Confronting Iran ? President Trump entering uncharted waters in Yemen (2)

By Patrick Bahzad


"Morality is the weakness of the brain. It can be dangerous
when it is not alleviated by thought and reason"
(from A Season in Hell, by Arthur Rimbaud)

As explained in part (1) of this piece, President Trump is facing some tough challenges if he intends to unsettle the "empire by proxies" that Tehran has established in the Middle-East. By chosing Yemen as the starting point for his roll back policy of Iranian influence, his team has picked a country that is going down the road other failed States have taken before in the region. But even though Yemen might be the weak link in the Iranian chain of "choke points" spread all around the Arabian peninsula, there is no guarantee of success for the new US administration.

A close advisor to President Trump recently said the President would take on Islamic radicals, whether they are "Jihadists or Khomeinists", meaning whether they are ISIS/AQ or the IRGC and its surrogates. Taking the morale high ground and wanting to confront Evil is nothing new in American politics. From that point of view, the administration's statements do not exactly come as a surprise. There has been the "Empire of Evil" and the "Axis of Evil" before. In both these cases though, there was a strategy – however flawed and misguided – underpinning the moral claim, which seems to be totally lacking today.

Revenge is a dish best served cold

It is hard to imagine an administration that has already shown its lack of preparation on such basic issues as immigration law having a well thought through strategy for any kind of US intervention or operation. If the recent SEAL Team 6 raid is any indication to go by, we are in for a rough ride.

Taking risks is in the nature of military arts, but when giving the green light for anything like this, you need to carefully weigh the prospective gains against the risks incurred. Getting the scalp of a senior AQAP may certainly justify putting US operators at risk. Does it necessarily mean you try and have a go at the next best occasion, getting into something that has potentially serious implications in case anything goes wrong ?

I surely can't make that call, but it seems the first raid authorized by the President has already lost the US some good will among the Saudi backed "legitimate" government of Yemen, as well as among Central Yemeni tribes that were not overly hostile to US interests. This is a game where patience trumps bravado, and you'll have to bite your lip more often than not, missing out on a good chance to get a bad guy out of the way.

Does Donald Trump understand this ? Do his closest advisors ? Only time will tell. But if they think "intelligence fusion cells", "combined joint task forces" and "kill lists" alone are going to get us anywhere near the goal the President is contemplating, they are deeply mistaken. Kinetic actions have their place in any overall strategy mixing military assets and foreign policy efforts. However, they are only means to an end. They are not a self serving purpose as such, even less so in Yemen.

The Yemeni Quagmire

Looking at the situation on the ground, there is no doubt that of all the players involved, the Saudis are probably the ones in the most uncomfortable situation. They have already played their trump card with very mixed results and are at a dead end. Overall, they have achieved very little, despite considerable resources dedicated to their operations.

Recent diplomatic efforts aimed at rallying the whole GCC will not fundamentally change the equation.The Saudi air force has been flying air strikes ever since the start of the war. Despite deliveries of precision guided weapons by a number of Western countries, they did not have a significant impact on their adversaries. This is all the more relevant, as both the US and the UK have been sharing intelligence with the Saudis regarding target acquisition and identification. 

Other than occasional hits on HVTs and recurring instances of civilian infrastructure destroyed (and innocent people killed in the thousands already), there is not much to take away from this campaign. Considering the "low tech" profile of their adversaries, the Saudis could bomb Yemen back into the stone age anyway and not get much more result.

Their ground offensive, involving both Saudi and allied troops as well as local allies, has made some ground over time, but the area it managed to win back from Saleh and his Houthis basically coincides with the limits of the Northerners area of influence. Aden is not under threat any more, there is serious fighting going on around Taiz, but the Houthi heartland and most of the Red Sea coast north of Perim Island is out of reach for the Saudi coalition.

According to the "official" Saudi backed Yemen government, the port of Mocha has now finally fallen into GCC hands, after about six weeks of intense fighting. This would be confirmation that the 300 miles of Read Sea coastline are indeed considered of vital interest to the Saudis. It is unclear however how much control they have over Mocha at this point and how long they will be able to maintain it unchallenged. Suffice to say, Mocha is the easiest target on Western Yemen shores. 

Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthis

The Houthis on the other hand are stuck with their cumbersome ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and parts of the army loyal to him. Saleh is his own man, playing his own game. For now, his interests are in line with those of the Houthis, but it may not always be the case. From a US point of view, it would make sense finding out it if there is any modus vivendi that could be achieved with Saleh, in order to drive a wedge between him and the Houthis for example. A man hungry for power, Saleh's goals are not too difficult to read. He wants a seat at the table, and most probably a large slice of the cake as well …

This is an area where diplomacy and shrewd politics would undoubtedly get the US further than brute force. Convincing the Saudis that they will have to swallow their pride and accept a number of Saleh demands will not be easy though. Tillerson's State Department might have its plate full in that regard. As for the Houthis, they are anything but the Iranian puppets some officials are trying to turn them into. Their demands have been as much social as economic and political in nature.

If the US decides to go after them, the Houthis will fight, and fight relentlessly. History should not be disregarded and what it teaches us about them is that this is not a people that gives up easily. Isolated minorities in rough mountain lands do have a tendency to hold a serious grudge once they've been antagonized. Generally, they also turn out to be resilient warriors, who won't back down from a fight. If the new adminitration plans to launch raids, airstrikes and drone attacks against the Houthis in the same way as against AQAP, we are probably all in for a tough awakening.

The stretch of red Sea Coast under Houthi control extends for miles and miles and there is no way international shipping lanes can be consistently protected, unless you control the shores as well. Furthermore, areas North of the Saudi border in Jizan, Asir and Najran have already proven vulnerable to Houthi incursions. Besides, and this is a more basic question, why would the US escalate a situation militarily, with no guarantees of success, if there is a less risky road to achieve the same result ?

Splitting up the circumstantial alliance between Saleh, the Houthis and Iran

There is probably a danger in having military technicians rather than genuine strategists in charge of national security policy. That danger is closely linked to the cognitive bias and experience these people bring to the table. Having contributed to serious revamping of military intelligence in Afghanistan is a good thing, but believing every international issue the US is confronted with can be solved through "find, fix and finish" would be a serious problem.

The US is still engaged in Afghanistan, in a war that is about to be lost, while at the same time taking the fight to ISIS in its strongholds in Iraq and Syria. You have to really wonder if and why this should be the time to pick another fight against an adversary that has not threatened US interests in any significant way ? This is all the more relevant, as Yemen's East is another hotbed of Jihadism and it would surely not do us any harm trying to find more local allies against AQAP, rather than making new enemies !

Any objective analysis of the triangular alliance between Saleh's army, Houthi forces and their alleged Iranian supporters clearly indicates that there is plenty of room for negotiating with at least two of these players and peeling away two layers of the problem by doing so. Has there been any attempt at doing so ? I surely hope so !

This brings us back to the core issue at stake, because splitting the Houthi-Saleh joint venture needs taking into account the Iranian ghost presence in the room. As already mentioned in part (1), there is not much evidence currently pointing to an increased or significant Iranian presence in Yemen. It does not mean the Iranians aren't there and most likely, they are indeed, for all the reasons previously explained.

Preventing further Iranian expansion ?

The choice of Yemen as the starting point for a US policy aiming at rolling back Iranian influence in the region does certainly make sense, depending on which military and foreign diplomacy assets the administration is willing to use. But it is undeniable that should they want to go for a weak spot in Tehran's strategy, there is no better place than Yemen.

Looking at the overall situation in the Middle-East, it is clear that the battle of Aleppo, which ended in total defeat for the insurgents, has far reaching consequences. There isn't much that the Saudis in particular can hope to gain any more. They can make sure the war drags on, but they won't be able to break the lock Iran has closed in on them in that part of the Levant, and neither will the US. The so-called "Shia Crescent" will stand, there is no way around this.

