The inability to make any viable, trustworthy deals with Tehran is not the only reason that ceding control of Yemen to Iran is perilous for America and the rest of the world. A key danger to the US also lies in its relinquishing the maritime chokepoint, Bab el-Mandeb, through which — along with the Strait of Hormuz — approximately one-third of the world’s oil production passes every day. Pictured: A merchant ship transits the Strait of Hormuz, with the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge in the background. (Image source: US Navy/Wikimedia Commons)
Many of the US administration’s critics in Congress are, perhaps unsurprisingly, exhibiting hypocrisy where American policy is concerned. Less than a year ago, the Senate passed a resolution, co-sponsored by Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), to discontinue military support for the Saudi-led effort to defeat the Houthis — Marxist-Islamist terrorists backed by, and serving as, a proxy to the Iranian regime in its war in Yemen.
Sanders defended the resolution by declaring: “The bottom line is that the United States should not be supporting a catastrophic war led by a despotic [Saudi] regime with an irresponsible foreign policy.”
Sanders failed to mention that the “catastrophic war” to which he was referring was initiated solely by the regime in Tehran, which encouraged and enabled Houthi terrorists to overthrow the internationally recognized government of Yemen. These terrorists continue to use hospitals and schools in Yemen as troop barracks and supply dumps, and dragoon pre-pubescent children into their ranks.
Murphy said that the resolution “will be seen as a message to the Saudis that they need to clean up their act,” asserting that America is “made weaker in the eyes of the world when we willingly participate in war crimes, when we allow our partners to engage in the slaughter of innocents.”
Murphy conveyed no similar message, however, to Iran and its Houthi proxy to “clean up their act” and end their war of aggression in Yemen.
Both Sanders and Murphy ignored the results of a proposed peace plan, presented to the UN in October 2018, which then US Defense Secretary James Mattis said included a ceasefire of missile and drone attacks from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, in exchange for a halt of Saudi-led coalition air strikes in all populated areas of the country. The response from the Houthis and their patron, Iran, was to launch additional missile attacks.
The inability to make any viable, trustworthy deals with Tehran is not the only reason that ceding control of Yemen to Iran is perilous for America and the rest of the world. A key danger to the US also lies in its relinquishing the maritime chokepoint, Bab el-Mandeb, through which — along with the Strait of Hormuz — approximately one-third of the world’s oil production passes every day. Iran’s ability to disrupt or interdict this daily movement of oil would give Tehran enormous leverage over the global economy.
Given this reality, it is inexplicable for Congress to advocate a policy based on tying the hands of Saudi Arabia, an ally, while giving free rein to Iran, which has been a sworn enemy of the US for decades. In addition, Saudi Arabia, unlike Iran, is not on any glide-path to producing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to deliver them. Furthermore, full American cooperation with the Saudi coalition, if done effectively, is more likely to end the war in Yemen than enable it to become another endless conflict like the one that has been raging in Syria — something that goes against American interests.
A successful Congressional and administration policy to end the fighting in Yemen should include: (1) closing down the ground-, sea- and air-smuggling routes for weapons to the Houthis; (2) patrolling the Bab el-Mandeb and the Strait of Hormuz; (3) selling America’s allies in the region the military hardware they need to secure victory; (4) providing real-time intelligence and overhead reconnaissance to coalition forces; and (5) using strong public diplomacy to support the internationally recognized and lawful government of Yemen.
In view of the terrible history of the conflict in Yemen, it is high time for Congress to choose sides — to back Saudi Arabia’s coalition or empower Iran and its proxy Houthi terrorists.
Dr. Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981. He also is a guest lecturer on nuclear deterrent studies at the US Naval Academy. He was also for 22 years, the senior defense consultant at the National Defense University Foundation.