Last Warning to US Middle East Foreign Policy: Yemen

With the crisis in Yemen, another link has been added to the chain of challenging tasks and tough times the Obama Administration has been going through in the Middle East. By gathering most other Arab countries to its side, Saudi Arabia launched an airstrike against Houthi forces that are advancing in Yemen. This situation brought new questions about the United States’ policy in the region. After this period, a process will be waiting for the U.S. to make challenging decisions about its relations with the countries in the region. These decisions might determine not only the future of the region but also of the U.S. in the region. Not too long ago, just six months, President Obama was making an example of the U.S. war on terror in Yemen and how it would be successful against groups like the Islamic State in the region. After just six months, last week the U.S. started withdrawing its Special Forces stationed in the country; while doing that, its most important unmanned air force base in Yemen, al-Annad, was seized by Houthi forces. Since drone strikes were the backbone of the U.S. anti-terror strategy in Yemen, that struck a serious blow to its anti-terrorism forces at a point where Yemen has been dragging into a civil war and al-Qaida’s Arabian Peninsula forces have been growing stronger.

However, the issue also has a few different dimensions that go beyond the war on terrorism. First of all, Iran backed the Houthi’s attempt to seize one of the important geopolitical zones, and the U.S.’ inert attitude to the situation until it got to this point is causing a serious loss of confidence in its relations with the countries in the region.

Iran’s Role in the Region

Even though the U.S. provides intelligence support to the operation, until now its passive role against Iran backed the group’s military interventions in Syria and Iraq, and Tehran’s destabilizing direct political role in both countries has been bothering the other countries in the region for a long time. During this process, no country has directly intervened in Syria and Iraq as much as Iran, and no other country’s intelligence chiefs have become an Instagram star. Even though the most direct and high level interventions in the region have been carried out by Iran, Qasem Soleimani and his military forces have been acknowledged by the U.S. as if he were a commander in Syria and a local liberator in Iraq. These kinds of actions have been ignored constantly due to the ongoing nuclear negotiations. Iran and its proxies have tried to exploit this tolerance to the full extent. Although it has activated all sectarian nerves in the region, instead of Iran, some countries like Turkey have been blamed with sectarianism by some parts of society in the U.S.

At the point we have reached, ongoing events in Yemen especially reveal that from now on it will be difficult for both Iran and the U.S. to maintain this policy. If the U.S. wants to draw a conclusion from the situation in Yemen, this should be that the country is being dragged into sectarian civil war with the support Iran is giving to the rebels. For this reason, starting with the plan prepared for fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria based on Yemen’s fight against terrorism, all the strategies that will jeopardize the stability in the region for the sake of Iran’s increased influence should be reviewed urgently. While this is being done, it should also be remembered that the tolerance that has been shown in order to resolve the nuclear program issue is another kind of radioactivity that will bring a lot of sectarian fault lines and proxy wars into the region in the long run.

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