However, to fully implement its "choke point" strategy, Tehran also needs to be in a position where it can threaten to interrupt naval shipping through the Red Sea, which is the only viable lifeline the Saudis have left in case things go sore in the East, around the Strait of Hormuz. Achieving the same degree of militarization as in the Strait of Hormuz is out of the question for the Iranians. They have neither the capabilities nor the resources. But the remote prospect of shipping through the Mandeb Strait being seriously interfered with – or worse, interrupted – by Yemen proxies, with the help of Iranian advisors, is the kind of nightmare scenario nobody in Riyadh is willing to entertain.

It does not take that much equipment and technology to mine the Strait, deploy mobile missile batteries capable of hitting at least civilian ships, or send out a swarm of attack speed boats – or torpedo drones – that could also do some damage to Western military vessels. If you add to that, the ageing stock of ballistic missiles that the Yemeni army has in its possession, using them to good effect against the Saudis every now and then, and you get an idea of what is potentially at stake here.

Potential for Iranian Retaliation

Implementing such a strategy however requires the Iranians to rely on local forces in Yemen, whether that is the Houthis, Saleh's army or both. This is all the more reason not to play into their hands by unnecessarily antagonizing these players. On the contrary, it would definitely make more sense to try and bridge the gap, gradually undercutting Tehran's alleged influence on them. Agreed, easier said than done, but "doing stupid sh*t" certainly is no winning strategy either.

By singling out Yemen, the Trump administration has chosen to go after the soft spot in the Iranian "choke point" strategy. Whether or not this move was well prepared is another matter. Recent events would tend to prove otherwise. It is one thing to make claims about wanting to roll back Iran in the region, or even drive a wedge between Iran and its Russian ally. It is a totally different matter to develop a viable strategy to achieve such goals without incurring significant blow back. The balance of power has shifted in the Middle-East over the last 15 years and it has shifted towards Tehran.

There are many asymmetric responses the Iranians might resort to if they feel they are threatened or under attack in Yemen or elsewhere. In that regard, the Trump administration might soon find itself in a situation where it would have to choose between continuing with the promising offensive against ISIS or shifting the effort towards containing Iran. The current battle of Mosul, the coming fight for Raqqa, the offensives that will be needed to expunge ISIS of its sanctuaries along the Tigris and Euphrates cannot be thought without Tehran's agreement.

Such is the Iranian influence in Iraq and Syria that US troops there would be at serious risk should the situation escalate beyond breaking point in Yemen. Short if invading Iran itself, there is not much anybody can do to leverage those asymetric assets the Iranians now firmly hold in their hand. As for full-on invasion, a prospect that would be dear to the few the Neo-Cons who made it into the Trump administration, it would probably make "Operation Iraqi Freedom" look like the cakewalk Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said it would be !

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29 Responses to Confronting Iran ? President Trump entering uncharted waters in Yemen (2)

  1. Prem says:

    OT Elliott Abrams has been vetoed by Trump. That’s a hell of a good sign. Although, it’s still worrying that Tillerson ever wanted to hire him.

  2. EEngineer says:

    The US going after ISIS/AQ in any meaningful way puts it in direct conflict with the Saudis. Could going after “Jihadists or Khomeinists” be the PC/reverse logic way of getting the Washington crowd behind getting serious in the ISIS fight in the guise of going after Iran? It would be good way for the Trump administration to bring the Saudis to heel…
    I’m of the opinion that much of Trump’s bellicose style is the equivalent of throwing chaff everywhere all the time to maximize is maneuver space. Scott Adams, the author of Dilbert, has gone into great detail on the particulars of the technique on his blog over the last 6 months. That much I get, but I have yet to figure out exactly makes Trump and the crew he’s surrounded himself with tick.

  3. Col.:
    Is it unreasonable to suspect that he and his closest, nonmilitary advisors, are willing to risk the lives of our troops if they think it will gain them a political benefit?
    That degree of cynicism seems to me to be warranted by the willingness to go forward with an operation that many seem to think was a bad idea from the start–was it because nobody really cared to make the necessary investment of time to investigate the mission before green lighting it?

  4. Petrous says:

    It seems he was only rejected because of bruised egos at 1600 Penn (comments E.A made about the boss previous to his election), not any fundamental objection to his background or qualifications. If so this would ameliorate its chances of being a good sign, just more of the same. Still, whatever the reason, yes, it is good news.

  5. BraveNewWorld says:

    Iran up until a couple of years ago had decent military relations with Sudan and to a lesser extent Somilia and Eritrea. Those governments all got paid a couple of years ago to officially abandoned Iran. But I have to wonder with the Saudi money drying up, the black workers in the KSA mostly getting F’d out of their wages and other problems between the Kingdom and Africa, what is the real state of affairs today?
    For one thing Iran could and almost certainly does still have weapons stashed in the region. There are probably some people that are still sympathetic to Iran vs the Kingdom. If Iran could get one credible shot off at a tanker from the African side that would mean a whole other front that the US would have to protect against. Would that win or lose a war? No. But it could certainly complicate things. Especially for tanker owners with their insurance companies.

  6. BraveNewWorld says:

    I’ll raise you confusion with some delusion.
    Regarding the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, the president said his vision was for a peace deal for the entire Middle East, not one limited solely to the two sides. To that end, he said, he wanted both parties to behave in a reasonable manner.
    “Well, I want Israel to be reasonable with respect to peace. I want to see peace happen. It should happen. After all these years,” he said. “Maybe there is even a chance for a bigger peace than just Israel and the Palestinians. I would like to see a level of reasonableness of both parties, and I think we have a good chance of doing that.”
    This tells me one of two things are at play. Either Trump has never heard of the Middle East or more likely he has drank Netanyahus Kool Aid. That is the one where the they just remove the Palestinian/Golan Heights part of the Arab Peace plan and all the Musim countries make peace with Israel. Israel keeps the Golan Heights and Palestine every one else just magically caves and “Ta Da” peace.
    Problem is after selling the story to Washington and the Israeli people for the last couple of years that it was already a fait accompli it blew up in Netanyahus face with UNSC2334 when every one that Bibi said was on board called bullshit.

  7. turcopolier says:

    Since I think Trump has heard of the ME, I would say that he is in the every earliest stages of thinking he may have been tricked. He would not like to think that. pl

  8. turcopolier says:

    Steve Nichols
    “Is it unreasonable to suspect that he and his closest, nonmilitary advisors, are willing to risk the lives of our troops if they think it will gain them a political benefit?” It is quite reasonable. Most politicians do that especially if there is a mirror for them to look in while making this noble decision. In Trumps case he is not competent to make tactical judgments about anything and should not have been made to do so. IMO Flynn told him to say yes and he did so while thinking of himself as Abraham Lincoln or the like. pl

  9. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Several years ago, I think before 2011, there was an unattributed Youtube video of miles and miles of oil pipelines on the Arabian peninsula.
    I thought to myself those pipelines are very very difficult to protect; how many tens of thousands of soldiers are required for every 20 kilometers of pipe?

  10. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In my opinion, the country called the United States of American cannot end the war in Palestine because her freely elected government does not wish to try to end it. And the elected government of the United States cannot try to end that war because the electorate in the United States does not support a “Just Peace”; they are supporters of Israel.
    That is why I have come to the conclusion that a case fire with HAMAS and PLO is the most productive option for the next 99 years.
    A 99-Year cease fire will help Palestinians from being murdered by Israelis as well as prevent the United States of America in digging herself deeper into that hell hole called Enemy of Islam.

  11. Babak Makkinejad says:

    A good sign would have been him not even being on the candidate list. The United States has a deep bench, is there no one else left in a country of 320 million souls for that position?

  12. robt willmann says:

    Although humor is often welcome, this is stretching it a bit, as “crown prince” so-and-so was given a CIA medal — named after George Tenet, no less (!) — for being against terrorism and working for peace and security: “The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, received a medal on Friday from the CIA for his distinct intelligence-related counter-terrorism work and his contributions to ensure international peace and security.” The newly confirmed CIA director Mike Pompeo delivered the “award” personally–
    While handing out an award to the Saudi Arabian “crown prince”, the CIA refuses to give a security clearance to a deputy of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Robin Townley, a former Marine intelligence officer, was denied a clearance from the CIA; I am guessing that the NSC people get separate clearances from different departments–

  13. Stu Wood says:

    I agree. Your analysis makes a lot of sense.

  14. Morongobill says:

    Lincoln knew what he wanted, a fighting general.
    I’m not sure if President Trump, this early in his tenure, knows what he really wants.

  15. BraveNewWorld says:

    That is possible. But the fact that the US went scorched earth on the appointment of Fayyad as envoy to Libya despite praise for him even from the Israelis, for the crime of being Palestinian, would seem to point in the opposite direction. But I could be wrong.
    The body language coming out of the meeting on the 15th will be worth watching. Netanyahu has been following not leading his coalition since they were elected the last time. Trump has to send him back with either a promise to attack Iran or a green light on settlements. Iran being more important to Netanyahu, settlements being more important to his coalition. If he doesn’t get ether of those the existing coalition will crumble.
    Then again, all signs are that Netanyahu is about to be indicted for at least bribery and the polls show the majority of Israelis want him to step down if he is. Will he? Probably not. Then again the coalition just barely has a majority and politics is full of eager beavers.
    That brings up the question of whether Trump would be as cozy with any other leader in Israel as he is with the furniture sales man from Philly? I really have to doubt it. If the Israelis spend 6 months in an election what happens to all of Trumps plans in the mean time?

  16. MartinJ says:

    the problem with separating the Huthis and Saleh by negotiating with Saleh and giving him most of the pie, is that he is the one who brought the Iranians into Yemen in the first place. He allows them operating space and he allows them to use the Huthis.
    The Huthis are naive in this matter but have to walk a fine line between being the proxies the Iranians wish them to be and also understanding that Iran can offer little other than weapons, training and diplomatic backing. Iran can’t offer any meaningful aid. The Huthis know that the Saudis are the only ones who can do this.
    I would argue that the sensible policy would be to peel the Huthis from Saleh and Iran, promising them the pie instead of Saleh. The problem for the Huthis is that they are not in a strong enough position to fight Saleh. Nor, I suspect, do they feel they can fully trust the Saudis (for all the obvious reasons).
    My personal feeling is that Saleh knows this is where the main danger lies and so he has sought to put the Huthis in as much shit as he can by conducting false flag operations in the Red Sea or pretending his missile attacks are Iranian. The worry is that many people in DC will buy that and take decisions based on such misinformation.
    I think Yemen is in for a rough ride whatever happens.

  17. VietnamVet says:

    Please keep these excellent posts coming. In the last administration, decisions were made based on influence and money which naturally favored Israel and Saudi Arabia. It is in the American national interest to keep the sea lanes open. I can’t predict what the next act of this Administration will be. But, the flurry of activity so far seems to be belief driven. The world will remain at war in an attempt to keep the Empire and the US Dollar as a reserve currency. Picking a fight with Iran is insane due to its geographical location, no tank armies to drive to Teheran, China and Russia are its allies and the Iranians will fight to the last child. After the next financial crash due to astronomical level of debt that the oligarchs refuse to write down, the Eurasian Alliance will stand on its own. The West will splinter apart into ethnic enclaves. European Statelets will hook with to the New Silk Road if WWIII is avoided. Sort of like Steve Bannon’s Islamic Apocalypse; except, I have no one’s ear.

  18. b says:

    Fun time in Aden today.
    The UAE/Saudi fight over Aden is in full bloom. I touched on this in my comment in the PB Yemen piece part 1.
    AlQaeda in Yemen is on the Saudi pay list. The SEAL raid was against AQ and included UAE special forces. The Saudi payed Hadi government was pissed about the raid. This UAE/Saudi infighting needs some watching.
    Tweets from various sources in Yemen today:
    Saeed Al-Batati @saeedalBatati
    Breaking: Tension is steaming in #Aden as presidential guards(led by #Hadi’s son) besieged Aden airpot controlled by rival faction. #Yemen
    Haykal Bafana @BaFana3 #Yemen
    1am local : Heavy armed clashes in #Aden Airport. Intra-militia fighting. Many streets now closed. Tanks & armour deployed.
    Haykal Bafana @BaFana3
    1pm local – Aden Airport, #Yemen : #UAE Apache helicopter launched airstrike on #Saudi-paid militia of president Hadi.
    Saeed Al-Batati @saeedalBatati
    @adenalghad: A helicopter(Arab coalition) bombed armed vehicle manned by presidential guards outside #Aden airport.
    Saleh Khalid Saleh @SalehAlBatati1
    Finally, Hadi orders his forces surrounding Aden airport to withdraw after tense and bloody day near the airport.
    Saleh Khalid Saleh @SalehAlBatati1
    The fighting around #Aden airport was not the spur of the moment.
    Sporadic intra-factions since Aden liberation,it just got escalated today.
    Saleh Khalid Saleh @SalehAlBatati1
    Just to clarify: the fighting was between factions loyal to Hadi and those loyal to U.A.E over taking control of Aden airport.
    Hisham Al-Omeisy @omeisy
    Hadi forms “joint ops room” for ministry of interior in Aden. Indirectly admitting #Yemen gov not in control & need coordinate w/ factions.

    Who’s side will the CIA take? And who’s side the Pentagon? With whom will the White House agree?
    The folks in Tehran must have great fun watching this.

  19. turcopolier says:

    Now that the Obama claque (Brennen/Carter/Kerry) are gone the inherent interests of DoD/CIA are more visible. The military and civilian intelligence service in every country are normally rivals for influence and budget. Given a chance they will differ in desired policy and if the other side in this moiety falls on its face, well, “tant pis pour eux.” The president is not interested in what he considers to be the trivia of whatever it is that is happening in places like Yemen. I doubt that he could find Sanaa’ on a map without considerable help. Trump remains what he always was – a business guy who makes deals. That is all he is. He instinctively seeks allies for the coming negotiation over- whatever. In the case of the Arabia peninsula he has been sold (mostly by TV news geniuses like Tapper)the idea that Saudi Arabia is “the big dog” and must be backed so that they will help with the “juggernaut” that is Iran. This process is all bullshit. He has no idea whatever about the substance of such things. He wants to rely on competent advisers to show him where Sanaa’ is and what he should do about it while he thinks about the foreign and domestic economy. The Democrats are IMO systematically handicapping Trump (and the US) by obstructing Trump’s ability to form an administration. pl

  20. Sam Peralta says:

    Col. Lang
    There is a possibility that in six months when Trump is in stride he’ll recognize that the success of his presidency will depend on his own instincts. That getting in the middle of the centuries old tribal conflicts in the ME detract from his goals of a successful term.
    I think he’ll rely more on Jared Kushner and those he believes has his interests at the forefront. The Democrats will continue to whine and obstruct but they’re losing more credibility and even some of those that voted for them are getting tired of their shenanigans.

  21. BNW and Pat Lang,
    Doesn’t this look like a repeat of the same old dance? I’m referring to the one where the Israelis announce more settlements, the Americans pretend to be upset, the Israelis then pretend to take severe umbrage at the nerve of the Americans in telling them what to do, and the settlements get built or expanded. Trump, after promising extreme pro Israel policies, now seems to be settling (not a pun) into the same old pattern.

  22. turcopolier says:

    William Fitzgerald
    History is not static. Let us wait and see what the Bibi’s visit is like. pl

  23. DH says:

    Colonel, Bannon should be of some use, as he has a master’s degree in national security studies:
    “He graduated from Virginia Tech in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in urban planning and holds a master’s degree in national security studies from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. In 1985,[30] Bannon received a Master of Business Administration degree with honors[31] from Harvard Business School.[32]”

  24. turcopolier says:

    I do not underestimate him, but I think Trump is his own thing. In the end I think the Israelis will be more disappointed in him than anyone else. pl

  25. DH says:

    An interesting prediction, thank you.

  26. BraveNewWorld says:

    Even under the peace deals as planned at Camp David and the few times they tried afterwards, Israel’s idea plan was that Palestine would still be under Israeli military control with Israeli soldiers patrolling the streets etc. There was never a plan for an actual Palestinian state other than in name. The Palestinians know that. Obama proposed to have NATO replace the IDF in Palestine if a deal was reached and the Israelis refused. That is one of the reasons Israel was admitted into NATO as an observer.
    We have had several cease fires. In one of them the Israelis used a missile from a drone to kill Ahmed al-Jabari who was in charge of enforcing the cease fire, starting a war that got Bibi out of trouble and elected again.
    A cease fire would still leave the Palestinians with out citizenship, so no ability to travel, no way to emigrate. No way to sell their goods to the world with out first selling them to a Jew that marks if up 15% on the way out and 15% to transfer the payment in. That doesn’t even take into account the diaspora.
    Mean while the Israelis will not stop building settlements even if Trump screamed it at the top of his lungs at the press conference. The Israelis would just go around the president to the Republicans in Congress again.
    Support for the 2SS is down in the mid 30% range among Palestinians right now. Support for a 2SS in a century would have 0% support. Abbas is pushing 82 years old and there isn’t another “Uncle Tom” waiting in the wings. It is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. The only questions are who lights the match and when?

  27. BraveNewWorld says:

    Maybe that is where we land. But in the first 2 weeks of Trumps administration the Israelis announced more settlements that they did in all of 2016.
    But the real game changer is the Regulation Bill that was passed after Trump told them to knock it off, which makes all the past illegal settlements legal, even if built on privately owned Palestinian land. It is also the first law that would make Israeli civil law the the law in the West Bank rather than Israeli military law. Basically annexation. It is definitely illegal under International Law and it is very likely illegal under Israelis Law. The Attorney General says he won’t defend it in court. (sound familiar?)
    The courts are going to ask what the legal basis for Israel extending it’s laws over Palestine (not to mention a group of people that didn’t vote for the people passing the law) are and no one has presented an answer beyond “God promised us the land”. That would make it a 100% theocratic law and 0% democratic. Good by to the nonsense about “Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East”. But more importantly the decision the Israeli Supreme court hands down is likely to include for the first time defined limits on what the state can and can not do in the occupied territories. If the Supreme court says it is illegal and Trumps says go ahead then what?
    The Regulation Bill has sparked outrage even in Germany which has traditionally been more pro Israel than the US and has been holding back the EU from dropping the hammer on Israel over settlements. 95% of the worlds population voted to make Palestine an Observer State at the UN. 70% of the worlds population has already recognized the state of Palestine. The map here is worth looking at.
    I have no idea what Trump really has in mind, but what ever it is, it is going to be consequential and with the the bulk of the world aligned against the US it is highly unlikely to #MAGA.

  28. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The lighted match would only get many more Palestinians killed and will not budge the Israelis.
    It would further serve to inflame the public opinion in the world of Islam against Israel and all the Black Knights that are her champions.
    The idea of 99-year cease fire deal has the major merit of avoiding the above situation.

  29. Chris Chuba says:

    Patrick, I am taking the invitation to look at this strategically and leave my feelings out of the matter.
    The worst case scenario is that Iran gains a local proxy that is able to shut down access to the Suez for some time period. They would use this as a poison pill to make an attack on their country very expensive. If Iran exercises this option, they would be signing their own death warrant because we would shut down their oil shipping. We get an oil shock, they lose all of their oil exports. Also, arming proxies with advanced weapons is dangerous because you lose control. It is true that Iran did this for Hezbollah but they have an unusually close relationship.
    Now why would a controlling faction of Yemenis be willing to fall on the sword for Iran? Under normal circumstances they wouldn’t. However, by going out of our way to assist this murderous Sunni alliance (uh-oh those treacherous feelings starting to surface) we are pretty much giving them no other option. The longer we wait the harder it will be to pull off but we should look for a semi-graceful way for the Saudis to withdraw, a clever way for them to pay reparations without making it look like reparations, and build a multi-national fleet to protect access to the Suez that includes Iran. The Houthis won’t fire on their allies, especially if there is a way to make it hard to identify the nationality of individual vessels. This is a very rough idea, lots of holes, I’m just suggesting a general way to approach the problem. Kicking the bees nest always leads to trouble.

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