israel would be unable to project its military might to any single “return address” in Gaza. This would result in a loss of Israel’s deterrent force on Gaza to keep the region calm. This scenario would be considerably worse than the current status quo.

But a third option, in between the options of leaving Gaza as it is and toppling Hamas in a future war, may exist. In this scenario, the IDF would decimate Hamas’s military wing in any future conflict but leave its political wing and police force in place. This would enable a rapid Israeli exit after a war, but avoid a Somalia-like fate for Gaza with its destructive implications for both Israelis and Gazans. . . .

On the one hand, Hamas’s police force is an intrinsic support system for Gaza’s terrorist-guerrilla forces. On the other hand, the police and domestic-security units play a genuine role in keeping order. Such forces have been used to repress Islamic State-affiliated cells that challenge Hamas’s rule. . . . Compared to the alternative scenarios of indefinite occupation or the “Somalia scenario,” a weakened Hamas might be the best and most realistic option.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security