Monday, March 02, 2015

The Other Oil War

Iranian fanboys have gained power in Yemen and Iran is sending help. Another asset to potentially wield an oil weapon against Arab Gulf states is created.

Here come the Iranians:

The first direct flight from Iran to Yemen's capital arrived on Sunday, as the Shiite rebels holding Sanaa formalize ties with the regional Shiite powerhouse.

The flight underscores how the rebels, known as Houthis, are strengthening their grip over state institutions and exercising sovereign power in Sanaa, even as the country's president insists he is still in charge after fleeing to the south.

It contains "humanitarian" aid. No mention of anything else. More planes will follow.

Aside from harming our effort to kill al Qaeda in Yemen, this potentially adds another link in an Iranian effort to counter-attack Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states that export oil.

Arab states in the Gulf have long had to contend with Iran's ability to interfere with oil exports through the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran looms over and which contains Iranian islands that can add to Iran's ability to base forces to block oil exports.

Arab states have sought to use pipelines across to the Red Sea--and then north through Suez or south into the Indian Ocean more, and Iraq once used pipelines through Syria as alternatives to the Hormuz route.

Iran has sought influence in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Sinai, Sudan, and Eritrea, which could serve as platforms to contest oil flows through these alternative routes.

Now Iran could get Yemen in their camp to help plug the southern Red Sea route.

That would give Iran quite the oil weapon of their own--if we can't sell oil, nobody can.

Normally, I'd take some comfort that Iran is under financial pressure from sanctions and from Saudi efforts to depress oil prices (Iran's major source of income) and so supporting Yemen could add to their money woes and ultimately accelerate Iran's problems supporting all their friends in crime.

Nor do I assume that Iran can keep this asset since the Sunni Arabs are likely to regroup and resist.

But of course, if Iran holds this gain for now, Iran counts on John Kerry delivering a deal that President Obama desperately wants that will save Iran's economy (and pave the way for nuclear weapons) before all the past-due billing notices arrive in Tehran, according to their foreign minister:

"Our negotiating partners, particularly the Western countries and particularly the United States, must once and for all come to the understanding that sanctions and agreement don't go together," he said in Geneva. "If they want an agreement, sanctions must go... We believe all sanctions must be lifted."

And this will be called smart diplomacy by our administration. What the Hell! Nobel Peace Prizes for everyone!