Iranians and Saudis Fight a Proxy War in Yemen

The Iranians have also been supporting al-Qaeda in Yemen. Members of the terrorist group living in Iran are assisting efforts in the Arabian Peninsula. The deputy leader of the branch in Yemen, for example, received his position after meeting with colleagues in Iran. Mohammad al-Oufi, the former commander of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has confirmed that Iranian intelligence is supporting the group’s efforts in Yemen and the Gulf by providing “money and weapons needed to carry out terror attacks.”

There is no sign that the Iranians are going to back down. The foreign minister commented on the Saudi attacks on the rebels by warning that Yemen’s neighbors (meaning Saudi Arabia) “must seriously hold back from intervening in Yemen’s internal affairs.” He then added this cryptic threat: “Those who pour oil on the fire must know that they will not be spared from the smoke that billows.”

We hear often about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We hear about Israel fighting Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Now we’re hearing about Yemen. These are often looked upon as separate wars or, for the more enlightened, different fronts in the war against radical Islam. The latter assessment is true, but within that context, they need to be seen as proxy wars by Iran and its Syrian and Sudanese allies. Failure to see the flare-ups in these different countries as the result of an Iranian offensive leaves a key fact absent from the national security discussion: that governments are responsible for the strength of radical Islam, and that our current strategy is like attacking a horde of departing ships from a naval base while leaving the base itself intact.

The Saudis and Yemenis are hoping that their heavy hand can squash the radical Shiite insurgency, but no matter what success they achieve, they will always be one Iranian decision away from facing a reignited conflict. The Cold War was often defined by proxy wars, but that war didn’t end by the defeat of communist proxies. It was only won once the regime sponsoring the ideology and the militants acting upon it fell, and so it will be with Iran.