June 8, 2015
The Houthis, an Iranian proxy army fighting in Yemen, launched a Scud missile into Saudi Arabia’s southwestern city of Khamis Mushait, home to KSA’s largest military base in the region. What’s especially telling about this provocation is a threat made in March by the Iranian-backed Houthis, that they intended to fight until they reach KSA’s capitol of Riyadh (Story here).
In this conflict, the Saudis’ are supporting the US-backed President of Yemen, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was ousted by the Houthis as they aggressively moved across Yemen to reinstall former President Ali Abdullah Salah. Once the aggressions began in March, the Saudis teamed with the Turks and Egyptians to impose a naval blockade of the tip of the Arabian Peninsula of Yemen and unleashed air strikes against suspected Houthis’ positions. The US has also been providing a naval presence and supports air operations against the anti-Houthis coalition. So far, more than 1,000 non-combatant civilians have been killed in the fighting and the civil war has created another humanitarian crisis where critical food, water and medical supplies are desperately needed. Adding more fuel to the fire is the Turkish government’s threat to send a flotilla through the US-led Naval blockade.
Since the US brokered “nuclear peace” deal with Iran, the US government hosted leaders of the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) including the Saudis at Camp David to assuage their demands for a formal US security agreement against Iran. President Obama has offered verbal support to the GCC countries, but stopped short of signing any kind of binding agreement.
As previously reported in “Is the US prepping for War with Iran” and “Ring of Fire,” the US has been supplying advanced anti-missile defense systems in the region at a dizzying rate. Nearly all of the Arab states have advance US-made Patriot III anti-missile defense systems, the identical system that downed the Houthis Scud missile launched over the weekend.
It’s worth noting that the increase of US weapons and American arms sales to the Arab states demonstrates their vulnerability to an Iranian missile attack, whether from Yemen, Syria, Iraq or Iran itself.
It’s also being reported that ISIS took control of $26 billion worth of US weapons from Iraqi forces that fled the ISIS’ attacks. “[ISIS] target us with weapons that were abandoned in Ramadi,” Mustafa Sayid Qadir, the minister of Peshmerga affairs, told The Wall Street Journal. “Wouldn’t it have been better if the Iraqi army had given them to us instead of giving them to ISIS?”
The launching of the Scud missile also poses a major escalation of the scale of the conflict from a Yemen civil war with occasional spillover violence into Saudi Arabian border areas, to a deliberate attempt to threaten and provoke a larger Saudi fight that could justify Iranian intervention to protect its proxy army.
In retaliation Saudi-led air strikes killed at least 44 people and injured more than 100 civilians during a bombing campaign on the main headquarters of the Yemeni army in Sanaa on Sunday. The attack also demolished several private homes in the region as well.
Perhaps more troubling is the Egyptian factor, retired DIA agent and fellow at the London Center, Anthony Shaffer said, the air assault in Yemen by KSA’s Air Force is not working and the Scud attack sped up behind the scenes negotiations for a ground troop invasion. (For who don’t remember, after Egypt’s President Fattah al-Sisi’s successful military coup, KSA graciously provided billions of dollars to aid its flagging economy. The new King, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, is calling in the favor and will ask the Egyptian Army to aid in the ground onslaught.) Shaffer suggests the attack will not wait for President Obama’s nuke deal deadline with Iran, something that highlights the deteriorating relationship between the US and KSA. He concluded by saying; “There is a larger (necessary) policy review ongoing. The thinking professionals at the Pentagon recognize the policy is failing- but their voices are being suppressed by the political class.”
And bad news continues to plague the Obama administration in Yemen. This week two Yemeni families have named Barack Obama, David Petraeus and Leon Panetta in lawsuit for the death of two Yemen civilians killed in a 2012-drone strike. The families filed the wrongful death of Salem bin Ali Jaber and Waleed bin Ali Jaber and said their deaths “violated the laws of war and norms of customary international law” and “provide a case study of the failures of the drone war.”
For Americans who thought the wars in the Middle East were winding down, President Obama offered discouraging news. “We don’t yet have a complete strategy,” he told reporters at a G-7 news conference in Germany. That remark prompted Pentagon officials to respond to the media saying, they have presented several plans to the President he just hasn’t decided to use any of the military options.
Previous reports by this reporter have made it clear the Middle East is a tinderbox waiting for a spark to set it off into all-out regional war, which could lead the Gulf nations to seek a nuclear program of their own. The unbridled advances of ISIS/ISIL/IS in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Mali and now Afghanistan only bring more complexity and uncertainty for any regional diplomatic solution. Iran is certainly feeling the heat of the eastward advances into the their sphere-of-influence prompting leadership questions in the region.
While the Saudi response may be tempered, results from the weekend Turkish elections where authoritarian-leaning Erdogan’s loss could fracture the secular nation, ebbing it closer to joining the regional proxy war. Turkey’s Islamic roots lie in the formerly dominated Ottoman Empire. Any further consolidation of power by Erdogan could produce a more dramatic response against the Houthis and further aggravate the Iranians.
The Middle East has always been an enigma and recent events are no exception.
Read the previous story: Yemen moves to join Libya and Syria league of dysfunction
Read “The regime change train” series here
© Copyright 2015 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.