Jeff Dunetz flagged a disturbing report via Israel’s Channel 10 on Friday that indicated Israeli officials believe that Barack Obama’s White House has agreed to nearly all of Iran’s demands in multilateral negotiations over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
“According to unnamed officials, Washington ‘has given the Iranians 80 percent of what they want’ out of the negotiations,” the report read. “Jerusalem officials appear alarmed at the prospect that the United States will soon strike a deal with the Iranian regime that will leave it with a ‘breakout capacity’ of months during which it can gallop toward a nuclear bomb.”
That’s the red line over which few think Israel will allow Iran to cross. Many analysts believe, however, that Israel no longer has a military option available to it after deferring to Washington’s pleas to allow diplomacy to run its course for years. In the interim, Iran has hardened or buried its nuclear facilities to a point that many suspect they may now be invulnerable to assaults via the air.
In 2012, amid a bruising fight over the president’s reelection, Obama assured reporters that his threat to use military means in order to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. “I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don’t bluff,” Obama told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg.
Two years later, White House officials would tell that same reporter that they believed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a “chickens***” for believing the White House and failing to attack Iran over its nuclear program. That’s what you might call “chutzpah.”
If Israelis were still laboring under the delusion that the administration has any interest in containing Iran in the region, they were disabused of that misapprehension on Friday. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the administration’s efforts to combat al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula have been significantly hindered in the wake of the fall of the reasonably pro-Western government in Sanaa to Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. So what’s the administration’s solution to this conundrum? Support the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
The shift also could place it on the same side as Iran in the Yemen conflict. The Houthis are drawn from their country’s Zaidi population. Zaidis, who by some estimates make up roughly a third of the population, practice a form of Shiite Islam and are concentrated in northwest Yemen. U.S. officials believe the militia has received considerable funding and arms from Shiite-dominated Iran, something Houthi leaders have variously confirmed and denied.
White House and State Department officials confirmed to The Wall Street Journal the contacts with the Houthis, but stressed they were focused on promoting political stability in Yemen and safeguarding the security of Americans.
“In the context of talking to all of Yemen’s communities about the latest political developments and ensuring the safety of our personnel and facilities, we have engaged a number of Yemeni parties,” said Edgar Vasquez, a State Department spokesman. “As a participant in discussions about Yemen’s political direction, the Houthis will have many reasons to talk with the international community.”
American officials claim that the Houthis and the West share a common enemy: AQAP. As such, they are an ally of convenience. It is, however, decidedly inconvenient to be seen supporting a coup that places a Shiite Iranian proxy on the Sunni-dominated Saudi Kingdom’s doorstep. If the administration is pursuing stability in the Middle East, they’re going about securing it in a curious fashion.
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) January 30, 2015
It sure is.
Addendum: For everyone that has 25 minutes to kill, this essay in The American Interest via Adam Garfinkle (h/t Dana Perino for recommending it) is excellent. If you’re interested in statecraft, Westphalian concepts of sovereignty, the infinitely complex sectarian divisions in the Middle East, and the increasingly perilous state of geopolitics, this essay is worth the read. It also sheds light on the nature of American global grand strategy and its failure to prevent what looks to be an unavoidable and perhaps bloody struggle between aspiring hegemonic powers in the Middle East. It’s a grim read, but you don’t come here for happy talk, do you?