Saturday, April 18, 2015

Put Up or Shut Up Time

Iran is openly sending warships and supplies toward Yemen to support their Houthi Shia allies there. How will Pakistan react?

The Iranians are coming and they aren't trying to hide it:

Iran is sending an armada of seven to nine ships — some with weapons — toward Yemen in a potential attempt to resupply the Shia Houthi rebels, according to two U.S. defense officials. ...

What's unusual about the new deployment, which set out this week, is that the Iranians are not trying to conceal it, officials said. Instead, they appear to be trying to "communicate it" to the U.S. and its allies in the Gulf. ...

Earlier this week, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Twitter taunted Saudi Arabia, calling its military puny and smaller than Israel's. He also said the air campaign was tantamount to genocide of innocent Yemeni civilians and that the U.S. would also fail in Yemen.

Will the Saudis and Egyptians confront the Iranians to turn them back or even sink them if they keep coming?

And if there is a direct clash, what will Pakistan do when they are under tremendous Saudi pressure to pay up for decades of Saudi financial support?

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, under heavy pressure from Saudi Arabia and its allies to reverse Parliament’s vote last week to remain neutral in the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, on Monday once again pledged to deploy Pakistan’s military if Houthi rebels in Yemen threatened Saudi Arabian territory.

But Sharif, who owes his political career and perhaps his life to Saudi intervention in Pakistani affairs, didn’t suggest that he intended to commit forces now – in spite of angry denunciations of the Pakistani stand over the weekend. Instead, he tried to parry the criticism by saying Arab Persian Gulf nations were misinterpreting the intention of Parliament’s resolution, which called for Pakistan to remain neutral in the Yemeni conflict and provide forces only to defend Saudi Arabia. The resolution passed unanimously.

“Pakistan does not abandon friends and strategic partners, especially at a time when their security is under threat,” Sharif said in a short televised statement, made after consultations with Pakistan’s powerful army chief of staff, Gen. Raheel Sharif. The two men are not related.

“We stand with Saudi Arabia, shoulder to shoulder,” the prime minister said.

The Pakistanis did agree to help with the arms blockade:

Yielding to pressure from staunch ally Saudi Arabia, Pakistan has agreed to help an Arab military coalition enforce an arms embargo against Houthi rebels in Yemen and is expected to announce the deployment of navy warships to the busy commercial shipping lanes off Yemen’s coast.

Will Iran push a confrontation with the Saudis at sea to compel Pakistan to back down from standing with Saudi Arabia and isolate Saudi Arabia from their Pakistani nuclear deterrent and counter-weight on Iran's eastern border?

Heck, even though we have enough firepower in the region to send every Iranian ship to the sea floor, it's not like we are going to help Saudi Arabia against our new partner Iran (Now with Hope and Change!), eh?

There's none of that shoulder-to-shoulder nonsense when we are clearly leading from behind the Saudis, right?

The Iranians don't even pretend to worry about us these days:

Iran's foreign minister dismissed Saturday the threat of a US military strike against Tehran's nuclear sites, describing such warnings as an "old habit that dies hard" given ongoing diplomacy.

The Iranians may be led by nutballs. But never say they are stupid. Even if the Iranians ultimately lose their Yemen Gambit, breaking the Saudi-Pakistani links would be a tremendous strategic victory all by itself.

UPDATE: We are deploying off Yemen, too:

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is steaming toward the waters off Yemen to beef up security and join other American ships that are prepared to intercept any Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen.

Surely, our proto-partner, Iran, couldn't object to a little inspecting between friends, right?

UPDATE: I heard that we announced that our ships would not confront Iranian ships. So the only good that this deployment did was remove our carrier from the constricted waters of the Persian Gulf--which is actually a good thing.

UPDATE: I don't know why our Navy is off of Yemen, but it isn't to rescue Americans from the chaos:

"We have to make a decision based on the security situation and what is feasible to do," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said earlier this month. "And given the situation in Yemen is quite dangerous and unpredictable, doing something like sending in military assets even for an evacuation could put U.S. citizen lives at greater risk."

Ah. Ms. Harf. It's too dangerous to send our troops in. That must be comforting to those stuck there who are comforted by the wisdom of people in DC convinced that we always make things worse. We wouldn't want to get Iran or al Qaeda angry at us, would we?

#ArabAmericanLivesMatter, anyone? Or maybe #BringBackOurCitizens?

UPDATE: The morning of 23 APR 15 has initial news that the Iranian ships may be heading away from Yemen.