Trip Down the Political Horizons Within the Context of US Plans to Downsize Iran in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Trip Down the Political Horizons - Within the Context of US Plans to Downsize Iran in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen

Political escalation towards Iran

Joe Biden’s administration has emphasised the priority of the Iranian nuclear file and its inclination to restore the agreement concluded with Iran in 2015. It is however exploiting the sanctions on Iran, Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement, and the Iranian ballistic missiles program to reregulate Iran’s activities which are no longer part of the agenda pertinent to the Arab-"Israeli" normalisation and alliance. The former nuclear agreement was designed during Obama’s tenure within the framework of the role assigned to Iran, namely dismantling the region on sectarian grounds. It was engineered in a manner that allegedly evoked the anxiety of Saudi and "Israel" with the aim of generating a common Saudi-"Israeli" interest that justified alliance and normalisation at a later stage. Therefore, Saudi objected to the deal and "Israel" expressed its reservations towards it.

Then the Trump administration brought the Deal of the Century in cahoots with "Israel" to up the ante in the Iranian file. Hence, America withdrew from the agreement and "Israel" was given a free rein to strike Iranian forces and her affiliated militias in Syria to lure Iran into a reaction in the shape of military strikes against Saudi via the Yemeni al-Houthi militia, thus paving the way for the Arab-"Israeli" rapprochement and the regional solution, which was later interpreted by the agreements of shame concluded by the Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, which in turn will smooth the path for bin Salman to jump on the bandwagon of normalisation and alliance.

Then came Joe Biden, who is reported to have said that: "If Israel had not existed, the United States would have invented Israel," and "What people must understand now, and to be crystal clear, is that Israel is the largest power of the United States in the Middle East…. And I would say to my friends when they tell you these things, I would say: Imagine our conditions in the world if there were no Israel, how many warships there would be. How many soldiers will be deployed,” or words to that effect. This is to complement the phases of shaping the region and designing its alliances and security with the participation of "Israel", which represents an advanced military base to him, exploiting what Iran refers to as “strategic patience” to ensure the continuity of the normalisation process and to restructure the Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese and Yemeni regimes according to the Greater Middle East Initiative (GMEI) with its new modernist attire that relieves the Zionist entity of the attribute of enemy and allows it to integrate in the region. This necessitates pushing bin Salman towards further openness to modernity, democracy, and liberalism, and leading the Islamic world towards accepting the Zionist existence and liquidating the “Palestinian issue”.

It is in this context that Joe Biden harnessed the Iranian scarecrow and the file of Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination to twist bin Salman’s arm into gambling with his fate and undertaking unpopular decisions pertinent to domestic political change, and normalisation and alliance with "Israel", as well as the Yemeni file which, should he fail to resolve, would be a scandal impinging on his ability to inherit the throne and compelling him to comply with the requirements of the regional solution. This narrative was reflected in the statement of deputy chairman of the AK Party, Yasin Aktay, who commented on the report of the CIA pertinent to the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi by saying: “It is sad that the issue of Jamal Khashoggi has turned into a trump card in the hand of the US against Saudi.” All this intersects with Iran’sreactions to her downsizing and the clipping of her wings in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon, and compels her to push her surrogates to escalate their activities, especially in Iraq and Yemen, and to target Saudi, particularly after the agreement of Sinjar between the government of al-Kadhimi and the government of Arbil. The agreement stipulates evacuating the armed factions of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) from the region, and blocking Iran’s gateways to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, with the consent of Turkey, and which has recently led the Iranian and Turkish diplomats in Iraq to trade accusations.

Iran incites her surrogates and strengthens her standpoint to negotiate with America.

On the other hand, America did not squander the opportunity to strike the PMF last week in the Iranian gateway through the Iraqi-Syrian borders in the region of Boukamal in order to deter Iran and her surrogates from impinging on the Sinjar agreement which was designed to strip Iran of the most strategic position in northern Iraq on the Syrian borders. It was also designed to exert pressure on the PMF who have rejected the agreement and are continuing to resist their integration within the Iraqi forces under the leadership of al Kadhimi, and to attack the military bases hosting US soldiers, such as their attack on al-Harir bases in Arbil in mid-February, as well as their targeting of Ain al-Assad airbase. in an attempt to dissuade al-Kadhimi from implementing what he had pledged to America regarding “imposing the sovereignty of the law, restricting the possessions of weapons to the state, and protecting the diplomatic missions and their properties. ”

Although such attacks by the PMF on military bases and the attacks of al-Houthi group on Saudi and their campaign on the Yemeni city of Marib are related to the specificity of the Iraqi and Yemeni issues, they represent a message Iran wants to send stipulating that she still controls the reins of those groups. And through such groups she wants to obtain a bargaining chip in her negotiations with the US over their relationship and her functional regional role which has started to be corroded as the process of normalisation between the Gulf States and "Israel" continues to gather momentum and is close to establishing a defence and security alliance which has started to crop up following the recent attack on the "Israeli" cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman, which was likely to have been conducted by Iran. This is what Benny Gantz stated following the talks he held with Jordanian king Abdullah II who, for his part, aspires to play a role that would bring him closer to the new US administration and restore the support of the Gulf States via the "Israeli" gate.

