OpinionMiddle East

The US and the Iranian octopus

Iran’s ayatollahs have been energized by the apparent U.S. shift of paradigm from military to diplomacy, rejection of regime change and tendency to accommodate and appease.

Some 40% of the Persian Gulf oil destined for Western Europe passes through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (pictured) in the southern part of the Red Sea. Credit: NASA.
Some 40% of the Persian Gulf oil destined for Western Europe passes through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (pictured) in the southern part of the Red Sea. Credit: NASA.
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

Since the 1978-79 revolution against the Shah of Iran, the ayatollahs’ regime has adhered to its ultimate goal of global Shi’ite domination.

From 1962 to 1970, Egypt was involved in the Yemen civil war as a springboard to toppling the pro-U.S. regime in Saudi Arabia and, subsequently, all other pro-U.S. Arab regimes in a most critical region to global trade, oil and security: the Arabian Peninsula.

Since 2011, Iran’s ayatollahs have been deeply involved in the Yemen civil war on the side of the anti-U.S. Shi’ite Houthis (“Soldiers of Allah”), via Iranian and Hezbollah manpower, military supplies, training and intelligence, as a springboard to oust the pro-U.S., Sunni House of Saud (bordering northern Yemen) and subsequently all other pro-U.S. Sunni regimes in the Arabian Peninsula.

In February, the United States removed Yemen’s Houthis, who are Iranian proxies, from the list of terrorist organizations and terminated U.S. support for the Saudi military offensive against the Houthis. In November, the Houthis stormed the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, holding a few of the local staff hostage, demonstrating—once again—that Islamic terrorists bite the hands that feed them.

Yemen’s geostrategic importance to the United States

The limbs of the Iranian octopus extend from the Persian Gulf and Central Asia to the whole Middle East, Europe, Africa, South, Central and North America, including Yemen, where Iran’s ayatollahs outflank the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, playing a decisive role in fueling the civil war, as a dagger aimed at its Sunni arch-rival, Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s ayatollahs are aware of the geostrategic significance of Yemen—regionally and globally—and its impact on the national security, homeland security and economy of the United States, “The Great Satan,” which they consider the most critical obstacle on their way to global domination.

The gravely underdeveloped Yemen plays a key role in the survival of the highly-vulnerable House of Saud, in particular, and all other pro-U.S. oil-producing, strategically-situated Arab regimes in the Arabian Peninsula, such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.

Yemen shares 1,458- and 288-kilometer borders with Saudi Arabia and Oman respectively, and could serve as a land, sea and airbase for Iran’s rogue ayatollahs.

Yemen is an epicenter of regional and global Islamic terrorism and a platform for the 1,400-year-old intra-Muslim Sunni-Shi’ite conflict, inherent intra-Sunni conflicts and intra-Arab tribal fighting.

Yemen shares a maritime border with the inherently unstable, unpredictable and non-democratic Eritrea, Djibouti, Somaliland and Somalia in the strategically crucial Horn of Africa, controlling the Bab el Mandeb Strait (“Gate of Tears”), which connects the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, and facilitating the European-Asian trade. Bab el Mandeb is critical to global energy security in general, and to the supply of Gulf oil to Europe, in particular, as well as to the functioning of the Suez Canal, the economic stability of Egypt and the safety of the prominent Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah.

Yemen’s prominence as a hub of critical shipping routes, and a site of actual and potential naval bases, is derived from the highly strategic Yemen ports of Aden, Al-Mukalla, Mocha, Al-Hudaydah and the islands of Socotra (Arabian Sea), Perim, Zuqar and Hanish (southern Red Sea).

While the United States is the world’s largest oil producer, approaching energy independence, the price and supply of oil still largely depend upon Middle East oil, which accounts for 27 percent of world production and hinges on the safety of the Bab el Mandeb Strait and the southern part of the Red Sea.

Iran’s military involvement in Yemen

Iran’s intervention in the Yemen civil war on the side of the anti-U.S., anti-Saudi Shi’ite Houthi minority against the Saudi-backed, highly-fragmented Sunni majority shifted into high gear in 2011, after the eruption of the Arab Tsunami (more commonly known as the “Arab Spring”), which triggered the turbulence currently raging throughout the Middle East.

The significance of Iran’s (and Hezbollah’s) involvement has been evidenced by the recent successful Houthi military offensive, solidifying their control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, coalescing their domination of western and northern Yemen (along the border of Saudi Arabia), and their progress in the battle over Yemen’s oil and natural gas-producing area of Marib.

These Houthi gains have been made possible by Iranian finance, manpower, training, intelligence and the supply of rockets, surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, explosives and ammunition.

Also, the Houthis have employed the Iran-supplied drones and missiles to strike Riyadh and additional Saudi cities, as well as Saudi oil installations, airports and other civilian targets.

The Iran-U.S. bottom line

Iran’s aggressive intervention reflects the imperialistic, fanatic vision and global policy of Iran’s ayatollahs, which—contrary to the worldview of Western foreign policy and national security establishments—are not driven by despair, humiliation, economic deprivation, or local border disputes; are not amenable to compromise, compliance with agreements, peaceful coexistence, human rights and democracy; and are not limited to the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, but encompass the entire world, including South and Central America.

Iran’s ayatollahs are energized by the apparent U.S. shift of paradigm from military to diplomacy, the U.S. rejection of the regime-change option and the U.S. tendency to accommodate and appease, rather than confront and crush, their rogue regime.

Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

This article was first published by The Ettinger Report.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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