Obama’s Last Red-Line: Blockade of Iranian Weapons to Yemen

The all-too realistic scenarios that will follow if Obama fails to set a red line for Iranian arms supply to the Houthis.

Tags: Yemen Houthis
Mark Langfan

OpEds Mark Langfan
Mark Langfan
Mark Langfan

President Obama has ordered the USS Theodore Roosevelt Aircraft carrier battle group to the shores of Yemen to interdict likely Iranian attempts to resupply their Shiite proxies in Yemen, the Houthis.  It has been reported that the Saudi Air campaign has very effectively destroyed over 80% of the Houthis’ weapons supply in a very short time.  In respect of the Saudi bravery, Sunni Yemen army elements have begun to side with the Saudis. 

All this means that the Iranian imperative to resupply the Houthis has become mission-critical for the Iranians, and equally mission-critical for the Saudis to deny that resupply.  Is Obama’s jumping to help the Saudis just another “red-line” like Obama’s red-line over Assad’s genocidal use of chemical weapons against the Syria Sunnis?  What’s clear is that if Obama betrays the Saudis on this red-line, the Saudis and all the other Arab Sunnis won’t wait for another false promise from Obama and the Middle East will go into a flaming all-out Arab-Sunni-Persian-Shiite War.

The risks of Iranian weapons delivery to Yemen are astronomic.  Principally, the most lethal weapons systems the Iranians would likely to import into Yemen is their Ghadir anti-ship missile systems that are state-of-the-art, having been developed with the Chinese.  These anti-ship missiles have a range of 300 kilometers or 186 miles. In the narrow Straits of Mandab, the Ghadirs would be a game-changer that would expose the Saudi-Egyptian blockade to a merciless and effective attack.  Such Ghadir anti-ship missiles in Yemen would set the warm-Sunni-Shiite war now raging into a scalding nova hot-Sunni-Shiite war. 

Along with Iran’s midget-suicide-submarine, the Iranian anti-ship missile “Ghadir” was especially named after the Shiite belief according to which Mohammad invested Ali with trusteeship of Islam, the seminal event dividing the Sunnis from the Shiites.  Obama’s Yemeni shores deployment might be just a “Hail Mary” pass to slow the outbreak of Ghadir anti-ship missile igniting what is now the inevitable and soon-in-coming all-out Sunni-Shiite raging ballistic war.

The reason Obama moved to deploy the blockade could be an attempt to protect his Iran nuclear deal until the deal is “agreed to” (I personally do not think the parties will ever “agree” to terms, but that instead, there will be just another unsigned final understanding).  With Obama’s christening of Iran as a nuclear weapons’ state, he needs some Arab street credibility showing that he will protect the Sunnis states from Iran.  The Sunnis would argue, if you’re not protecting us against an Iranian take-over of the south of the Arabian peninsula in Yemen, why would we ever believe you that you would protect us against a future Iranian attack.   

To the Saudis, an Iranian-controlled Yemen 600 miles from Mecca is an existential threat.  So, Obama may be lulling the Sunnis into a false state of security long enough to close his Iranian deal, at which point he will pull the US blockade out from the Saudi’s feet.  With Iran’s Houthis in control of a good part of Yemen on the ground, and no Sunni ground-offensive on the near-horizon, the Houthis may be able last out the blockade until Obama gets his Iran nuke deal in the bag.

Under this scenario, when, post-deal, Obama abandons the Saudis, all hell will break loose anyway.  Iran will have enough hard cash to cause the Saudis huge problems.

There is a remote possibility that Obama and the United States have realized that their appeasement of the Iranians at all costs really means - to the Iranians - America’s handing the entire Middle East over to the Iranians.  At Obama’s rate of concessions in gifting Iraq to Iran, protecting Assad in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and, up to now, CENTCOM “helping” the Houthis fight al Qaeda in Yemen, by New Years 2016, Iran would control most of the Middle East, let alone north Africa and east Africa. 

Obama’s legacy would not be a Signature Iranian Nuclear deal, but an irreversible Middle East-African catastrophe that shatters anyone’s worst nightmares (except, of course, if you’re an Iran-Firster).

If this is the case, you can forget about an Iranian nuclear deal and instead, start worrying about Iranian Ghadir anti-ship missiles being launched at US Aircraft carriers in the narrow confines of the Mandab Straits.  Israel, instead of being Obama’s enemy, will come to be seen as what it always was and is, America’s greatest ally.

There is also a strong possibility that when confronted by the Iranian cargo ships conveyed with Iranian frigates, Obama caves in and lets them through to dock in Yemen.  This would guarantee the Saudis would immediately bombard the Iranian ships before they reached their Yemeni moors.  The Saudis would have nothing to lose because such an Iranian re-supply would void their great military hard work up to now, and prove Obama is a total liar.  The Saudis would undeniably be confronted with the dark truth that any Obama promise of nuclear or non-nuclear protection from the Iranians would be written in disappearing ink.

In short, we’ve come to the end of the Obama’s false red-lines.  If Obama’s Yemen red-line becomes a green-light for Iranian aggression, one way or another there will be major fire-works that will last for a decade.  If Obama stands firm, Iran won’t take Obama’s show of back-bone lightly.  Therefore, one way or another, Obama’s Yemen red-line is his last red-line before a full-scale Sunni-Shiite war breaks out,