The escalation in Marib and the reengineering of the Yemeni standpoint pertinent to fragmentation

As for the plane of the Houthi attacks on Saudi, and their attack on Marib, the targeting of Saudi by the Houthis has not ceased; if anything, it has even increased in a remarkable manner, especially the recent attack that targeted Riyadh after it had been focused on the areas of Asir and Najran. This coincided with the diplomatic onslaught Washington waged against Saudi in general and on crown prince bin Salman in particular, especially a few days after the return of U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking from his visit to Saudi where he had extensive meetings with the Saudi defence and foreign affairs ministers in the presence of United Nations Security Council Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths and a number of US top brass. This indicates that America has taken a host of practical steps pertinent to the final solution to the war in Yemen and to the reengineering of the Yemeni standpoint to steer it towards a negotiated settlement which will culminate in dividing Yemen; this manoeuvre was discerned by the Houthis who launched their attack on Marib in order to impose a fait accompli on the ground which would guarantee them a share in the energy revenues.

Marib is situated 120 kms east of the Yemeni capital Sanaa which has been under the control of the Houthis since their coup against the regime of Saleh in September 2014. It is an oil-rich area and the only “northern” province completely under the control of the forces of the Hadi government. It is a strategic city situated to the south of the oil-rich al-Jawf governorate and hosts the largest refinery in Yemen and the largest power station on which Sanaa depends for 50% of its energy needs. As for the recent clashes that erupted after Biden stated that “the war in Yemen must stop”, and which are taking place in al-Mashja’a and Haylan in the directorate of Sirwah, west of the Marib governorate, and also in the al-Jada’an area, to the northwest of the governorate, they are designed by the Houthis to control the strategic area and spread their hegemony over them ahead of the final talks to end the war and settle the Yemeni file. The Houthis are taking advantage of the American decision to end the logistic and military support to the Saudi alliance in order to weaken the government of Hadi and divide Yemen between them, i.e., the Houthis and the Transitional Council in the south. This is corroborated by their intensive attacks on the Marib governorate from several points and from the side of al-Jawf, after they have made some incursions into the strategic Dahida mountains in order to tighten their grip on the government forces in the areas of Safir and al-Alam where the oil and natural gas wells are situated.

It is evident that America’s lethargic standpoint towards the Houthis’ attack on Marib and the comment of president and commander of the Southern Transitional Council, Major General Aidarus Qassem Abdulaziz al-Zoubaidi, on the battles taking place around it, that the process of dividing Yemen has begun; al-Zoubaidi said: “It would be also possible to change the political scene by depriving the government of Hadi of its last major pieces of land in north Yemen. And this could lead to a situation whereby the Southern Transitional Council would be dominating the south to a great extent and the Houthis controlling most of the north.” This can only lead to marginalising the Saudi role, especially that Biden has now appointed a delegate to oversee the Yemeni file and the US has suspended military support to Saudi in her war in Yemen, in addition to the channels America has generated to contact al-Houthi directly. All this is designed to lead to ending the war under a US/UN supervision and turning the page of “the legitimacy of Hadi” who is still at odds with the forces of south Yemen, a scenario which will smooth the way for al-Houthi to dominate the north and the STC to dominate the south. Perhaps this is why bin Salman exploited the international sympathetic standpoint towards Saudi following the recent attacks on Saudi and mobilised his forces to repel the Houthis’ onslaught on Marib in a bid to obtain a trump card that will enable him to get closer to the US administration since Biden has inclined towards ending the war in Yemen.

The battle of Marib is expected to crystallise the phase of fragmentation and pave the way for the political process leading to it. The fallouts of the battle are expected to expand the dominance of the Houthis over the most important positions of the “legitimate government”, or at least give them a foothold in Marib to enhance their negotiating position, marginalise president Hadi to the benefit of the STC, and enable them to acquire the components of a state in the north by either seizing control of the energy resources or threatening them. This will allow the Houthis to negotiate over the energy resources and to gain some trump cards for the negotiations pertinent to the maritime passage in Hudaydah and to the division that Iran has explicitly called for and for which the Biden administration paved the way by refusing to label the Houthi group as a terrorist organisation, while maintaining the sanctions on some senior leaders in order to subjugate and contain them. This explains what has been attributed to Hassan Nasrullah who has been reported as saying: “The Houthis are on the verge of achieving a magnificent victory and drawing a new equation.”

As for the “legitimate government”, there is a rift between Hadi and the STC over competencies and administration, and this was deduced from the statement of the STC and its calls for Saudi to urgently find a solution to the unilateral decisions Hadi has been taking in isolation of the cabinet, such as appointing senior civil servants without prior consultation; and this could lead to renewing military confrontation. This will in turn lead to downsizing the role of the presidency that represents the “Yemeni unity” and transferring the competencies to the government, thus confining its affairs to the south. In an interview with the Guardian, President of the Southern Transitional Council, Aidarus al-Zoubaidi, called for the STC’s right to have a presence in all the final negotiations with the Houthis. He said if a referendum were held, they would gain 90% of the votes for the secession of the south. He also warned that the “Yemeni issues would not be solved if the voice of the south were overlooked.”

Moreover, south Yemen is susceptible to strife and federalisation due to regional rifts. America would not have achieved such successes in bringing the region to a state of chaos in order to rearrange it according to her interests had it not been for those functional regimes and those collaborating rulers, and for those military and political cliques who had accepted to be a tool in the hands of domestic and regional sides in executing the plans of the American master. And such plans would not have seen the light had the masses in Yemen viewed the moves of the collaborators and the political and military cliques from the angle of the Islamic Aqeedah and Shari'ah that imposes on them the obligation in thwarting the plots of the Kafir enemies and those proceeding behind them from among the traitors. It also forbids them from drifting towards killing each other and fuelling hatred amongst them so as to make them accept their separation from each other to live under divided entities which inflict the Ummah with more division, fragmentation and further weakness.

20 Rajab 1442h

4 March 2021