Iran’s capacity to strike back should even make a politically desperate Trump think twice


MAP/Duck Duck Go

The claim that Iran is the main “sponsor of terrorism” is one that has become a cliché from Washington to Riyadh

On CBS’s “60 Minutes,” the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the architect of his kingdom’s brutal war on Yemen, suggested that a war against Iran would be a bad idea. It could, he said, lead to a “total collapse of the global economy.” The region that includes Saudi Arabia and Iran contains about a third of the world’s energy reserves, and a fifth of its oil goes through the Strait of Hormuz — one of the flashpoints of our present. MBS, as the prince is known, used the interview to urge the West to put more pressure on Iran. With a broad and sinister smile, he suggested that if the West did not succeed, then Saudi Arabia would be impelled to act against Iran.

Saudi Arabia continues to insist that the September 14 attack on its oil facilities came from Iran, and not from Yemen. This is despite the fact that both the civilian and the military authorities in Iran have denied that they conducted the successful raid on the Saudi airfields. Instead, the Houthis in Yemen said that they did do the raid; they said that if the Saudis continue their aerial bombardment of Yemen, such drone strikes would become more common.

As CBS broadcast its interview with MBS, the Houthis released a video that depicted its attack on Saudi troops in August. That attack, the Houthis said, killed at least 500 Saudi soldiers who were trapped and fired upon by drones. Saudi Arabia has not responded to this claim. This attack is the most audacious to date, showing how confident the Houthis have become in this war that has been ongoing for the past four years.

These two drone attacks show that the capability of the Houthis has increased. They have been able to strike genuine fear in the heart of Saudi Arabia, shutting down its oil production and lowering the morale of its troops. Saudi Arabia — with constant arms sales from the West — will be able to continue to bomb Yemen from the sky. But, by all indications, it is unlikely to be able to launch a ground invasion to overthrow the Houthis.

Apart from aerial bombardment, the Saudis have used a blockade of the country to suffocate its people. But this has both created a terrible humanitarian catastrophe and focused the attention of the United Nations. On September 10, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council that the impact of this war on Yemen has been “truly devastating.” Over 24 million people — nearly 80 percent of the population — require humanitarian aid. Most of it comes through the port of al-Hudaydah, which has faced attacks and a blockade. The UN has struggled to ensure that it be open. The Saudi attempt to starve the population has failed.

Main source of terror?

At the opening of the UN General Assembly, Yemen was represented by Mohammed Abdullah al-Hadhrami. He is the foreign minister of one of the two governments that claim to represent Yemen. His president is Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, whose government is backed by Saudi Arabia. The other government is that of the Houthis, which is led by Mahdi al-Mashat (president) and Abdel-Aziz bin Habtour (prime minister). They are not recognized by the United Nations, so they were not able to attend the opening of the General Assembly. Nor is their highly skilled foreign minister Hisham Sharaf the recognized representative of Yemen. Al-Hadhrami’s emotional address to the UN was marred by sectarianism. There was no room here for negotiations. Iran, he said, echoing Saudi Arabia, is “the main sponsor of terrorism throughout the world.” That was that.

The claim that Iran is the main “sponsor of terrorism” is one that has become a cliché from Washington, D.C., to Riyadh. It has become so common that no evidence is needed to prove it.

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