Saudi Arabia forms international coalition, launches war in Yemen against Iran-backed rebels

While the White House was focused on lashing out at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to soothe the wounded egos in the administration after Israeli voters soundly rejected the will of President Barack Obama, the Saudis were going about securing their borders and their region. During a snap press conference on Wednesday, The Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States revealed that it has assembled a ten-member international coalition of Arab states for the purpose of military intervention in Yemen to restore the President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government.

With that, Riyadh closed Yemeni airspace and began to pound targets inside the country linked to the Iran backed-Shiite Houthi militia and the deposed former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

This was predictable. The Saudis, the Egyptians, and just about every other member of this Sunni-dominated coalition of Arab nations have been growing increasingly uncomfortable with Iran’s ever-increasing regional influence. On Wednesday, the president of Yemen fled the country, the government-in-exile that he led in the Yemeni city of Aden collapsed, and the fall of that city to the Houthis appeared imminent.

If Aden fell to the Shiite rebel group, it would create a set of circumstances that the Saudis and the West would find unacceptable. The fall of the Red Sea port of Aden to an Iran-backed militia imperils the Bab al-Mandeb strait, a critical narrow sea lane used to transit oil out of the Saudi-dominated Red Sea, around the Horn of Africa, and into the Indian Ocean. If Aden fell, the Gulf of Aden would be accessible by Iranian naval forces, and it would be conceivable that the Islamic Republic’s navy could transit anti-ship mines or missiles into the area in the event of war with Saudi Arabia. Riyadh simply couldn’t allow that to happen.

So, the Saudi Kingdom chose the only available option: War. Its meager armed forces augmented by a robust coalition of other Arab states, the Saudis hope to be able to sustain this campaign against the Houthis long enough to force the rebels to retreat. This will be a daunting prospect for this group of Arab nations, but this mission will also destabilize the region even if it is successful. This Saudi-led coalition is also a Sunni coalition, and they are engaged in a fight against a Shiite-dominated ethnic force that enjoys the backing of Tehran. Meanwhile, in Iraq, Iranian military forces are engaged in a battle to roll back a Sunni-dominated Islamist insurgency and are reportedly engaged in brutal and repressive practices against the Sunni cities they “liberate” from ISIS control. The outlines of a vast, region-wide sectarian conflict are perfectly visible.

And where are the United States’ loyalties in this conflict? All over the place. It was just yesterday that American defense officials revealed that their support for Iranian-backed combat operations in Iraq would evolve from covert to overt. America soon began sharing military intelligence with Iranian-backed forces and providing air support for fighters attempting to oust ISIS from Tikrit. On the same day, the White House revealed that the Saudis had consulted with Washington before mounting these strikes in Yemen and that America gave its consent to the operation. Moreover, the United States would establish a “Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate US military and intelligence support.”

So, the United States is hoping to play both sides of this multi-front sectarian conflict, all in an effort to ensure that America is never again drawn into direct combat operations in the Middle East. Even for Democrats with an understanding of geopolitics, the Obama White House’s strategy of retrenchment no matter the cost appears increasingly unwise:

The enemy always gets a vote, and the situation in the Middle East is going to get worse before it gets better as Iran prepares to respond to the attack on its proxies in Yemen.

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