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.

Read more at European Eye on Radicalization

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

Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy