This weekend, less than 72 hours before the deadline for P5+1 political framework for Iran’s nuclear program, President Obama’s “offshore balancing” act in the Middle East collapsed. In a January 27, 2014 New Yorker interview with editor David Remnick President Obama revealed:
It would be profoundly in the interest of citizens throughout the region if Sunnis and Shiites weren’t intending to kill each other … And although it would not solve the entire problem, if we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion – not funding terrorist organizations, not trying to stir up sectarian discontent in other countries, and not developing a nuclear weapon – you could see an equilibrium developing between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran in which there is competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare.
His naive paradigm of a geo-political equilibrium between Shia Iran and Sunni Arabs led by Saudi Arabia floundered with the dramatic intervention by the Saudi Air Force on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 attacking Houthi rebels in northern Yemen , the capital, Sana’a and targets near Aden. Operation “determination storm” has begun. The Saudis gave less than 1 hour notice to the Pentagon and the White House of the launch of the air campaign. The Administration wasn’t consulted. That effrontery to the leader of the free world was in evidence at the 26th Summit of the Arab League in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Shaik. Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi, The ousted U.S. backed President of Yemen, who had fled from Aden to Saudi Arabia, accused the Houthi of being “stooges” for Iran. He refused any offer of a cease fire while the Saudis and Emirati air units continue attacking Houthi forces. Iran warned the Saudi and Emirate allies of “bloodshed,” if attacks continue. The Saudi have mobilized 150,000 ground forces for possible action. The U.S. may provide aerial refueling, bombs and air search and rescue for downed pilots as they did for two Saudi pilots on Thursday.
In a statement released today, Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil Al-Araby said the Arab states would, “join ranks and look into taking preemptive and defensive arrangements to maintain the Arab national security.” The Declaration went on to point out:
The “conflict between the concept of a modern state and destructive projects that detract the idea of a national state and employ the ethnic, religious and sectarian variation in bloody conflicts, sponsored by external parties.” It cited recent developments in Yemen and the slide the country almost fell into as a flagrant example of these challenges and stressed the dire need for “necessary measures to counter them.”
The Washington Post reported Arab leaders had effectively announced a “joint military force to intervene in neighboring states grappling with armed insurgencies.”
David P. Goldman in an Asia Times column, “The Middle Eastern Metternichs of Riyadh, noted the stunning assertion of the Saudi leadership in the confrontation with Iran over the US policy collapse in the Middle East and failures in Yemen:
A premise of the “realist” view that American policy in the region should shift towards Iran was that the Saudi monarchy would collapse and Sunni power along with it. All of us underestimated the Saudis.
Now the Saudis have emerged at the top of a Sunni coalition against Iran–limited for the moment to the Houthi insurgency in Yemen, to be sure, but nonetheless the most impressive piece of diplomacy in the Sunni world since Nasser, and perhaps in modern times. That attributes a lot of importance to a coalition assembled for a minor matter in a small country, but it may be the start of something important: the self-assertion of the Sunni world in response to the collapse of American regional power, the threat of Sunni jihadist insurgencies, and the Shi’ite bid for regional hegemony.
There was more drama in Lausanne, Switzerland, when an Iranian journalist Amir Hossein Motaghi, a former election aide to Islamic Republic President Rouhani defected. The UK Telegraph reported Motaghi saying: “The U.S. negotiating team is mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal.” Meanwhile Secretary of State Kerry and the U.S. team are endeavoring to have the P5+1 approve a verbal outline of a political framework with the intransigent Iranians, who demand immediate lifting of financial sanctions while denying compliance with IAEA requests for background information on past military application developments.
These developments gave rise to further criticism by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who warned at a Sunday cabinet meeting that:
Iran is trying to “conquer the entire Middle East” as the West appears close to signing a pending nuclear deal with Israel’s arch-enemy.
“This deal, as it appears to be emerging, bears out all of our fears, and even more than that,” Netanyahu told his cabinet in Jerusalem, according to Reuters.
Doubtless, Netanyahu will have more to say to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner who travels to Jerusalem this week for a previously arranged meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister in the midst of cobbling together a ruling majority following his victory in the March 17th, Knesset elections.
The failure of a U.S. supported state in Yemen adds to the growing shadow of Iranian Hegemony over four Arab capitals in the Levant; Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and now Sana’a. Should the Saudi and Gulf emirates air attacks not succeed in halting the Iran-backed Houthi conquest of the remaining stronghold of Aden, then Iran may control a major international geo-resource choke hold on the Red Sea with significant economic repercussions. The prospect of a Shia Sunni sectarian war in the Middle East fuels the apocalyptic end time’s vision of chaos of the Iranian Shia Mahdists are seeking to arouse the moribund Twelfth Imam from his slumber at the bottom of the holy well in the holy city of Qum hard by the underground uranium enrichment cascade hall of Fordow.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, elected by the Assembly of Experts to fulfill that bizarre Islamic obligation, is on the verge of achieving the ultimate symbol of chaos – becoming a nuclear threshold state courtesy of the looming P5+1 political framework that may be announced on March 31st. With Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, ISIS cells, the vanquishing of U.S. counterterrorism in the region, Iran has achieved its goal of fomenting chaos to bring about end times. As night follows day, Sectarian war between Sunni Arab states and Shia Mahdmen in Tehran could erupt. All while the Administration in Washington abandons Israel surrounded by Iranian proxies, Hezbollah, Hamas and Sunni Salafist Islamic State seeking its destruction. Is this the legacy that President Obama wants to leave behind when he leaves the White House in January 2017? If it is, then his pursuit of an accommodation with an Iran equipped with a stockpile of nuclear weapons and nuclear warhead tipped Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles amounts to colossal appeasement and “faithless execution” of his oath of office as Commander in Chief to protect America from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
This weekend the President was in Florida playing golf in Palm City, Florida with a Halliburton Director and the Houston Astros owner while his global equilibrium went up in flames. So much for his feeling the pain of the middle class.
Stay tuned for further developments.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Yemen President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, left, meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at Sharm El-Shaik Summit, March 27, 2015. Source: AP/MENA.