Russia Is Helping Iran Extend Its Influence in Yemen

March 14 2019

Tehran continues to deny its involvement in Yemen’s civil war, but there is no doubt it has become the main force behind the Houthi rebels, supplying them with materiel, military advisers, and perhaps manpower as well. And Moscow, much as it does in Syria, is aiding the Islamic Republic in these efforts. Micky Aharonson and Yossi Mansharof write:

Iranian activity [in Yemen] depends on cooperation with Russia, which protects [Iran] against unfavorable UN Security Council resolutions and enables [it] to continue exporting terrorism there [and] to extend its hold and influence in that country. Among other things, Russia makes it possible for Iran to foster the deadly terrorist attacks committed by the Houthis and their missile barrages aimed at Saudi Arabia, [which supports the government that the Houthis seek to overthrow].

After having been in contact with Russia a number of times since 2015, a Houthi delegation met with the Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov. The Houthis then declared that Russia should be involved in any settlement in Yemen. In 2018, the Houthis sent President Putin a letter calling on Russia to intervene in the war. Russia’s widely reported willingness to conduct a dialogue with the Houthis provides them with an international platform for voicing their demands. It also establishes Russia as an international patron of relevance to events in Yemen. . . .

To summarize, Yemen is another focus of instability in the Middle East. This instability, ostensibly a result of internal tensions, is exacerbated by external countries: both those in the region, like Iran, and more remote ones, like Russia. . . . One result of the cooperation [between the two] is the arming of groups that are inflicting horrendous damage on the people of Yemen. The result may be that the capabilities and interests of external players, such as Iran and Russia, in continuing their military and economic support for the parties in the conflict may be of more importance in determining its outcome than are the parties themselves.

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Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Iran, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Yemen

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey