Trying to End the War in Yemen, the U.S. Has Merely Exacerbated It

In Yemen, the Iran-backed Houthi militia launched drones and missiles at Saudi oil fields yesterday, as part of their efforts to punish the Saudis and their pro-Western allies for supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government. The attack comes as Washington has withdrawn its support for the Saudis, even as the Houthis have been stepping up their assault on the city of Marib—the last major the government stronghold in the northern part of the country, and a center for the distribution of oil and gas to the rest. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The timing [of the present offensive] is crucial to understanding what is now happening. On February 4, President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of U.S. support for the Saudi war effort. . . . Two days later, the U.S. administration unconditionally revoked its designation of the Houthis as a foreign terrorist group. The Houthi offensive toward Marib began on the same day. The Houthis also commenced a series of drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.

The [Biden administration’s] desire for an end to war in Yemen is understandable. . . . Unfortunately, however, the U.S. has leverage over only one of the sides. The net result of the removal of support for the Saudi-led side has thus predictably not led to a move toward ending hostilities. Rather, it has resulted in increased aggression by the pro-Iranian side, which now perceives itself as facing an isolated and crumbling opponent rather than an adversary enjoying the backing of a major power.

This dynamic, familiar from the Obama period, is one in which allies are reined in and unilateral concessions are made to Tehran, in the hope that doing so will produce a change in behavior on Iran’s part. [But] the offensive in Yemen, combined with the flurry of rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq by Iran-linked militias, would suggest that as of now, [this strategy is] producing increased Iranian aggression rather than its intended opposite.

Read more at Jonathan Spyer

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


While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

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