Mar 29

Why We Fight

Hint: It’s not because “they hate our freedoms.”

Behind Trump’s Bloody War in Yemen: A Saudi Offensive Against Iran
By Jefferson Morley, AlterNet
March 28, 2017

Saudi Arabia is seeking to oust a government dominated by the Houthi tribe, who are mostly Shia and more loyal to Iran than to Saudi Arabia.

The battle for Yemen, an impoverished desert country of little strategic importance besides the presence of AQAP fighters, is not just a counterterrorism fight; it is a proxy war fought between two rival Islamic powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Trump’s escalation is just the opening phase of what Saudi Arabia (and Israel) hopes will be a regional offensive against Iran. The Saudis, whose dominant faith is the austere doctrine of Wahhabism favored by al-Qaeda, are contemptuous of the Iranians and their Shia faith. With a restive Shia minority, Saudi Arabia also fears Iran’s political influence.

The Saudis are disturbed that Iran backed President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war, helping him turn back a fundamentalist insurgency, which has been covertly funded by Wahhabists in the Persian Gulf oil emirates.

Saudi Arabia’s most dynamic leader, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, recently visited the White House to encourage the Trump administration to take the fight to Iran. The Saudis are pleased that their country has been spared from Trump’s Muslim travel ban, and more pleased that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has asked the White House to lift Obama-era restrictions on U.S. military support.

While the Saudis and the Israelis stand to benefit from a U.S. confrontation with Iran, the United States does not.

According to the administration’s ideologists, the United States has to stand up to Iran to stem “radical Islamic terrorism.” But what the Trump administration doesn’t say is that the terrorist threat facing the United States comes almost exclusively from Wahhabist militants, financed and supported by governments and individuals in the Persian Gulf. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia. By contrast, virtually no terror attacks on Americans since September 11 have been traced to the Islamic Republic. Indeed, Iran is the sworn enemy of al-Qaeda and ISIS.

The emerging Trump strategy—confronting Iran while vowing to “bomb the sh*t” out of ISIS and promising not to deploy more U.S. ground troops in the region—is more of a fantasy than a plausible policy. Yet that is what the U.S. national security apparatus is now recommending.

Once again, the U.S. government is misreading the realities of the region. In the past 15 years, U.S. war fighters have failed to achieve U.S. policy goals with expensive and bloody expeditions into Afghanistan and Iraq.

President Obama modulated U.S. doctrine without changing its essential and extremist mission of military domination. Obama renounced torture while expanding the drone war and resisting calls for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria. Obama’s one significant change to U.S. strategy—and it was significant—was to coerce Iran into accepting an international inspections regime to delay its nuclear weapons program by at least a decade.

Trump is pursuing Obama’s policy without restraint, and without engaging Iran. That makes him the third post-9/11 commander in chief to pursue a set of militarized U.S. policies that have fostered failing states in Afghanistan and Iraq, killed thousands of civilians, failed to reduce the number of fighters flocking to al-Qaeda and ISIS, and actually increased the jihadists’ appeal to self-radicalized supporters willing to mount attacks from San Bernardino to Orlando to London.

The fact that Trump’s newly aggressive policy toward Iran is supported by the best minds of the Pentagon and the National Security Council demonstrates that when it comes to losing wars in the Muslim world, Washington has forgotten nothing, and learned nothing.

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