A Shiite Huthi militiaman sits near a tank confiscated from the army in the area around the presidential palace in the capital Sanaa, on January 22, 2015. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images)
While Iran’s march toward a nuclear bomb has provoked a major clash between the White House and Congress, Iran’s march toward conventional domination of the Arab world has been largely overlooked. In Washington, that is. The Arabs have noticed. And the pro-American ones, the Gulf Arabs in particular, are deeply worried.
This week, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized control of the Yemeni government, heretofore pro-American. In September, they overran Sanaa, the capital. On Tuesday, they seized the presidential palace. On Thursday, they forced the president to resign.
The Houthis have local religious grievances, being Shiites in a majority Sunni land. But they are also agents of Shiite Iran, which arms, trains and advises them. Their slogan — “God is great. Death to America. Death to Israel” — could have been written in Persian.
Why should we care about the coup? First, because we depend on Yemen’s government to support our drone war against another local menace, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). It’s not clear if we can even maintain our embassy in Yemen, let alone conduct operations against AQAP. And second, because growing Iranian hegemony is a mortal threat to our allies and interests in the entire Middle East…
Related: Jan 24, 2015 Thousands rally against Shiite militia in Yemen capital
Long War Journal, Jan 24, 2015 President Obama’s ‘successful’ counterterrorism strategy in Yemen in limbo
Long War Journal, Jan 24, 2015 AQAP issues guidelines for suicide operations (Al-Qaeda, based in Yemen)
Reuters, Jan 24, 2015: Some counter-terrorism efforts in Yemen frozen for now – U.S. officials
A Houthi fighter wears a traditional dagger with a picture of a slain comrade as he poses for a photo outside a presidential guards barrack on a mountain overlooking the presidential palace in Sanaa January 20, 2015. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah