The Houthis Are Apt to Win the War in Yemen. The U.S. Needs a Plan for What Happens When They Do

Since coming to office, the Biden administration has made promises to use diplomacy “to end the war in Yemen,” a conflict that pits the Iran-backed Houthi rebels against forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and a few other factions. Supporting the latter are Saudi Arabia and a coalition of pro-Western Arab states. Since a U.S. military intervention is unlikely, the war can end only with a Houthi victory. David Schenker considers the situation:

Riyadh doesn’t need any persuasion to want to end the war. In fact, in recent years, the Saudis have engaged in what are, by all accounts, good-faith talks on the future of Yemen, including with arch-foe Iran. The problem is the Houthis, who have proved consistently recalcitrant and are now playing for time as they make slow but steady progress. . . . The Houthi inclination toward a military rather than a negotiated solution is paying off. Two years into their military campaign in Marib—a strategic governorate named for its capital city—the rebels are on the verge of conquering both.

If they [succeed], the Houthis would essentially have won the war. For Riyadh, Washington, and the Yemeni people, this represents a worst-case scenario. Even if the war were to end, the humanitarian situation would remain critical, with two-thirds of Yemen’s 30 million citizens continuing to face famine. . . . Meanwhile, Iranian proxies will control another Arab country, and Saudi Arabia will remain vulnerable to missile and drone attacks from its southern neighbor.

Notwithstanding President Joe Biden’s obvious antipathy toward the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, the first order of business [in that event] will be to bolster the kingdom’s defensive capabilities. . . . Perhaps most importantly, to prevent Iran from fully completing its project of recreating a Hizballah-like entity on Saudi Arabia’s southern front once the Houthis gain control, the Biden administration will need to reinvigorate the 2015 UN arms embargo on Yemen.

Should the Biden administration fail, the risk is not just that more and increasingly advanced weaponry with Iranian components will be pointed from Yemen toward Riyadh. Concerned about Houthi and Iranian intentions, the Israelis twice this year deployed Patriot and Iron Dome missile-defense batteries against potential missiles and drones emanating from Yemen.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security