Iran’s Latest Escalation in Yemen Could Drive Up Gas Prices in the U.S.

On January 3—the anniversary of the American drone strike that killed the Islamic Republic’s terror mastermind Qassem Suleimani—Yemeni Houthi rebels seized an Emirati ship, the Rwabee. The Houthis are but one of many guerrilla outfits that General Suleimani built up, armed, trained, and integrated into Tehran’s strategy for increasing its influence throughout the Middle East at gunpoint. Benny Avni writes:

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said Saturday that Yemen’s largest port, Hodeidah, controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, is now a military base.

Meanwhile, turning Yemen’s Houthi militia into a thorn in the side of Saudi Arabia was one of Suleimani’s achievements in exporting the Iranian revolution to the region. The January 3 seizure of the Rwabee marks a major turning point in the long, cruel, and deadly Yemen civil war. “They’ve never done anything like that before,” says Jamal Benomar, who served as the United Nations representative in Yemen between 2011 and 2015.

Yemen is situated at the southernmost entrance to the Red Sea, where a 16-mile-wide strait, Bab el-Mandeb (“Gate of Tears”), connects the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean, shortening shipping routes to Europe and America from Asia and Africa. Through the Red Sea’s northern point, the Suez Canal, goods have sailed freely for decades, making it one of the world’s busiest maritime lanes. Crucially, tankers carry some 3.3 million barrels of oil daily along Yemen’s coast on the way to Europe and America from the Gulf.

Last summer Iran was suspected of hijacking an Emirati-owned tanker in the Gulf of Oman. Now, with the Houthis’ seizure of the Rwabee, Iran signals it could extend to Yemen such efforts at controlling and manipulating global oil prices.

Read more at New York Sun

More about: Iran, Oil, Yemen

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria