Why it may suit Iran to let the Saudis win in Yemen

ALJAZEERA COLUMN: It may appear confusing at first glance that the U.S. is supporting a Saudi-led military intervention against Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen while waging its own air campaign in support of Iran’s allies fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Tikrit, Iraq — and negotiating a nuclear accord with Tehran. But there’s a coherent strategic thread linking these three seemingly disparate processes…

Strong backing for the Saudi-led effort in Yemen allows Barack Obama’s administration to dispel the notion — widely (albeit mistakenly) held in Arab capitals and by some critics in Congress and the U.S. foreign policy establishment — that nuclear diplomacy presages a broader U.S. realignment in favor of Iran and at the expense of traditional U.S. allies in the Gulf.
Yemen, moreover, has the advantage of being an arena in which the U.S. and Sunni allies can push back at Iran without threatening Tehran’s vital interests. Iran has a limited stake and less investment in Yemen than it does in Syria, Lebanon or Iraq.

There are no selfies of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Qassem Suleimani living large in Sanaa. The Houthi-Tehran alliance is not as tight as is depicted, and Tehran may well have deemed the Houthi advance in Yemen as an overreach — although once successful, it likely became an opportunity to be leveraged. Iran has certainly left itself plenty of room to retreat in Yemen, which would deflate hyperbolic claims of an Iranian regional surge that are being used to mobilize opposition to a nuclear deal that remains Tehran’s (and Washington’s) greater immediate priority… (more)

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Updated: March 27, 2015 — 11:05 pm
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