IRAN’S QUEST FOR REGIONAL DOMINATION IS CHALLENGED BY SAUDI-LED FORCE IN YEMEN

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 

 

Contents:

 

Current Iran Framework Will Make War More Likely: Moshe Ya'alon, Washington Post, Apr. 8, 2015 — The framework concluded last week on Iran’s nuclear program was doomed to disagreement.

Yemen’s President: The Houthis Must Be Stopped: Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, New York Times, Apr. 12, 2015— My country, Yemen, is under siege by radical Houthi militia forces whose campaign of horror and destruction is fueled by the political and military support of an Iranian regime obsessed with regional domination.

A New Chapter in the Sunni-Shi’ite War: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 4, 2015 — The Saudi-organized coalition for Yemen and the announcement of a regional Arab force show that the Sunni states have finally picked up the gauntlet thrown down by the Iranians.

Saudis Warm to Muslim Brotherhood, Seeking Sunni Unity on Yemen: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal. Apr. 2, 2015 — Ever since the Arab Spring began four years ago, Saudi Arabia waged a two-front campaign against its Shiite nemesis Iran, and against the Sunni Islamists—led by the Muslim Brotherhood—whose rise across the region had challenged the kingdom’s legitimacy.

 

On Topic Links

 

Snapback: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Apr. 9, 2015

Is There Any Hope Left for Yemen?: Bushra Al-Maqtari, New York Times, Apr. 14, 2015

The Saudi Military Intervention in Yemen: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, Mar. 31, 2015

The Middle Eastern Metternichs of Riyadh: David P. Goldman, Asia Times, Mar. 27, 2015

 

         

CURRENT IRAN FRAMEWORK WILL MAKE WAR MORE LIKELY                                                              

Moshe Ya'alon                                                                                                                             

Washington Post, Apr. 8, 2015

 

The framework concluded last week on Iran’s nuclear program was doomed to disagreement. Even the “fact sheets” issued by the United States, France and Iran — all parties to the talks — didn’t agree on the facts.

 

Israel has made clear its grave concerns about the framework’s fundamental elements and omissions. The vast nuclear infrastructure to be left in Iran will give it an unacceptably short breakout time to building a bomb. Iran’s long-range ballistic missile program — a threat to Israel as well as the rest of the Middle East, Europe and the United States — is untouched. The sanctions on Iran will be lifted (quickly, according to the Iranians; gradually, according to the United States), while restrictions imposed on the Islamic republic’s nuclear program will expire in about a decade, regardless of Iran’s campaign of murderous aggression in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere across the Middle East; its arming, funding, training and dispatching of terrorists around the world; and its threats and violent efforts to destroy Israel, the region’s only democracy.

 

To justify the risks inherent to the framework, its supporters have posited three main arguments: that the only alternative is war; that Iranian violations will be deterred or detected because of “unprecedented verification”; and that, in the event of violations, sanctions will be snapped back into place. These arguments have one important feature in common: They’re all wrong. The claim that the only alternative to the framework is war is false. It both obscures the failure to attain better terms from Iran and stifles honest and open debate by suggesting that if you don’t agree, you must be a warmonger. It also feeds and reflects the calumny that Israel in particular is agitating for war.

 

As Israel’s minister of defense, as a former Israel Defense Forces chief of general staff and as a combat veteran forced to bury some of my closest friends, I know too well the costs of war. I also know that Israelis are likely to pay the highest price if force is used — by anyone — against Iran’s nuclear program. No country, therefore, has a greater interest in seeing the Iranian nuclear question resolved peacefully than Israel. Our opposition to a deal based on the framework is not because we seek war, but because the terms of the framework — which will leave an unreformed Iran stronger, richer and with a clear path to a bomb — make war more likely.

 

The framework is supposed to prevent or detect Iranian denials and deception about their nuclear program by means of inspections and intelligence. Unfortunately, the track record of inspections and intelligence makes the framework’s outsize reliance on them both misguided and dangerous. In many ways, the Iranian nuclear crisis began and intensified after two massive intelligence failures. Neither Israeli nor other leading Western intelligence agencies knew about Iran’s underground enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow until it was too late. As good as our intelligence services are, they simply cannot guarantee that they will detect Iranian violations at all, let alone in time to stop a dash for a bomb.

 

Twenty years ago, inspectors were supposed to keep the world safe from a North Korean nuclear bomb. Today, North Korea is a nuclear weapons state, and Iran isn’t complying with its existing obligations to come clean about its suspected efforts to design nuclear warheads. There is no reason to believe that Iran will start cooperating tomorrow, but the deal all but guarantees that it will nonetheless have the nuclear infrastructure it would need to produce a nuclear arsenal. Intelligence and inspections are simply no substitute for dismantling the parts of Iran’s program that can be used to produce atomic bombs.

 

Finally, there are the sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. These took years to put in place and even longer to become effective. Once lifted, they cannot be snapped back after future Iranian violations. It is fantasy to think the sanctions can be restored and become effective in the exceedingly short breakout time provided by the terms of the framework.

 

Though we have a serious policy disagreement with the United States regarding the framework and its implications, I am nevertheless confident that the friendship and alliance we share will not only weather this difference of views but also emerge even stronger from it. This is precisely what has happened in the past. Israelis know that the United States is Israel’s greatest friend and strategic ally. No disagreement, not even about this critical issue, can diminish our enduring, profound gratitude to the president and his administration, Congress and the American people for all the United States has done to enhance the security of the Jewish state.

 

The choice is not between this bad deal and war. The alternative is a better deal that significantly rolls back Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and links the lifting of restrictions on its nuclear program to an end of Iran’s aggression in the region, its terrorism across the globe and its threats to annihilate Israel. This alternative requires neither war nor putting our faith in tools that have already failed us.

 

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                      

   

 

YEMEN’S PRESIDENT: THE HOUTHIS MUST BE STOPPED                                                                  

Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi                                                                                          

New York Times, Apr. 12, 2015

 

My country, Yemen, is under siege by radical Houthi militia forces whose campaign of horror and destruction is fueled by the political and military support of an Iranian regime obsessed with regional domination. There is no question that the chaos in Yemen has been driven by Iran’s hunger for power and its ambition to control the entire region.

 

The Houthi attacks are unjust acts of aggression against the Yemeni people and the constitutional legitimacy of my government, as well as an assault on Yemen's sovereignty and security. The Houthi rebels are puppets of the Iranian government, and the government of Iran does not care for the fate of ordinary Yemenis; it only cares about achieving regional hegemony. On behalf of all Yemenis, I call on the agents of chaos to surrender and to stop serving the ambitions of others.

 

It is not too late to stop the devastation of my nation. The Houthis belong at the negotiating table, not on the battlefield terrorizing their fellow citizens. Their ambition should be to establish a secure and stable Yemen. Yemenis must not be stopped from enacting our constitution and implementing the results of the National Dialogue leading to the transition to a parliament in which both the north and south are fairly represented and the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative, the mechanism, endorsed by the United Nations, to complete the political transition. But the Houthis and their patron, Yemen’s discredited ex-president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, refused to follow the roadmap for change they had previously agreed to. Mr. Saleh must take responsibility for anarchy in Yemen and call a halt to the needless bloodshed.

 

Operation Decisive Storm, the campaign by a coalition of nations led by Saudi Arabia, is coming to the aid of Yemen at the request of my government. If the Houthis do not withdraw and disarm their militia and rejoin the political dialogue, we will continue to urge the coalition to continue its military campaign against them. Two weeks ago, Yemen was on the brink of the abyss. The unprecedented level of Arab and international support brought us back from the edge. The message they are sending is clear: Iran cannot continue expanding at the expense of the integrity and security of other countries in the region.

 

Our neighbors are certain of what they see: one house in the neighborhood is on fire, and that fire must first be contained and then extinguished lest the entire neighborhood turn to ashes. We will need continued international support to ensure military might on the battlefield now. And we will need assistance for our civil institutions once the fighting has stopped, to return my government to leadership in the capital, Sana.

 

Having a hostile government in a nation bordering the Bab al-Mandeb strait — the highly trafficked shipping lane leading to the Suez Canal — is in no nation’s interest. If the Houthis are not stopped, they are destined to become the next Hezbollah, deployed by Iran to threaten the people in the region and beyond. The oil shipments through the Red Sea that much of the world depends on will be in jeopardy, and Al Qaeda and other radical groups will be allowed to flourish.

                                                                                   

Contents                                                                                     

   

A NEW CHAPTER IN THE SUNNI-SHI’ITE WAR                                                                             

Jonathan Spyer                                                                                                   

Jerusalem Post, Apr. 4, 2015

 

The Saudi-organized coalition for Yemen and the announcement of a regional Arab force show that the Sunni states have finally picked up the gauntlet thrown down by the Iranians. The assembling of a Sunni alliance to challenge the advancement of an Iranian proxy in Yemen, and the subsequent announcement in Sharm e-Sheikh of the formation of a 40,000 strong Arab rapid reaction force, are the latest moves in a war that has already been under way in the Middle East for some time.

 

This is a war between Sunni and Shi’ite forces over the ruins of the regional order. It is a war that is unlikely to end in the wholesale victory of one side. Rather, it will end when the two forces exhaust themselves. What the region will look like when this storm passes is anyone’s guess. The two sides in this war differ in significant ways.

 

The Saudi and Arab League announcements constitute the Sunnis’ attempt to narrow the gaps in unity and effectiveness between themselves and their Shi’ite opponents. The Shi’ite side is a united bloc, centered around the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranians are an overtly anti-Western and anti-status quo force, seeking a new Middle East order with themselves at the head. In their propaganda, they characterize themselves as an alliance of authentic Muslim forces, organized against the West and its hirelings. In reality, they are a gathering of almost exclusively Shi’ite groupings, but a cohesive and united one.

 

It is possible that the traditions of clandestinity and cross-border communication of a long subaltern regional minority gives the Shi’ites an advantage in this regard.  In the Revolutionary Guards Corps and its Quds Force, the Iranians possess an instrument perfectly designed for the current moment in the region. An army of professional revolutionaries whose specific trade is the mobilizing and direction of proxy political- military organizations. The context of the current war is one in which states have collapsed and separated into sectarian components. In Yemen, Iraq, Syria and in a less kinetic way Lebanon, would-be “successors” to the state organized on a sectarian or ethnic basis are fighting one another.

 

In such a context, the existence of a state agency whose specific field of expertise is the creation and maintenance of sectarian political-military organizations is an enormous advantage. The Sunnis have no equivalent of the IRGC. Its existence and its skills are behind Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanon, the Assad regime’s survival in Syria, the current Shi’ite militia mobilization against Islamic State in Iraq and the Houthi offensive in Yemen. The Sunni side in this war has been, since its inception, a far more disparate, confused and cumbersome affair.

 

There are a number of reasons for this. There is no Sunni equivalent of Iran, no single powerful state that can gather and direct all forces under its wing. For the last 40 years, the most powerful Sunni Arab states formed the key components of the regional alliance headed by the US. If Iran was the “guiding” hand behind the Shi’ite challenge to the regional status quo, then the organizing force behind the pro-status quo Sunni states was the US.

 

But in the last half decade of emergent sectarian war in the region, the United States has been absent, entirely unaware of the dynamic of events. So the Sunnis have been adrift. The US has sought to appease both the Iranians and the radical, anti-Western element among the Sunnis – the Muslim Brotherhood. All this apparently as part of an effort to withdraw from the region and leave the keys with whoever seems most inclined to grab them.

 

What the events of the last week confirm, however, is that the “status quo” Sunni powers, the once-allies of the US, are now determined to organize themselves independently given the absence of an American guiding hand. The commitment of nine Sunni-majority countries to the Saudi-organized alliance is the fruit of an ambitious attempt by Riyadh to create a new, regionally led counter-bloc to the Iranians. Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Pakistan, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are on board. The drive to halt the advance of the Iran-supported Houthis is the first test of this new and unfamiliar coalition.

 

Success remains uncertain. Egyptian ships have been dispatched to the area. Air strikes have begun. But the wars of the Middle East today are not high-technology affairs. Air power certainly plays an important role, but in the end, these are grinding contests, fought out on the ground. In such a war, the Shi’ite Islamist and tribal guerrillas of the Houthis and their IRGC guides are likely to enjoy a certain advantage. The difficult terrain of Yemen is likely to exacerbate this. This raises a further difficulty for the Sunnis.

 

So far, the experience of Iraq and Syria indicates that the only Sunni forces that have gone toe-to-toe with the Iran-backed element and held their ground are Islamists. Note the recent conquest by a force led by the al-Qaida affiliate (and Qatar client) al-Nusra Front of Idlib in northwestern Syria. Idlib is the second provincial capital to fall to the anti-Assad forces in four years of civil war. The first was Raqqa, further east. It’s now controlled by Islamic State. What this means is that the pushback against the Iranians, as led by the Sunni Arabs, is likely to involve Sunni jihadis and the Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas last week also declared its support for the Saudi initiative).

 

But the Saudi initiative hasn’t ended divisions among the Sunnis. The split between pro- and anti-Muslim Brotherhood forces has been only papered over. Last month, Qatar and Turkey, the main Brotherhood-supporting Sunni states, signed a separate military accord. This mobilization contains nothing in it of regional reform. It is a sectarian alliance par excellence.

 

But for all the warnings and caveats, the emergence of the Saudi-organized coalition for Yemen and the announcement of the new Arab force to deploy in the region are developments of great, perhaps historical significance. They represent the Sunnis picking up the gauntlet thrown down a while back by the Iranians. This war was a long time coming. It emerged in stages. It has been here for a while. This week, with the announcement of the Saudi-led alliance, its magnitude has become plainly visible. A new chapter is beginning in the region.           

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                                

                                          

SAUDIS WARM TO MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD,

SEEKING SUNNI UNITY ON YEMEN                                                                      

Yaroslav Trofimov       

Wall Street Journal, Apr. 2, 2015

           

Ever since the Arab Spring began four years ago, Saudi Arabia waged a two-front campaign against its Shiite nemesis Iran, and against the Sunni Islamists—led by the Muslim Brotherhood—whose rise across the region had challenged the kingdom’s legitimacy. The unexpectedly broad Sunni coalition that Saudi Arabia’s new King Salman managed to assemble last week against pro-Iranian Houthi forces in Yemen heralds the end of this balancing act.

 

In this new pivot, the Saudis decided that Iranian expansionism has turned the kingdom’s regional fight with the Brotherhood into an unaffordable distraction—especially now that the Brotherhood appears too feeble to imperil the monarchy and its allies. Contributing to this shift is Riyadh’s existential fear of Iranian-fostered unrest within the kingdom’s own Shiite minority.

 

“The Yemen issue is very central for the Saudis. They fear that if there is a government in line with Iranian foreign policy there, it may give a strong voice for the Shiites inside Saudi Arabia,” said Khalid Almezaini, coordinator of the Gulf studies program at Qatar University. “The Houthis have military capabilities, weapons, and represent a serious threat. The Muslim Brotherhood is much weaker, and the Saudis now are in a much better position to control the brothers wherever they are,” he added.

 

The Saudi shift doesn’t mean the end of the rift over the role of political Islam that divided the Middle East’s Sunni powers ever since Egypt’s then military chief Abdel Fattah Al Sisi ousted President Mohammed Morsi, a Brotherhood leader, in 2013. Since then, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates portrayed the Brotherhood—which professes nonviolence and advocates elections—as a terrorist group akin to al Qaeda and Islamic State, or ISIS. By moving from the region’s anti-Brotherhood vanguard closer to the middle ground, Saudi Arabia has managed to rally all the Sunni countries that matter around its Yemen campaign—from Turkey, Mr. Morsi’s key backer, and maverick Qatar to Mr. Sisi, now Egypt’s president, and the staunchly anti-Islamist U.A.E.

 

While Turkey isn't participating in the actual fighting, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan endorsed the Saudi campaign and in recent days adopted much harsher language against Iran—something he had avoided until now. By contrast, Oman, the only Gulf monarchy not ruled by a Sunni, is staying away from the Yemen intervention. “The Sunni parties now are more worried about Iran, and they have been able to close ranks,” said Shadi Hamid, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of a book on the Brotherhood.

 

Saudi officials often stress the supposed continuity between King Salman and his predecessor King Abdullah, who died in January. But on the issue of how to deal with the Brotherhood, their differences have become increasingly clear. “In the last couple of years, Saudi officials and media used Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS almost interchangeably,” said Fahad Nazer, a Saudi analyst at JTG Inc., an intelligence contractor in Virginia, and a former staffer at the Saudi embassy in Washington. “Now, there is change coming for sure.”

 

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal signaled this change by telling Saudi newspaper Al Jazirah in February: “We don’t have any problem with the Muslim Brotherhood.” He said the kingdom is opposed only to a “small segment affiliated with the group.” Eager for a lifeline after a vicious crackdown in its Egyptian cradle and setbacks elsewhere in the region, the Muslim Brotherhood has reciprocated to that opening. Following Saudi airstrikes in Yemen last week, Brotherhood leaders throughout the Middle East have by and large cautiously sided with Riyadh on the controversial intervention.

 

“We hope that the recent military alliance, led by Saudi Arabia, reflects a new stance of the new administration of the kingdom to support the will of the people in Yemen and elsewhere,” said Amr Darrag, head of the political bureau of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in exile who served as minister of planning and international cooperation under President Morsi. “I support any action that would restore democracy in Yemen and ensure security” of the Gulf monarchies, he added.

 

The resulting Saudi coalition in Yemen is united by a clearly sectarian bent, fitting the kingdom’s narrative of fighting to repel a Shiite expansion across the region. Amid rising religious strife throughout the Middle East—fueled in part by fears about Iran’s nuclear program—that could be a potent glue. “This is a sectarian-based alliance and because of that, it may last longer than people expect,” said Ali al-Ahmed, a Saudi Shiite dissident who runs the Institute for Gulf Affairs think tank in Washington. What gets lost in this treatment of the Yemen conflict as yet another battlefield in the Sunni-Shiite regional war is the fact that, until not so long ago, it was anything but.

 

The Houthis, Yemen’s former dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the royal family that ruled Yemen for centuries all belong to the Zaidis—a Muslim sect long viewed as theologically closer to Sunni rather that Iranian-style Shiite Islam. In the 1960s, the Saudis had no problem backing the Zaidi rebels against Egyptian occupation troops. It is only in the recent decade that the Houthis, a Zaidi rebel movement from northernmost Yemen, have forged close links with Iran and its allied Shiite militia Hezbollah in Lebanon, embracing a more distinct Shiite identity.  “Our Shiites are not real Shiites, and our Sunnis are not real Sunnis. We are all Yemenis,” said Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni political activist and chairman of the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies. “What the Saudis are doing is creating a sectarian model for tension and conflict for the first time in a country where the conflict was not sectarian in the past.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                                       

Contents

                                                                                     

On Topic

 

Snapback: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Apr. 9, 2015  —All the illusions, delusions and deceptions embedded in last week's nuclear accord with Iran can be summarized by one newfangled, disingenuous phrase that President Barack Obama has been using to defend his pact with the ayatollahs: Snap back.

Is There Any Hope Left for Yemen?: Bushra Al-Maqtari, New York Times, Apr. 14, 2015 —On the night of March 25, Saudi Arabia began a bombastically named air raid campaign, Operation Decisive Storm. The Saudis want to pressure the Houthis, the Shiite tribal community who have overrun much of Yemen, to negotiate with our former president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled last month for exile in Riyadh.

The Saudi Military Intervention in Yemen: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, Mar. 31, 2015 —It is hard to believe that the Saudi military intervention in Yemen came as a surprise to U.S. intelligence agencies.

The Middle Eastern Metternichs of Riyadh: David P. Goldman, Asia Times, Mar. 27, 2015 —Gaming the demise of the Saudi monarchy has been a flourishing industry on the think-tank circuit for the past dozen years.

                                                                    

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org