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

 

The Military Perils of Ceding Israeli Control of the West Bank

April 24 2019

In the years since the second intifada ended, no small number of retired high-ranking IDF officers and intelligence officials have argued that complete separation from the Palestinians is a strategic necessity for Israel. Gershon Hacohen, analyzing the geography, the changes in warfare—and Middle Eastern warfare in particular—since the 1990s, and recent history, argues that they are wrong:

The withdrawal of IDF forces from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state in these territories will constitute an existential threat to Israel. The absence of an Israeli military presence in the West Bank, especially along the Jordan River, will enable the creation of a terrorist entity, à la the Gaza Strip, a stone’s throw from the Israeli hinterland. This withdrawal will box Israel into indefensible borders, especially in light of the major changes in the nature of war in recent decades that have made the astounding achievements of 1967 impossible to replicate, not to mention the stark international response [that would follow Israel’s] takeover of a sovereign state.

The deployment of international forces in the West Bank will not, [contrary to what some have argued], ensure the demilitarization of the prospective Palestinian state, let alone prevent the entry of Arab forces into its territory (with or without its consent) and/or its transformation into a springboard for terrorist attacks against Israel. . . .

Israel [now] maintains control of some 60 percent of the West Bank’s territory, . . . which is mostly empty of Palestinian population but includes all of the West Bank’s Jewish communities and IDF bases, as well as main highways, vital topographic areas, and open spaces descending eastward to the Jordan Valley. The retention of this territory constitutes the absolute minimum required for the preservation of defensible borders and meets two conditions necessary for Israel’s security: the Jordan Valley buffer zone, without which it will be impossible to prevent the rapid arming of Palestinian terrorist groups throughout the West Bank; and control of intersecting transportation arteries, which, together with control of strategic topographical sites, enables rapid deployment of IDF forces deep inside Palestinian areas.

It is the surrender of such conditions in Gaza that has transformed the Strip into an ineradicable terrorist entity. Uprooting the West Bank’s Jewish communities will also make it difficult for the IDF to operate in the depth of the Palestinian state, especially if it is forced to fight simultaneously on a number of fronts, [since] simultaneous fighting in Gaza, which will be an integral part of the future Palestinian state, is a foregone conclusion.

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More about: Israeli grand strategy, Israeli Security, Palestinian statehood, West Bank