The War in Yemen Isn’t about Local Grievances, but Iran’s Bid for Regional Dominance

April 15 2021

In 2004, a group called Ansar Allah—also known as the Houthis, after the tribe that dominates the movement—launched an insurgency against the government of Yemen, and in 2014 seized the capital city of Sanaa. Since then, a bloody civil war has engulfed the country, with Iran backing the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and (until recently) the U.S. backing their opponents.

The Houthis—whose motto is “God is great. Death to America. Death to Israel. Curse the Jews. Victory for Islam”—belong to the Zaydi sect of Shiism, which has allowed observers to argue that their alliance with the Islamic Republic, loyal to the rival form of Shiism, is purely transactional. While this view of things has become established wisdom in American policymaking circles since the George W. Bush administration, and informs the current administration’s attempts to “end the war” in Yemen, Oved Lobel shows through a careful investigation of Ansar Allah’s history and development that it has been an Iranian proxy from its inception:

Rather than Iran reacting to events in Yemen and slowly forming an alliance with the Houthis after 2009 in response to Saudi Arabia’s overt involvement [in the war against them], there is more than enough evidence . . . to assess that Iran has controlled the conflict since the early 2000s, engaging in precisely the same patterns of co-opting local grievances, creating proxies, and orchestrating schisms as has been witnessed in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

Far from being a tactical Iranian sideshow to undermine Saudi Arabia in reaction to Riyadh’s intervention [in Yemen], as it is often portrayed by analysts, the Iranian relationship with the Houthis is in fact Iran’s first opportunity since the revolution in 1979 to impose an exact replica of its own theocracy—something it ultimately failed to do in Iraq and Lebanon—and thus the most important battlefront against Iran’s attempts to export its revolution today.

Following the U.S. declaration of war against transnational jihadists and any state that supported them, the long-time ruler and president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, planted himself firmly in the U.S. camp and began cooperating against al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based branch, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Iran, therefore, activated [Ansar Allah] to undermine the campaign against al-Qaeda.

Another dead giveaway that the conflict had absolutely nothing to do with domestic grievances was the [Houthis’] ethnic cleansing of the small Jewish community in their areas of control in 2007. The conspiratorial and religious hatred of Jews is such a core part of [their] ideology that, as recently as 2020, one Houthi official said, “The only path is the path to Jerusalem, the path of jihad against the Jews. . . . Enmity towards them is the number one criterion for the believing [Muslim].”

Lobel’s conclusions suggest that the war in Yemen is not the simple result of ancient hatreds between Sunnis and Shiites, nor can it be deescalated by ending American and Saudi involvement. Rather, it is merely one theater in Iran’s war against the U.S.

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Read more at European Eye on Radicalization

More about: Al Qaeda, Anti-Semitism, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen

 

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy