Turmoil in the Middle East Means the US Must Act, Proving Again Non-Interventionism isn’t as Easy as We’d Like to Believe

US Embassy Yemen

Word on the Middle Eastern street is the recent Shiite expansion into Yemen — a gathering of the “death to America” types that led to the resignation of nearly the entire Yemeni leadership — is being funded by our old friends Iran. And next door, of course, Saudi Arabia — most recently in the news for causing the extreme fluctuations in the price of oil — has a new king as former Bush ally King Abdullah has passed away at the age of 90. So what does all this mean for the US and our interests in that never-effing-ending hotbed of turmoil?

Well, given the Houthi Shiites largely successful moves to topple the Yemeni government, and given that Saudi Arabia is mostly Sunni and is a rival of Shiite Iran, reports that Iran may be behind the unrest are plausible. At the very least, this time, we’re sending Biden to offer condolences to “the country more responsible than any other for financing the spread of the type of Islamist terror workplace violence that led to both 9/11 and the Charlie Hebdo massacre,” writes Michael Rubin at American Enterprise Institute:

Now, that’s not meant to be a slight against King Abdullah. He was a reformer. (David Burge from the Iowahawk blog put it best when he tweeted, “Let’s salute King Abdullah for dragging Saudi Arabia kicking and screaming forward into the 8th Century.”) But juxtaposing the level of participation at the two memorials does give unfortunate insight into Obama’s values and his casual disdain for those who suffer under terror as opposed to those whose ideologies promote it.

So, because of the coincidence of the Yemeni takeover and the death of King Abdullah, analysts are predicting something like a civil war, in at least one of the countries anyway.

“Our forecast is really civil war in Yemen because we have a lot of nonstate armed groups who are likely to compete over territory and have a lot of competing agendas,” she said.

Who is in charge right now really depends on where in Yemen you are, she said.

The Houthis — Shiite Muslims who have long felt marginalized in the majority Sunni country — have taken control of Sanaa and the northern provinces of Amran and Sadaa.

But there has already been resistance to their attempted takeover of national government institutions from different groups in Yemen, particularly in the south, where there’s a long-running secessionist movement, and in the oil-rich province of Marib to the east of Sanaa.

“This really creates a situation where even if the Houthis keep control over Sanaa, they have little chance of taking control of the whole country,” said Al Rowas. “We expect to see armed resistance.”

Where things get really weird is that very recently, there was speculation the the US was actually colluding with Saudi Arabia to punish Russia by dropping the price of oil:

The Islamic kingdom is now going after Russia, a main backer of the kingdom’s sectarian opponent, Shiite Iran, by targeting its oil production clout to adversely impact the Russian economy.

Sources say the United States might even be colluding with Saudi Arabia to cause a dramatic drop in the international oil price in an effort to punish Russia not only for its support of rebels in Ukraine but for its backing of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as Iran.

The Saudi strategy is to flood the international market to harm the economies of Russia and Iran, both of which need the international price to be above $100 a barrel to break even. The price of oil today is less than $50 a barrel.

If we were doing that, propping up a Sunni country at the expense of Shiite Iran and its allegiances with Russia, you’d never know it by the recent statements of our President in this past week’s State of the Union where he threatened, without equivocation, to veto any bill imposing sanctions on Iran. So if there was collusion with Saudi Arabia, there may be two governments simultaneously at work in our country. And working at cross purposes.

But then, of course there is.

One is hustling to come up with some kind of sanctions bill — “weaponizing finance” as it’s been called — that Iran will be compelled by, the other is co-opting the “bipartisan” desire in the country to work across the aisle and — it appears — grant authority to the President to unilaterally decide when and if sanctions are necessary should Iran not play nice (but perhaps I’m reading that wrong).

Boxer said she and Paul are working on legislation that seeks to allow quick votes by Congress to reinstate some sanctions if the Obama administration finds that Iran has violated any nuclear agreement. Some of those sanctions have been loosened by an interim deal.

If Obama deems it so, then Congress should quickly vote accordingly. While I appreciate Sen. Paul’s willingness to work across the aisle, I hope he won’t allow himself or his popularity with young libertarians to be used against his own desire for smaller, less intrusive governing.

So, where does this all leave the US and her interests in the Middle East? Well, for one man, it’s “absolute disaster.”

Strange how we want so much to stay out of these conflicts and yet they just keep showing up at our door. Perhaps there is something to the idea that the war is only over when the enemy decides it is.

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