Why Yemen Matters

by Daniel Pipes
Washington Times
March 28, 2015

The Middle East witnessed something radically new two days ago, when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia responded to a plea by Yemen’s president and led a 10-country coalition to intervene in the air and on the ground in the country. “Operation Decisive Storm” prompts many reflections:

Saudi and Egypt in alliance: Half a century ago, Riyadh and Cairo were active in a Yemen war, but then they supported opposing sides, respectively the status-quo forces and the revolutionaries. Their now being allies points to continuity in Saudia along with profound changes in Egypt.

Arabic-speakers getting their act together: Through Israel’s early decades, Arabs dreamt of uniting militarily against it but the realities of infighting and rivalries smashed every such hope. Even on the three occasions (1948-49, 1967, 1973) when they did join forces, they did so at cross purposes and ineffectively. How striking, then that finally they should coalesce not against Israel but against Iran. This implicitly points to their understanding that the Islamic Republic of Iran poses a real threat, whereas anti-Zionism amounts to mere indulgence. It also points to panic and the need to take action resulting from a stark American retreat.

Arab leaders have a long history of meeting but not cooperating. From the right: King Hussein of Jordan, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Yasir Arafat of the PLO, and Muammar Qaddafi of Libya in September 1970.

Yemen at the center of attention: Yemen played a peripheral role in the Bible, in the rise of Islam, and in modern times; it’s never been the focus of world concern – until suddenly now. Yemen resembles other once-marginal countries – the Koreas, Cuba, the Vietnams, Afghanistan – which out of nowhere became the focus of global concern.

The Middle East cold war went hot: The Iranian and Saudi regimes have headed dueling blocs for about a decade. They did combat as the U.S. and Soviet governments once did – via contending ideologies, espionage, aid, trade, and covert action. On March 26, that cold war went hot, where it’s likely long to remain.

Can the Saudi-led coalition win? Highly unlikely, as these are rookies taking on Iran’s battle-hardened allies in a forbidding terrain.

Islamists dominate: The leaders of both blocs share much: both aspire universally to apply the sacred law of Islam (the Shari’a), both despise infidels, and both turned faith into ideology. Their falling out confirms Islamism as the Middle East’s only game, permitting its proponents the luxury to fight each other.

The Turkey-Qatar-Muslim Brotherhood alliance in decline: A third alliance of Sunni revisionists somewhere between the Shi’i revolutionaries and the Sunni status-quotians has been active during recent years in many countries – Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya. But now, in part thanks to diplomacy initiated by the brand-new King Salman of Saudi Arabia, its members are gravitating toward their Sunni co-religionists.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has done something unprecedented in putting together a military coalition.

Isolated Iran: Yes, a belligerent Tehran now boasts of dominating four Arab capitals (Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Sana’a) but that’s also its problem: abrupt Iranian gains have many in the region (including such previously friendly states as Pakistan and Sudan) fearing Iran.

Sidelining the Arab-Israeli conflict: If the Obama administration and European leaders remain obsessed with Palestinians, seeing them as key to the region, regional players have far more urgent priorities. Not only does Israel hardly concern them but the Jewish state serves as a tacit auxiliary of the Saudi-led bloc. Does this change mark a long-term shift in Arab attitudes toward Israel? Probably not; when the Iran crisis fades, expect attention to return to the Palestinians and Israel, as it always does.

American policy in disarray: Middle East hands rightly scoffed in 2009 when Barack Obama and his fellow naïfs expected that by leaving Iraq, smiling at Tehran, and trying harder at Arab-Israeli negotiations they would fix the region, permitting a “pivot” to East Asia. Instead, the incompetents squatting atop the U.S. government cannot keep up with fast-moving, adverse events, many of its own creation (anarchy in Libya, tensions with traditional allies, a more bellicose Iran).

Impact on a deal with Iran: Although Washington has folded on many positions in negotiations with Iran and done the mullah’s regime many favors (for example, not listing it or its Hizbullah ally as terrorist), it drew a line in Yemen, offering the anti-Iran coalition some support. Will Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i now stomp out of the talks? Highly unlikely, for the deal offered him is too sweet to turn down.

American diplomats meet again with their Iranian counterparts to capitulate on yet another difference.

In sum, Salman’s skilled diplomacy and his readiness to use force in Yemen responds to the deadly combination of Arab anarchy, Iranian aggression, and Obama weakness in a way that will shape the region for years.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2015 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

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Egypt seizes Bab el Mandeb ahead of Iran. Saudis bomb Iran-backed Yemeni Houthis. US launches air strikes over Tikrit

Yemen3_1DEBKAfile Special Report March 26, 2015:

In a surprise step, Egyptian marine naval and marine forces Thursday morning, March 26, seized control of the strategic Bab El-Mandeb Straits to foil Tehran’s plans to grab this important energy shipping gateway between the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal, DEBKAfile’s military sources report from the Gulf. Egypt disguised the raid as a counter-piracy operation. It rounded off the Saudi-led air strikes launched the same morning against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. These operations signaled the start of a major Sunni Arab revolt against Iran’s approaching takeover of Yemen, through its Houthi proxy, and advances in other strategic positions in the Middle East, with Washington’s support.
Thursday morning too, the US launched the US launched its first air strikes against Islamic State positions in the Iraqi city of Tikrit, rallying to the aid of the Iranian-commanded Iraqi operation, which had failed to dislodge the jihadis in two weeks of fighting.

The separate operations in Yemen and Iraq attested to the widening breach between the Sunni Arab camp and the Obama administration and the former’s resolve to thwart US strategy for buying a nuclear deal with Tehran by empowering Iran to attain the rank of leading Middle East power.
DEBKAfile reported earlier Thursday morning:

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) are now leading war action in four Mid East arenas: Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon,while building Shiite “popular” armies deferring to Tehran in three: Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

The formal announcements coming from Riyadh and Washington attempted to gloss over the open breach. The Saudis Wednesday indicated that their military buildup on the Yemeni was “purely defensive,” while Washington subsequently declared support for the Saudi-Gulf-Egyptian air strikes after they began.

According to our Washington sources, President Obama decided Wednesday to accede to the Iraqi premier Haider al-Abadi’s request for air support to de-stall the Tikrit operation against ISIS. Iran’s Al Qods Brigades chief, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who commanded the operation from the start has departed the scene.

Nothing has been said to indicate whether the Iranian forces, including Revolutionary Guards officers, remain in the area. It appears that the Obama administration prefers as little as possible to be mentioned about US-Iranian battlefield coordination in Iraq versus the Islamists, especially since it was not exactly a big success. At the same time, US air strikes launched to support ground forces are bound to be coordinated with their commanders, who in this case happen to be mostly Iranian. In the last two weeks of the Tikrit operation, liaison between the US and Iranian military in Iraq was routed through the office of the Iraqi Prime Minister in Baghdad.

Early Thursday, Riyadh reported that the Saudi Royal Air Force had taken out Houthi air defenses, destroyed numerous Houthi fighter planes and were imposing a wide no-fly zone over Yemen.

Egypt is providing political and military support for Saudi-GCC operation against Houthi fighters in Yemen, the Egyptian state news agency said Thursday. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying this support could involve Egyptian air, naval and ground forces, if necessary.

DEBKAfile’s military sources add: The Saudis declared Yemeni air space a no-fly zone to achieve to goals: (1) To deny the Yemeni forces advancing on the key port city of Aden access to air cover which would undoubtedly have been forthcoming from mutinous elements of the Yemeni air force. Without it, the rebel advance would be severely hobbled, and, (2) to prevent Iranian warplanes from landing at Yemeni air bases with deliveries of military equipment and ammunition  their Houthi proxies.
Gulf sources disclose that Saudi Arabia has placed 100 warplanes and 150,000 troops with heavy weapons at the disposal of the operation against Iran’s Yemeni proxy, the Zaydi Houthis, as well as pressing into service Pakistani, Moroccan and Jordanian military units. This force is a sign that Riyadh intends of following up its air action with a ground invasion across the border into Yemen to crush the revolt in its backyard.

Developing…

Also see:

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Yemen isn’t on Verge of Civil War, It Already is – And Saudi Arabia Will Get Involved

March 21, 2015: Members of a militia group loyal to Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen. (AP)

March 21, 2015: Members of a militia group loyal to Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen. (AP)

March 25, 2015 / /

Once again the American media is a day late and a dollar short in covering foreign policy matters. Now every major media outlet in the country is openly asking the question of whether or not Yemen is “on the edge of a civil war.” The problem with that is they’re still behind the power curve. Why? Because Yemen already is in a civil war and it has been going on for the last several months, only you wouldn’t guess from American media outlets since they were focused on more important things like Bruce Jenner’s transition into “womanhood” – but we digress. Follow-on forces continue to be flown into Taiz for the main Houthi push to take Aden, which we assess can begin within days. This will be a multi-pronged offensive, as we’re already seeing with forces elsewhere moving to isolate pro-Hadi forces in other areas. Hadi’s forces were able to temporarily halt the Houthi advance – although this will change as Hadi’s forces continue to get worn down. Those areas weren’t even one of the major objectives. If anything the forces currently advancing have the port of al-Mukha as one of their primary objectives prior to the main push for Aden being initiated.

What Yemen’s Coming Apart at the Seams Means to Arabian Peninsula

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5737

Forces Loyal to President Hadi Halt Houthi Push Towards Yemen’s Aden

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/mideast/hadi-forces-check-houthi-push-towards-yemens-aden-n329681

hadi faction

Pro-Hadi forces manning a checkpoint in Aden
Source: al-Jazeera

The Gulf nations led by Saudi Arabia are reported to have agreed to a possible deployment of ground troops to support Hadi’s faction and confront the growing Iranian influence on the Arabian Peninsula. The Gulf nations had previously sent a multi-nation ground force to support the Bahraini government against Iranian proxies a few years ago, so there’s a precedence for this sort of thing. Also, Saudi Arabia has waged limited air campaigns along the Yemeni border off and on in the past for lesser reasons. The current buildup of Saudi ground forces suggests that they may be planning a proactive defense of the border region to keep the Houthis on their side of the border, but will likely initiate a ground campaign if Aden is perceived to be on the verge of falling – which might happen in the coming days. We assess that the violence will exceed anything the Saudis dealt with in previous operations that they conducted against the Houthis in 2009 and 2010. If it comes to that (and let’s be honest, does anybody truly think “negotiations” with Iran and its proxies will succeed?), we expect the initial ground deployments to consist of SOF personnel to perform an advise and assist role. That ground presence will likely grow in both role and numbers as the violence continues to escalate. Currently, the Saudis are providing financial support to Hadi’s faction and may be looking to provide lethal aid to keep the loyal military units in Aden propped up.

Saudis Vow “Necessary Measures” in Yemen if Peace Talks Fail

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/8b9fa25a-d17f-11e4-86c8-00144feab7de.html#axzz3VMsKd8Ml

Exclusive: Saudi Arabia building up military near Yemen border – U.S. officials

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/24/us-yemen-security-usa-saudi-idUSKBN0MK2S120150324

Gulf states send forces to Bahrain following protests

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-12729786

Analysis: What is behind Saudi offensive in Yemen

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/saudi-arabia/091114/saudi-arabia-offensive-yemen-houthis

Saudi Forces Bomb Yemeni Rebels on Southern Border

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB125746088928732009

KSA capable of deterring attackers: Saudi King

http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2009/11/08/90588.html

Saudi jets bomb Yemeni Houthis

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2009/11/20091151323886933.html

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The Saudi Army: Ready to rock and roll
Source: thefewgoodmen.com

Saudi Arabia’s actions are hardly surprising given the clear and present threat the Iranian regime and its proxies pose to the region. Houthi fighters are reportedly serving in the ranks of the Iranian regime’s “Foreign Legion” known as the Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA) in Syria against anti-Assad forces. Those Houthi fighters reportedly received pre-deployment training at Hezbollah camps in Lebanon much like Iraqi proxies such as Kitab Hezbollah (KH) and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS). Should the Saudis get involved militarily, and we think its only a matter of time before they do, we could very well see the Houthis applying what they learned from that Hezbollah training. We’ll also likely see more from the IRGC-Qods Force and its proxies like what we saw in 2009 with Hezbollah operatives shot down a Yemeni fighter jet in 2009. Its been a few years since that incident and the Iranian regime now has firm control of Sanaa’s international airport with regular flights coming and going between there and Tehran – meaning more weapons (and Qods Force personnel) are being brought into the fight.

Iranian Regime Consolidates Houthi Gains, Begins Work Forming Houthi Intel Proxy

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5580

Yemen’s Houthi Rebels: The Hand of Iran?

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1992

Shia Proxy Threat to US ISIS Strategy in Saudi Arabia

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1837

Yemeni Fighter Planes Shot down by Hezbollah’s Elements

http://www.yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=1391

Syrian Army Takes Advantage of US Airstrikes in Counter-Offensive

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=2788

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Hezbollah has been operating in Yemen for several years now – and their OP-Tempo is steadily increasing
Source: al-akhbar.com

As of this writing Hadi has the support of roughly 5,000 Yemeni Army personnel against a Houthi force numbering from 13,000-15,000 men. Those pro-Hadi Army personnel suffer from a lack of ammo, equipment and poor morale, so its debatable just how long they can hold out with no external support – which is a big reason why we assess the Saudis will become more involved. Here, air support will be key for both sides and the Saudis and UAE will be the most likely participants of any Gulf-led air campaign. However, the Saudis are not as capable as their UAE counterparts in terms of conducting sustained external operations.

Forming the bulk of Hadi’s supporters are the “Popular Committees” led by Abdul-Latif al-Sayid al-Bafqeeh. His faction had been working closely with the military in combatting AQAP in the Abyan-area when the Houthis launched their offensive to take Sanaa. Hadi didn’t order his security forces to combat the Houthis when they stormed Sanaa because he couldn’t trust his own men and didn’t know how strong his support was in the capital – which ultimately led to his and several Arab nations’ diplomatic missions being relocated to Aden. Bafqeeh is considered a local hero in the South for his opposition to AQAP and the Houthis. Although his estimated 6,700-man force adds much-needed bodies to Hadi’s beleaguered loyalist Army force, they’re not as well-trained as former President Saleh’s forces or even the Houthis. These Popular Committees were able to keep the Houthis from seizing Aden’s airport and are currently engaged in several battles north of the city – but they’re plagued by the same ammo and equipment shortage as the pro-Hadi Army units. There’s also some questions regarding Bafqeeh’s true allegiances, as he’s previously worked with AQAP when Saleh was in power. He claims to have left the group due to the leadership refusing to provide sufficient financial support. He also had this rather interesting comment when describing his reasons for his previous AQAP associations:

“when the regime was oppressive and brutal … People then joined al-Qaida to avenge themselves against the government. I and my men pulled out before we got involved with them.”

This pretty much cuts to the heart of what we’ve been saying about AQAP and the Islamic State (IS) being viewed more favorably by a local populace who feel threatened by the Iranian regime – which is every bit as bad as the two Sunni jihadist organizations. The problem with Bafqeeh is that he’s already shown that his allegiances are subject to change – so what will happen should IS offer him cash incentives to pledge allegiance to Baghdadi like they have with others? Something to think about as the Saudis ramp up their lethal aid to the Pro-Hadi crew. This will become a bigger factor later on as IS continues to gain more momentum in follow-on attacks to last week’s Sanaa Mosque bombings, especially if Hadi’s faction becomes even more weakened than it is. They have everybody’s attention now, and are fashioning themselves as the “protectors of the Sunni populace” against the Iranian regime. In the end people are people and like everybody else, the Yemeni Sunnis want to be part of a “winner.” Unfortunately, the factions they view as being the “strongest” just might be AQAP and IS.

abdul

Abdul-Latif al-Sayid al-Bafqeeh
Source: Associated Press

This great news for Iran’s strategic campaign to dominate the Middle East as it allows the Qods Force’s objective of forcing Saudi Arabia and the terror financiers residing there to divert resources from the anti-Assad war effort in Syria back closer to home. Control of key Yemeni real estate also allows the Iranian regime to have more options in disrupting international shipping if they so desire. Using Sanaa as a major support hub, the Qods Force and Hezbollah will be able to provide greater levels of material support to cells operating inside Saudi Arabia to destabilize the new King’s government while targeting IS support nodes throughout the country. With all the fighting taking place in the country, if this isn’t a civil war already, then what is it? Now think about this – President Obama’s “Yemen Success Story” being touted as the “model for future operations in the War Against Terror” has seen millions of dollars in equipment “disappearing,” Hadi being run out of the capital, parliament dissolved, US embassy evacuated and the last of our troops pulled out of the country. The cherry on top is that IS now has a foothold in the country and Iran emerged as the big winner by supporting terrorism and fomenting regional unrest. What we’re seeing in Yemen is Iran exporting their “Islamic Revolution” to the Arabian Peninsula by implementing the “Lebanon Model.” We were also told during the 2008 US Presidential election that he was going to “fundamentally transform America – and the world.” Is this the “fundamental transformation” he was talking about?

A veteran militia leader in southern Yemen emerges as key ally of president against rebels

http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2015/03/24/in-south-yemen-a-militia-leader-is-presidents-top-ally?page=2

BRIEF CLASHES IN ADEN AS POPULAR COMMITTEES SET UP CHECKPOINTS

http://www.yementimes.com/en/1861/news/4902/Brief-clashes-in-Aden-as-popular-committees-set-up-checkpoints.htm

YEMEN’S USE OF MILITIAS TO MAINTAIN STABILITY IN ABYAN PROVINCE

https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/yemens-use-of-militias-to-maintain-stability-in-abyan-province

Millions in U.S. military equipment lost as Yemen heads down Syria’s path

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2015/03/24/millions-in-u-s-military-equipment-lost-as-yemen-heads-down-syrias-path/

UPDATE – Reporting that just broke a little while ago suggests that Hadi fled his Aden-based residence. No word yet on his current whereabouts, but if he leaves the country, he could be making a mad dash for either Saudi Arabia or UAE. Should that happen, it would signal the Saudis to initiate the first phase of their military intervention. Oh, and the airfield our troops were stationed at has fallen to the Houthis now. More to follow…

Officials tell AP: Yemen president flees Aden home

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/c55bb2a7eabe4311b2eb40ba1c3f2abd/report-rebels-seize-yemen-air-base-used-al-qaida-fight

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President Obama’s Yemen “Success” Story

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IRGC-Qods Force: The Arabian Peninsula Campaign and the Failure of Obama’s Foreign Policy

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US military, diplomatic personnel quit Yemen as country descends into civil war

A protest against the Houthis on Sunday in Taiz, Yemen. Credit Anees Mahyoub/Reuters

A protest against the Houthis on Sunday in Taiz, Yemen. Credit Anees Mahyoub/Reuters

LWJ, by BILL ROGGIO, March 22nd, 2015:

The US governemnt has withdrawn its military and remaining diplomatic personnel from Yemen as the security situation has spiraled out of control over the past week. Among the forces pulled from Yemen were more than 100 military advisors who were training Yemeni counterterrorism personnel to battle al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The withdrawal of US forces from Yemen takes place just six months after President Barack Obama described the US strategy of partnering with local Yemeni forces as “one that we have successfully pursued … for years.”

The US yanked its military forces Al Anad Air Base after AQAP forces and allied tribes briefly took control of the nearby city of Houta, the capital of Lahj province, on March 20. Al Anad is located just 20 miles north of Houta. Yemeni military forces loyal to ousted President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is based in the nearby city of Aden, regained control of Houta after AQAP fighters withdrew without a fight.

The US military has not commented on the withdrawal of its forces from Al Anad, which was a key node in the US and Yemeni governments’ fight against AQAP. But the US State Department confirmed in a press release that the US government “has temporarily relocated its remaining personnel out of Yemen.”

“We also continue to actively monitor terrorist threats emanating from Yemen and have capabilities postured in the area to address them,” State claimed. “As we have in the past, we will take action to disrupt continuing, imminent threats to the United States and our citizens.”

The US Embassy in Sana’a was evacuated at the end of February. US Marines stationed at the embassy had to disable and abandon their weapons prior to boarding a civilian flight out of the country.

AQAP’s foray into Houta was preceded by attacks from the rival Islamic State, Shia Houthi rebels, and infighting between forces loyal to President Hadi. Additionally, today Houthi forces have taken control of the city of Taiz, Yemen’s third largest and are now just 120 miles from Aden, The New York Times reported.

On March 20, the Islamic State deployed four suicide bombers at two Houthi mosques in the capital of Sana’a’, killing more than 100 worshiper. The Islamic State threatened to carry out more such attacks.

On the previous day, forces loyal to Hadi battled a rival military commander at Aden’s international airport. Thirteen people were killed before Hadi’s troops took control of the airport, Reuters reported. During the fighting, an aircraft thought to have been flown by the Houthi-led government based in Sana’a struck the presidential palace in Aden.

Hadi fled to Aden in late February after escaping house arrest in Sana’a. He was forced to resign his presidency in January after intense pressure from the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels, who took control of much of northern and western Yemen late last summer. Hadi has been the US’ biggest supporter in the fight against al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. He was a vocal supporter of the unpopular drone strikes, which have targeted al Qaeda’s leaders and operatives in Yemen.

Yemen is one of several key bases for al Qaeda’s global network. Some of al Qaeda’s top leaders operate from Yemen, including Nasir al Wuhayshi, who serves as general manager in addition to AQAP’s emir. While the US has killed several key AQAP leaders since ramping up drone and air strikes in Yemen at the end of 2009, Wuhayshi and much of AQAP’s leadership cadre continue to operate. In addition to seeking to take control of Yemen, AQAP has been has been at the forefront of plotting attacks against the US and the West.

The withdrawal of US forces is a major blow to President Obama’s hands-off approach in the Middle East. On Sept. 11, 2014, Obama touted the counterterrorism strategy of US airpower working with “partner forces on the ground” in both Yemen and Somalia as “one that we have successfully pursued … for years.” [See LWJreports, US strategy against Islamic State to mirror counterterrorism efforts in Yemen, Somalia, and President Obama’s ‘successful’ counterterrorism strategy in Yemen in limbo.]

Today, the US has few Yemeni forces left to partner with and a limited ability to do so. Whatever friendly forces that do remain are confined to limited geographical area and over the next several weeks and months will be focusing on survival.

***

Also see:

Analysis: Why AQAP quickly denied any connection to mosque attacks

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LWJ, by Thomas Joscelyn, March 21, 2015:

Almost as quickly as the Islamic State’s branch in Yemen claimed responsibility for suicide attacks at mosques attended by Houthis in Sana’a earlier today, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) denied any connection to the coordinated bombings. There is a simple reason why: Such attacks are inconsistent with al Qaeda’s guidelines for waging jihad.

In its statement denying any ties to the bombings, AQAP stressed that it remains “committed to the guidelines” issued by Sheikh Ayman al Zawahiri. Those guidelines advise against “targeting mosques, markets, and public places out of concern for the lives of innocent Muslims, and to prioritize the paramount interests,” AQAP’s message reads, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group.

The Islamic State and its followers have rejected Zawahiri’s approach, carrying on with indiscriminate attacks against civilians. Indeed, today’s bombings in Yemen are further evidence of the divide within the jihadist world. The disagreements between the al Qaeda axis and the Islamic State are not just about who is the jihadists’ rightful ruler. They have very different approaches to combating their enemies and building support for their efforts.

Today’s statement from AQAP did not reflect a sudden change in course. The group has long advocated in favor of Zawahiri’s guidelines, and has even apologized when its fighters violated them.

In an interview that was released in January, an AQAP official named Nasser bin Ali al Ansi explained his organization’s approach to fighting the Houthis. Al Ansi is not only one of AQAP’s most senior figures, he also serves in the upper echelon of al Qaeda’s global network. Based on documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound and other evidence, The Long War Journal has previously identified al Ansi as one of al Qaeda’s deputy general managers. [See LWJ report, Osama bin Laden’s Files: Al Qaeda’s deputy general manager in Yemen.]

Several of the questions addressed to al Ansi during the AQAP interview dealt with the Houthis. Al Ansi was asked about a “recent martyrdom-seeking operation in Sana’a that specifically targeted” the “rejectionists,” a derogatory term used for Shiites. The interviewer wanted to know why AQAP went through with the attack as it appeared to violate Zawahiri’s “instructions,” meaning the aforementioned guidelines.

“There is really no difference in our views,” al Ansi explained, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. The operation “did not target the demonstrators, but rather the security belt that surrounded them, composed of a large number of Houthis,” al Ansi claimed.

Al Ansi continued by explaining that Nasir al Wuhayshi, AQAP’s emir and al Qaeda’s general manager, “gave clear instructions to the operating cells to avoid attacking mixed gatherings and to focus on armed Houthis.” AQAP’s fighters are “abiding by this rule as far as we know.” According to al Ansi, AQAP has asked its “brothers” to “be careful” when targeting Houthi gatherings and to focus on “the ones where their military armed forces exist, their headquarters, and their other posts.” AQAP fighters are supposed to avoid “areas where common Muslims are found,” such as mosques.

The al Qaeda official warned Muslims to “stay away from Houthi gatherings and locations,” but his directions were clear. AQAP avoids attacks on Houthi civilians when possible.

And today’s attacks by the Islamic State’s fighters were the complete opposite of what al Qaeda wants.

When Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State, announced his organization’s expansion into Yemen and elsewhere last November, he deliberately sought to undermine AQAP’s legitimacy. If the Houthis had encountered real mujahideen, Baghdadi claimed, then their “their evil would not have festered.” In other words, the Islamic State would have stopped the Houthis’ advances.

Baghdadi’s words were carefully chosen, and part of propaganda campaign that portrays al Qaeda as being soft on the Houthis and other Shiites. The Islamic State’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al Adnani, has even gone so far as to argue that “Iran owes al Qaeda invaluably,” because the jihadists heeded Zawahiri’s directive to avoid attacks inside the mullahs’ country.

Baghdadi’s criticism was so pronounced that another AQAP official, Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari (who was subsequently killed in a US drone strike), was forced to responded. Less than two weeks after Baghdadi’s message, Nadhari said that he and others “were hurt by what Sheikh Abu Bakr al Baghdadi said, and it hurt the Muslims in the trench of Yemen, when he said that the Houthis found no monotheists to fight them.” This is false, Nadhari argued, and AQAP cannot believe “the likes of the Sheikh” would “say such a thing.”

But AQAP should believe that Baghdadi would make such a claim. Today’s attacks in Sana’a are part of the Islamic State’s strategy.

There is dissent within the jihadist community regarding al Qaeda’s policy regarding Shiites. And the Islamic State knows this. Many Sunni jihadists want to let the Shiites’ blood flow, and they do not want calibrate their attacks to avoid Shiite civilians. Al Qaeda believes that such attacks alienate much of the Muslim population in the long run. The Islamic State sees such operations as not only legitimate, but also as a tool for inciting further violence, thereby radicalizing more of the population for its cause.

AQAP’s interview with al Ansi in January highlighted this key difference. One questioner wanted to know why Zawahiri and al Qaeda “attribute only ignorance” to the Shiites instead of general disbelief. If Shiites were deemed infidels, of course, it would pave the way for unbridled violence against Houthi civilians.

Al Ansi responded by arguing that al Qaeda’s approach “has been the view of many elders and scholars,” including the medieval ideologue Ibn Taymiyyah, who remains a popular thinker among jihadists. Al Ansi cited “current jihadist scholars” such as Osama bin Laden, Zawahiri, Atiyah Abd al Rahman, and Abu Yahya al Libi as all being of the same view. (Rahman and al Libi served in al Qaeda’s management before being killed in US drone strikes.)

However, al Ansi conceded this “has been a controversial issue for years and all interpretation efforts are appreciated.” Thus, even AQAP’s man couldn’t say that his jihadist opponents were definitely wrong.

Still other questions during al Ansi’s interview implied that AQAP wasn’t doing enough to combat the Houthis. When asked why AQAP didn’t stop the Houthis from overtaking Sana’a, al Ansi responded by pointing out his group didn’t control the city at the time. Al Ansi also had to explain that AQAP couldn’t shell all of the Houthis’ positions as they often operate in areas whether other Muslims live. Thought the Houthis’ “headquarters” were fair game.

All of this is likely part of the reason that the Islamic State’s first major operation in Yemen focused on mosques visited by Houthis. AQAP attacks the Houthis frequently, but tries to keep its violence focused on military and security targets.

The Islamic State’s followers have no such bound on their terror.

Massacred as they prayed at two mosques: Suicide bombers kill at least 142 after blowing themselves up in Yemen

A suicide bomb attack on two mosques in Sanaa, Yemen, has killed 142 people. Worshippers rushed to carry injured men covered in blood from the building

A suicide bomb attack on two mosques in Sanaa, Yemen, has killed 142 people. Worshippers rushed to carry injured men covered in blood from the building

  • WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT: Four bombers launch two attacks
  • Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques in Sanaa targeted during midday prayers
  • A further 351 people have been wounded, medical officials reported
  • Islamic State claimed responsibility and said it was a ‘blessed operation’

Daily Mail, By LYDIA WILLGRESS, March 20, 2015:

Multiple suicide bombings on two mosques in Yemen’s capital today have left hundreds killed or injured.

Four bombers wearing explosive belts targeted the Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques in Sanaa during midday prayers in what was one of the country’s deadliest ever jihadist attacks.

At least 142 are dead and a further 351 people are thought to have been wounded in the devastating blasts, described by eyewitnesses as being like earthquakes.

A group claiming to be the Yemeni branch of Islamic State immediately said they were responsible for the bombings.

Charred bodies and pools of blood were seen at the scene of the explosions while footage from the al-Hashoosh mosque, showed screaming volunteers using bloodied blankets to carry away victims.

The mosques are mainly used by supporters of the Shi’ite Muslim Houthi group as well as Sunni worshippers.

The group posted an online statement saying that five suicide bombers carried out what it described as a ‘blessed operation’ against the ‘dens of the Shiites’. It also warned of an ‘upcoming flood’ of attacks against the rebels.

The claim offered no proof of their role – but it was posted on the same website that the Islamic State affiliate in Libya claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on a museum in Tunisia.

The first bomber was caught by militia guards searching worshippers at the entrance of the Badr mosque.

He detonated his device at the outside gates while a second bomber entered the mosque and blew himself up amid the crowds, according to the official news agency SABA.

One witness from the attack at al-Hashoosh said he was thrown two metres by one of the blasts.

Mohammed al-Ansi said: ‘The heads, legs and arms of the dead people were scattered on the floor of the mosque.

‘Blood was running like a river.’

Another witness added: ‘I was going to pray at the mosque then I heard the first explosion, and a second later I heard another one.’

Hospitals were urging citizens to donate blood, the Yemeni rebel-owned Al-Masirah TV channel said.

It also reported that a fifth suicide bomb attack on another mosque was foiled in the northern city of Saada, a Houthi stronghold.

A prominent Shiite cleric, al-Murtada al-Mansouri, and two senior Houthi leaders were among the dead, the TV channel reported.

Survivors compared the explosions to an earthquake and said some people were injured by shattered glass falling from the mosque’s large hanging chandeliers.

The television channel aired footage from inside the al-Hashoosh mosque, where screaming volunteers were using blankets to carry away victims.

Corpses were lined up on the mosque floor and carried away in pick-up trucks.

The attacks come just two days after 23 people were killed when gunmen opened fire on tourists at a museum in Tunisia.

See more photos at Daily Mail

Also see:

American Embassy in Saudi Arabia Closed Amid Rising ISIS Threat

March 14, 2015 / /

The US State Department (DoS) announced the cancellation of all consular services for Sunday and Monday due to “heightened security concerns” that our sources in-country say has to do with an increased threat from the Islamic State (IS) to abduct western oil workers in the eastern part of the country. Specifically, an IS cell operating in the eastern part of the country has become increasingly active since last SEP 14. Much of this is the spillover we discussed in our previous article titled, “Iranian Regime Consolidates Yemeni Gains, Forming Houthi Intel Proxy.” As the IRGC-Qods Force and its proxies increase their OP-Tempo inside Saudi Arabia, so has IS. We are aware of specific threats targeting two oil workers, a French citizen and a US citizen. There’s also a separate VBIED threat targeting either the consulate in Dharhan or the embassy itself (we’re still working to identify the target location).

US shuts down Saudi embassy amid security fears
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31893070

US Embassy Warns Oil Workers of Saudi Arabia Kidnap Threat
http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/us-embassy-warns-oil-workers-saudi-arabia-kidnap-29636051

US Embassy in Saudi Arabia halts operations amid ‘heightened security concerns
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/03/14/us-embassy-in-saudi-arabia-halts-operations-amid-heightened-security-concerns/?intcmp=latestnews&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+feedburner%2FidRmZ+%28FOXNews.com%29

Saudi Arabia Travel Warning
http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings/saudi-arabia-travel-warning.html

Iranian Regime Consolidates Yemeni Gains, Forming Houthi Intel Proxy
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5580

Shia Proxy Threat to US ISIS Strategy in Saudi Arabia
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1837

riyadh

Source: BBC

In our piece titled “The Islamic State’s Arabian Peninsula Campaign,” we discussed how IS was forced into conducting operations inside the Saudi kingdom due to increased targeting by Saudi security forces and the IRGC-Qods Force. We saw that in the early-JAN 15 attack on a Saudi border post along the Iraqi border that IS took responsibility for in a video put out by their Anbar, Iraq-based media outlet. The individuals responsible for the attack were part of the Abdullah bin Sayid al-Sarhan attack network. This same network was also responsible for the deaths of five Shia locals under suspicions of being proxies for the IRGC-Qods Force back in NOV 14. The network was also responsible for a separate attack on two US citizens and a Danish national. This is the same part of Eastern Saudi Arabia that the French and American national IS is planning to abduct are located.

The Islamic State’s Arabian Peninsula Campaign
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4558

ISIS Claims Attack On Saudi Arabia Border, Signals Strategy Change In Militant Infiltration
http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-claims-attack-saudi-arabia-border-signals-strategy-change-militant-infiltration-1773754

Masked gunmen kill five in Saudi Arabia
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/04/masked-gunmen-kill-five-saudi-arabia

saudiborder

IS fighters along the Saudi-Iraq border
Source: International Business Times

The Saudis have detained over 150 IS fighters, facilitators and financiers over the past year. IS has already established a presence along the Iraq-Saudi border despite the ongoing project to erect a wall along the border. That presence enables them to send fighters and weapons across the border to and from the country at will, although Saudi military patrols have increased in recent months to interdict these smuggling operations. There are also elements of AQAP that have defected to the new IS-affiliate in Yemen, which suggests that the areas along the Southern border may be in play as well. Also keep in mind that Baghdadi specifically threatened Saudi Arabia in a NOV 14 video on “the next battlegrounds.” The current IS effort in Yemen, like their Iranian counterparts, appears to be connected to their operations in Saudi Arabia. We expect the threat to our fellow Americans and our country’s interests will continue to be threatened as the violence escalates on the Arabian Peninsula from IS, AQAP and the Iranian regime. We will continue to monitor develops in the country and update accordingly…

Saudi Arabia arrests first ISIS-related terror cell (this article has pics in it)
http://www.aawsat.net/2014/05/article55332025

Islamic State sets sights on Saudi Arabia
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30061109

ISIS gaining ground in Yemen, competing with al Qaeda
http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/21/politics/isis-gaining-ground-in-yemen/

Links to Other Related Articles:

Filipinos Among Arrested in Saudi Terror Sweep

Large-Scale Saudi Security Sweep Detains 88

Possible Cracks to The AQ Armor.

The Cost to America of an AWOL President

Screen-Shot-2015-02-14-at-9.13.28-AM-640x480Breitbart, by DR. SEBASTIAN GORKA, 14 Feb 2015:

In the recently released, but largely unheralded, National Security Strategy of the United States, the new buzz-word was “strategic patience.” As our unarmed Marines hastily departed Yemen, and ISIS closed in on their fellow devil-dogs in Iraq, the President was more than showing patience: he was making video about taking selfies.
The new National Security Strategy of the United States, which was a year late and strangely dropped on a Friday – a technique usually reserved for documents the administration doesn’t want to be read – opens with a a letter from President Obama. In it, he states that his answer to the threats and challenges that face the nation is “strategic patience.” Instead of tackling the dangers of the word proactively and head-on, America will play a waiting game. This fits neatly into previous approaches from the White House that have emphasized “leading from behind.” Given the geopolitical realties of today’s world, American voters should draw their own report card of what a reactive and “patient” approach has brought the Republic in the last six years:
  • The Global Jihadist Movement: Not only is Al Qaeda not on the ropes, but ISIS /The Islamic State has overtaken it as a fully-fledged insurgency which is so powerful that latest reports have it attacking the base in Iraq where US Marines are deployed to assist the Iraqi army in standing itself back up after being routed last Summer. As media attention focuses again on the Middle East, especially after thegruesome immolation of Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh of the Royal Jordanian Air Force, the Jihadist movement grows ever stronger in Africa, with Boko Haram killing thousands and enslaving hundreds of Christian girls. Back home, we have theunprecedented statement by the director of the FBI that the Bureau is investigating ISIS activity in 49 states of the union. (Every state except Sarah Palin’s Alaska).
  • On the Shia side of this global war, we see that not only is Iran very deftly outmaneuvering the administration when it comes to its nuclear program, its proxies are gaining ground in South Asia and the Middle East, most especially in Yemen, where the Houthis have captured the capital. This despite the fact that Yemen was lauded last year by the President as one of the true success stories of his counterterrorism strategy.
  • The most populous and important Arab Muslim state, Egypt, has not responded well to “strategic patience” – or rather, strategic neglect and rejection of the White House. When the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammad Morsi was deposed by General Sisi, Cairo became the black sheep of the region as far as the administration is considered. This despite the fact that now-president Sisi is the only Muslim leader since 9/11 to openly call for a “religious revolution” in Islam aimed against the violent jihadists that threaten his nation as much as ours.
  • With the “pivot to Asia” declared by then-Secretary Clinton resulting in nominal, if any actual, redirection of our attention to the region, China has proceeded to build up its military and use it to intimidate its neighbors and lay claim to new territories in ways that could very easily lead to a shooting war in the region.
  • And in Europe, Vladimir Putin has managed to break a 60-plus year international taboo by using force to redraw borders and annex the territory of a neighboring state. Clearly, the former KGB colonel believes in being a pro-active leader.
This is just a short version of a disturbing list that could be made much longer. The empirical truth on the ground is that we have enemies at home and abroad, enemies who believe neither in “leading from behind” nor in “strategic patience.” At the same time, the most powerful nation the world has ever seen has a Commander-in-Chief who is Absent With Out Leave.
Sebastian Gorka Ph.D. is the Matthew C. Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University. Follow him at @SebGorka.

President Obama’s Yemen “Success” Story

February 13, 2015 / /

True to form, we have yet another Obama “foreign policy success story” end in total failure. Yes, Yemen has been a failure for some time, but the recent closure of the US, UK and French embassies is the exclamation point. There are also some reports of the US Embassy security detail turning over their heavy weapons (they were able to keep personal weapons) to the Houthis, although we’ve also heard that they actually destroyed the crew-served weaponry instead of actually turning them over to the Iranian proxies. AQAP has dramatically increased their activity in Sanaa. In the southern part of the country, the Islamic state (IS) effort to establish a permanent foothold in the southern part of the country is fully underway. Several southern factions have begun aligning themselves with AQAP or IS.

U.S., UK and France pull embassy staffers out of Yemen

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/10/middleeast/yemen-unrest/index.html

Marines provide new details about Yemen evacuation

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2015/02/12/marines-new-details-yemen-evacuation/23281977/

Yemen in Chaos: Portrait of an Obama “Success Story”

http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/02/12/yemen-chaos-portrait-obama-success-story

The Islamic State’s Arabian Peninsula Campaign

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4558

AQAP Steps Up Attacks in Yemen

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=3771

AQAP vs. Shia Proxy Fighting Intensifies

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=2972

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 7.46.33 PM

One of those Houthi checkpoints we’ve talked about in previous articles.
Source: CNN

Sunnis in Southern Yemen are more likely to secede now than at any other time since the civil war of the 1990s. As a whole, the Yemeni Army also has factions supporting the Houthis and former President Salih. When the real battle is initiated (and it will happen), we expect the fight will result in a stalemate. Defense Minister Mahmoud al-Subayhi remains trapped in the capital, but maintains the loyalty of most Southern military units. We assess that at least two brigades and several independent battalions are in the Aden-area. However, these southern forces will likely run into severe logistical problems (which were never good to begin with across the board) due to the Defense Ministry’s centralized control of ammo, fuel and money in Houthi-occupied Sanaa. The Saudis will likely to provide financial, political and possibly military assistance to these factions. AQAP has taken advantage of today’s chaos to seize control of the Yemen Army’s 19th BDE in the Southeastern Province of Shabwa.

Al-Qaida fighters capture headquarters of Yemeni Army brigade

http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/middle-east/60896-150212-al-qaeda-fighters-capture-headquarters-of-yemeni-army-brigade

AQAP Claims Responsibility For Attack on Iran’s Ambassador to Yemen

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=3476

houthi44

Source: Albawaba News

Our sources informed us that the IRGC-Qods Force has also stepped up their presence in the country with additional Proxies being brought in. These personnel are reported to be Hezbollah personnel, but they may be Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS) and/or Kitab Hezbollah (KH). We are also aware of efforts underway to bring in additional weapons shipments from Iraq via sea and air routes. The Saudis will be watching Sanaa International Airport for sophisticated weaponry being unloaded. Additional reporting from the country indicates that wounded Houthi fighters are being flown to Iran for more advanced medical care, although this remains unconfirmed. One thing is for sure, the Iranians clearly feel that Yemen is a much more permissive operating environment and that they hope to expand their presence by cementing their relationship with the Houthis.

Poised to Fill Yemen’s Power Vacuum: Iran Tightens Grip on The Peninsula

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4517

IRGC-Qods Force: The Arabian Peninsula Campaign and Failure of Obama’s Foreign Policy

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4478

It seems as if it was just yesterday that the Obama administration was bragging about how al-Qaida was “on the run,” IS was nothing more than a “JV team,” Iraq was “stable” and the Arab Spring was a “good thing.” The reality is al-Qaida remains a viable threat and IS owns a huge chunk of land spanning across Syria and Iraq while establishing a presence in the AF/PAK region, Yemen and Southeast Asia. The White House claims that it has made a “significant” impact on the War on Terror. Well, they have – we lost an embassy in Libya and one in Yemen. Just keep all this firmly lodged in the back of your mind as the Obama administration pushes on with other schizophrenic policies on the world stage, such as its insistence that Iran is a “friend.”

US Embassy in Tripoli”Secured” by Islamist Militias of the “Dawn of Libya”

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1462

Other Related Articles:

Yemen’s Houthi Rebels: The Hand of Iran?

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1992

American and South African Hostage Killed in Yemen During Rescue Attempt

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=3564

Shia Proxy Threat to US ISIS Strategy in Saudi Arabia

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1837

The Islamic State’s Arabian Peninsula Campaign

February 2, 2015 / /

As stated in our previous articles the death of King Abdullah and transition to the reign of King Salman and collapse of the Yemeni government has destabilized the Arabian Peninsula considerably. In our last two pieces on the region we covered how AQAP and the Iranian regime seek to capitalize on the instability. Here, we will be taking a look at how the Islamic State (IS) will attempt to exploit the situation – and what it means to the Americans living in the region.

Saudi Arabia faces ISIS threats during transition of new king
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/01/31/saudi-arabia-faces-isis-threats-during-transition-new-king/

IRGC-Qods Force: The Arabian Peninsula Campaign and the Failure of Obama’s Foreign Policy
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4478

Yemen Poised to Fill Power Vacuum – Iran Tightens Grip on The Peninsula
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4517

saudiborder

IS fighters along the Saudi-Iraq border
Source: International Business Times

Since the start of the Syrian regional war, IS has preferred to keep Saudi Arabia “quiet” so as to maintain high levels of financial and material support coming out of the country by wealthy financiers.  However, recent events indicate that they may have shifted towards leveraging their access to fighters in Iraq and sympathetic locals to extend their kinetic reach into Saudi Arabia.  Early-JAN 15 saw IS claiming – through their Anbar-based media outlet – responsibility for an attack on a Saudi border post that resulted in the deaths of three guards.  This is same IS network led by Abdullah bin Sayid al-Sarhan that was also responsible for the deaths of five Shia locals in Eastern Saudi Arabia for allegedly operating as proxies for the IRGC-Qods Force in NOV 14. Reporting also suggests that this network was also responsible for the attack on two US citizens and a Danish national.

ISIS Claims Attack On Saudi Arabia Border, Signals Strategy Change In Militant Infiltration
http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-claims-attack-saudi-arabia-border-signals-strategy-change-militant-infiltration-1773754

Masked gunmen kill five in Saudi Arabia
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/04/masked-gunmen-kill-five-saudi-arabia

Saudi Arabia Shia-linked gun battles ‘leave nine dead’
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29895160

American injured in shooting in Saudi Arabia
http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/30/world/saudi-arabia-american-shot/

Two U.S. citizens shot in Saudi Arabia
http://www.albawaba.com/news/two-us-citizens-shot-saudi-arabia-650630

Shia Proxy Threat to US ISIS Strategy in Saudi Arabia
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1837

Screen Shot 2014-12-06 at 10.54.37 AM

IRGC-Qods Force insignia
Source: http://www.crethiplethi.com

The Saudis clearly see the threat for what it is and launched last year launched a series of security sweeps that led to the detention of 150 IS fighters, facilitators and financiers over the past year (some of which originated from Southeast Asia btw).  Last month’s border post attack was likely in response to the increased patrols and troop numbers along the Iraqi border in addition to the construction of a wall to keep out the “undesirables.” However, IS had established a foothold along the border area as far back as JUN 14 during the multi-pronged offensive in Iraq that saw the fall of Mosul and most of Anbar Province.

Saudi Arabia arrests first ISIS-related terror cell (this article has pics in it)
http://www.aawsat.net/2014/05/article55332025

Saudi Arabia Builds Iraq Border Wall To Protect Against ISIS
http://www.npr.org/2015/01/20/378660034/saudi-arabia-builds-iraq-border-wall-to-protect-against-isis

Revealed: Saudi Arabia’s ‘Great Wall’ to keep out Isil
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/saudiarabia/11344116/Revealed-Saudi-Arabias-Great-Wall-to-keep-out-Isil.html

Islamic State sets sights on Saudi Arabia
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30061109

Filipinos Among Arrested in Saudi Terror Sweep
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4318

Large-Scale Saudi Security Sweep Detains 88
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1561

saudi-border

Graphic depicting the proposed border security measures for both the Iraq and Yemeni borders
Source: homelandsecurityresearch.com

The Iranians aren’t the only ones looking to make Yemen into a base of operations to launch operations in the region.  Elements within AQAP have defected to IS and have aided in the establishment of networks along the Saudi-Yemeni border.  Although AQAP remains the dominant Sunni terror group in the country, IS leaders are beginning to gain traction by promising cash incentives for fence-sitters.  We previously wrote about this subject during the summer.  Reporting suggests that low-to-mid-level AQAP members may be working with IS to counter the Houthi attempts at expanding into Southern Yemen with support for IS beginning to emerge in Aden and Lahij. A Saudi national has reportedly been appointed by IS to serve as the “Emir” of Yemen, and has been working extensively with the IS leadership in Saudi Arabia.

Possible Cracks to The AQ Armor.
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=52

ISIS gaining ground in Yemen, competing with al Qaeda
http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/21/politics/isis-gaining-ground-in-yemen/

How Yemen Is Making ISIS and al-Qaeda Even More Dangerous
http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2014/10/29/How-Yemen-Making-ISIS-and-al-Qaeda-Even-More-Dangerous

Report: ISIS Actively Gaining Ground Amid Chaos in Yemen
http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/01/23/report-isis-actively-gaining-ground-amid-chaos-in-yemen/

All of this comes on the heels of the message Baghdadi released in mid-NOV 14, where he put the Saudi kingdom on notice that they’re on the “short list” for being the next target. This should surprise no one as Saudi Arabia is one of the two “big prizes” that IS has been eyeing for their long-term goals. Israel is the other, but they have chosen not to target them due to the realization that they don’t yet have the strength to confront the Israeli response that would follow any such targeting. Saudi Arabia, however, is under increasing pressure coming from AQAP, the Iranian regime and IS. The death of King Abdullah at this critical juncture amplifies these vulnerabilities.  The deteriorating situations in Iraq and Yemen are the likely reasons that prompted IS to shift their strategy and begin attacking Saudi Arabia outright. The increased Iranian presence in Yemen along with a resurgent AQAP and IS working to gain a foothold in the country will force the Saudi government into making some hard decisions. Whatever the Saudis choose to do will be dependent on how they prioritize the collapse of the Yemeni government, the anti-Assad campaign and the growing threats inside the kingdom itself – which are directly tied to what the deteriorating situations in Iraq and Yemen…

Islamic State sets sights on Saudi Arabia
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30061109

In Strategic Shift, U.S. Draws Closer to Yemeni Rebels

Houthi militia members shout anti-U.S. slogans and hold a defaced picture of President Obama during a protest in San’a, Yemen, on Wednesday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Houthi militia members shout anti-U.S. slogans and hold a defaced picture of President Obama during a protest in San’a, Yemen, on Wednesday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

WSJ, By JAY SOLOMONDION NISSENBAUM and ASA FITCH, Jan. 29, 2015:

The U.S. has formed ties with Houthi rebels who seized control of Yemen’s capital, White House officials and rebel commanders said, in the clearest indication of a shift in the U.S. approach there as it seeks to maintain its fight against a key branch of al Qaeda.

American officials are communicating with Houthi fighters, largely through intermediaries, the officials and commanders have disclosed, to promote a stable political transition as the Houthis gain more power and to ensure Washington can continue its campaign of drone strikes against leaders of the group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, officials said.

“We have to take pains not to end up inflaming the situation by inadvertently firing on Houthi fighters,” a senior U.S. official said. “They’re not our military objective. It’s AQAP and we have to stay focused on that.”

Washington’s outreach to the Houthis, who in January routed forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a close American ally, represents a contrast from years of U.S. support for the Hadi government, which the Houthis have opposed.

The shift also could place it on the same side as Iran in the Yemen conflict. The Houthis are drawn from their country’s Zaidi population. Zaidis, who by some estimates make up roughly a third of the population, practice a form of Shiite Islam and are concentrated in northwest Yemen. U.S. officials believe the militia has received considerable funding and arms from Shiite-dominated Iran, something Houthi leaders have variously confirmed and denied.

White House and State Department officials confirmed to The Wall Street Journal the contacts with the Houthis, but stressed they were focused on promoting political stability in Yemen and safeguarding the security of Americans.

“In the context of talking to all of Yemen’s communities about the latest political developments and ensuring the safety of our personnel and facilities, we have engaged a number of Yemeni parties,” said Edgar Vasquez, a State Department spokesman. “As a participant in discussions about Yemen’s political direction, the Houthis will have many reasons to talk with the international community.”

U.S. officials said they also are seeking to harness the Houthis’ concurrent war on AQAP to weaken the terrorist organization’s grip on havens in Yemen’s west and south. The U.S. has charged AQAP with overseeing a string of terrorist plots on Western targets in recent years. In January, AQAP claimed responsibility for organizing a terrorist attack in Paris against the staff of aFrench satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo.

“There are informal contacts” with the Houthis, said a U.S. defense official, who declined to discuss the extent of the emerging relationship. “It is not uncommon for us to have communications with them, even before all this stuff happened,” the official said, referring to the militia’s capture of San’a.

Military officials on Thursday said the Houthis took over a key military base south of San’a where U.S. advisers until 2012 had trained forces battling AQAP, the Associated Press reported. The base was currently led by forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the AP added.

The U.S. and Iran both already are backing Iraq’s Shiite government in its military campaign against Islamic State fighters who have captured parts of northeast Iraq and Syria in recent months.

Read more

Iran: Unafraid and Undeterred

New-Iranian-President-Hassan-Rouhani-encouraged-by-Obamas-positive-tone-NBC-News-645x325-450x318rontpage, by Caroline Glick, Jan. 30, 2015:

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

Israel’s reported strike January 18 on a joint Iranian-Hezbollah convoy driving on the Syrian Golan Heights was one of the most strategically significant events to have occurred in Israel’s neighborhood in recent months. Its significance lies both in what it accomplished operationally and what it exposed.

From what been published to date about the identities of those killed in the strike, it is clear that in one fell swoop the air force decapitated the Iranian and Hezbollah operational command in Syria.

The head of Hezbollah’s operations in Syria, the head of its liaison with Iran, and Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of Hezbollah’s longtime operational commander Imad Mughniyeh who was killed by Israel in Damascus in 2008, were killed. The younger Mughniyeh reportedly served as commander of Hezbollah forces along the Syrian-Israeli border.

According to a report by Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shimon Shapira, a Hezbollah expert from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the Iranian losses included three generals. Brig.- Gen. Mohammed Alladadi was the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps liaison officer to Hezbollah and to Syrian intelligence. He was also in charge of weapons shipments from Iran to Hezbollah. Gen. Ali Tabatabai was the IRGC commander in the Golan Heights and, according to Shapira, an additional general, known only as Assadi, “was, in all likelihood, the commander of Iranian expeditionary forces in Lebanon.”

The fact that the men were willing to risk exposure by traveling together along the border with Israel indicates how critical the front is for the regime in Tehran. It also indicates that in all likelihood, they were planning an imminent attack against Israel.

According to Ehud Yaari, Channel 2’s Arab Affairs commentator, Iran and Hezbollah seek to widen Hezbollah’s front against Israel from Lebanon to Syria. They wish to establish missile bases on the northern Hermon, and are expanding Hezbollah’s strategic depth from Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley to the outskirts of Damascus.

On Wednesday night, Yaari reported that the Syrian military has ceased to function south of Damascus. In areas not held by the al-Qaida-aligned Nusra Front and other regime opponents, the IRGC and Hezbollah have taken control, using the Syrian militia they have trained since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

The effectiveness of Hezbollah’s control of its expanded front was on display on Wednesday morning. Almost at the same time that Hezbollah forces shot at least five advanced Kornet antitank missiles at an IDF convoy along Mount Dov, killing two soldiers and wounding seven, Hezbollah forces on the Golan shot off mortars at the Hermon area.

While these forces are effective, they are also vulnerable. Yaari noted that today, three-quarters of Hezbollah’s total forces are fighting in Syria. Their twofold task is to defend the Assad regime and to build the Iranian-controlled front against Israel along the Golan Heights. Most of the forces are in known, unfortified, above ground positions, vulnerable to Israeli air strikes.

THE IDENTITIES of the Iranian and Lebanese personnel killed in the Israeli strike indicate the high value Iran and Hezbollah place on developing a new front against Israel in Syria.

The fact that they are in control over large swathes of the border area and are willing to risk exposure in order to ready the front for operations exposes Iran’s strategic goal of encircling Israel on the ground and the risks it is willing to take to achieve that goal.

But Iran’s willingness to expose its forces and Hezbollah forces also indicates something else. It indicates that they believe that there is a force deterring Israel from attacking them.

And this brings us to another strategic revelation exposed by the January 18 operation.

Earlier this week, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdolahian told Iran’s IRNA news agency that the regime had told its American interlocutors to tell Israel that it intended to strike Israel in retribution for the attack. The State Department did not deny that Iran had communicated the message, although it claims that it never relayed the message.

While the Obama administration did perhaps refuse to serve as Iran’s messenger, it has worked to deter Israel from striking Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria. Whereas Israel has a policy of never acknowledging responsibility for its military operations in Syria, in order to give President Bashar Assad an excuse to not retaliate, the US administration has repeatedly informed the media of Israeli attacks and so increased the risk that such Israeli operations will lead to counterattacks against Israel.

The US has also refused to acknowledge Iran’s control over the Syrian regime, and so denied the basic fact that through its proxies, Iran is developing a conventional threat against Israel. For instance, earlier this month, Der Spiegel reported that Iran has been building a secret nuclear facility in Syria. When questioned about the report, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf sought to downplay its significance. When a reporter asked if the administration would raise the report in its nuclear negotiations with Iran, Harf replied, “No, the upcoming talks are about the Iranian nuclear program.”

Until this month, the White House continued to pay lip service to the strategic goal of removing Assad – and by inference Iran, which controls and protects him – from power in Syria. Lip service aside, it has been clear at least since September 2013, when President Barack Obama refused to enforce his own redline and take action against the Assad regime after it used chemical weapons against its opponents, that he had no intention of forcing Assad from power. But this month the administration crossed a new Rubicon when Secretary of State John Kerry failed to call for Assad to be removed to power in talks with the UN envoy in Syria Staffan de Mistura. Right before he met with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Kerry told Mistura, “It is time for President Assad, the Assad regime, to put their people first and to think about the consequences of their actions, which are attracting more and more terrorists to Syria, basically because of their efforts to remove Assad.”

IRAN’S PRESENCE on the Golan Heights is of course just one of the many strategic advances it has made in expanding its territorial reach. Over the past two weeks, Iranian-controlled Houthi militias have consolidated their control over Yemen, with their overthrow of the US-allied government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Rather than defend the elected government that has fought side-by-side with US special forces in their Yemen-based operations against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the administration is pretending that little has changed. It pretends it will still be able to gather the intelligence necessary to carry out drone strikes against al-Qaida terrorists even though its allies have now lost power.

The post-Houthi-conquest goal of the administration’s policy in Yemen is to seek a national dialogue that will include everyone from Iran’s proxy government to al-Qaida.

The idea is that everyone will work together to write a new constitution. It is impossible to understate the delusion at the heart of this plan.

With the conquest of Yemen, Iran now controls the Gulf of Aden. Together with the Straits of Hormuz, Iran now controls the region’s two maritime outlets to the open sea.

Far beyond the region, Iran expands its capacity to destabilize foreign countries and so advance its interests. Last week, Lee Smith raised the reasonable prospect that it was Iran that assassinated Argentinean prosecutor Alberto Nisman two weeks ago. Nisman was murdered the night before he was scheduled to make public the findings of his 10-year investigation into the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center and the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. According to Smith, Nisman had proof that Iran had carried out the terrorist attacks to retaliate against Argentina for abrogating its nuclear cooperation with Tehran.

From the Golan Heights to Gaza, from Yemen and Iraq to Latin America to Nantanz and Arak, Iran is boldly advancing its nuclear and imperialist agenda. As Charles Krauthammer noted last Friday, the nations of the Middle East allied with the US are sounding the alarm.

Earlier this week, during Obama’s visit with the new Saudi King Salman, he got an earful from the monarch regarding the need to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But it seemed to have no impact on his nuclear diplomacy with Teheran. The administration believes that Iran and Saudi Arabia will be able to kiss and make up and bury a thousand- year rivalry between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam because they both oppose the Islamic State. This too is utter fantasy.

Israel’s January 18 strike on Iranian and Hezbollah commanders in Syria showed Israel’s strategy wisdom and independent capacity.

Israel can and will take measures to defend its critical security interests. It has the intelligence gathering capacity to identify and strike at targets in real time.

But it also showed the constraints Israel is forced to operate under in its increasingly complex and dangerous strategic environment.

Due to the US administration’s commitment to turning a blind eye to Iran’s advances and the destabilizing role it plays everywhere it gains power, Israel can do little more than carry out precision attacks against high value targets. The flipside of the administration’s refusal to see the dangers, and so enable Iran’s territorial expansion and its nuclear progress, is its determination to ensure that Israel does nothing to prevent those dangers from growing – whether along its borders or at Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Middle East Terror: Iran’s influence grows after Yemen’s political collapse

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CSP, by Fred Fleitz, Jan. 30, 2015:

The international community is starting to realize the seriousness of the political chaos in Yemen, which has expanded Iranian influence in the region, bolstered Al Qaeda and could lead to the secession of the southern part of the country. This situation may also result in a political realignment that puts the family of the former autocratic president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, back in power in an alliance with the Iranian-backed Houthis, a Shiite insurgent group in northern Yemen that forced President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his cabinet to resign last week.

The political deterioration in Yemen might have been prevented if the United States had fully backed Hadi and not gone along with a transition plan that removed Saleh from power in 2012 but did not force him from Yemen’s political scene.

Saleh used his influence to undermine the Hadi government through army units and tribes loyal to him. While Hadi closely cooperated with U.S. counterterror operations against Al Qaeda, the Obama administration did nothing to prop him up. Unaware of the how fragile the Hadi government was, the Obama administration as recently as last September claimed Yemen was a success story for U.S. Middle East policy.

On Sept. 10, President Obama said in a speech, “This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.” Two weeks later, the United States recommended U.S. citizens leave Yemen after Houthi rebels occupied Sanaa, the capital, and Al Qaeda fired a rocket at the U.S. embassy.

Massive Arab Spring protests in 2011 led to Saleh’s resignation in February 2012 after more than 33 years in power. Having been granted immunity from prosecution in a deal that handed power to Hadi, Saleh’s main objective since he left office reportedly has been to propel his son, Ahmed Ali Saleh, to the Yemeni presidency.

Even though his government persecuted the Houthis and they were part of the Arab Spring demonstrations that drove him from office, Saleh struck an alliance with Houthi leaders that allowed them to occupy Sanaa last September. Because of recent demonstrations in Sanaa by its Sunni majority against the resignation of the Hadi government and the occupation of the city by the Shiite Houthis, Houthi leaders may be considering restoring the corrupt Saleh family to power or installing a Saleh family ally. According to Yemeni law, Parliament Speaker Yahia al-Rai, a close ally of Saleh, is next in line to assume the presidency.

The return of the Saleh family to power would be a step backward for Yemen and could pose significant security implications for the region and the United States. If the Saleh family or a Saleh ally assumes the presidency, the new government probably would abandon Hadi’s power-sharing and political reform efforts, most of which were opposed by the Houthis. Such a transition would bring back the corruption and probably the oppression of the Saleh regime.

A new Yemeni government, whether it is headed by the Saleh family or not, will be controlled by the Iran-backed Houthis. This deeply worries the Saudis, who regard the Houthis as an Iranian proxy and last year declared them a terrorist organization. Although the U.S. might be able to buy off a new Yemeni government to get it to continue to participate in counterterrorism efforts, the Iran angle, the Houthis’ hatred of the United States and Saleh’s possible anger over being removed from power could make this difficult to achieve.

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the world’s most dangerous Al Qaeda franchise, and the separatist Southern Movement, which wants southern Yemen to secede, are poised to exploit Yemen’s political chaos and may be collaborating. AQAP has tried to take advantage of the chaos of the last few months by staging suicide attacks in Sanaa.

Further complicating this situation, ISIS reportedly has entered the scene in Yemen and is competing with AQAP for recruits. Saudi leaders also are worried about Islah, a growing Muslim Brotherhood party in Yemen.

Although the Houthis are enemies of the Southern Movement and AQAP, they are looking for autonomy for their area in the north and probably have no plans to invade the south to battle these groups. This could lead to the secession of parts of southern Yemen (which had been a separate state until 1990) and a stronger, more consolidated AQAP.

The Obama administration needs to work with regional states, Europe and the United Nations to come up with a comprehensive strategy to promote stability, power sharing among regional groups and a new constitution in Yemen. Though there are currently many unknowns as to how the political crisis there will play out, given the country’s reliance on Saudi financial aid to run the government — aid that Riyadh cut off in December — and the Houthis’ hostility toward AQAP, an agreement between the international community and the Houthis to implement such a strategy may eventually be possible.

But even if such an agreement is reached, Iran’s increased influence in Yemen through the Houthis is unlikely to be reversed and will pose new security concerns for Saudi Arabia, the United States and the region.

Death of Saudi King & Coup in Yemen: Signs in Iranian Prophecy

Foreground: Iranian Revolutionary Guards, banner in background: the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

Foreground: Iranian Revolutionary Guards, banner in background: the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

By Ryan Mauro:

The coup in Yemen by Iranian proxies and the death of Saudi King Abdullah must be seen through the eyes of Iranian regime elements focused on the “end-of-times” prophecies. These huge developments are seen not only as strategic opportunities by the Iranian regime; they are seen as fulfillments of prophecy signaling the imminent appearance of the Mahdi to bring final victory over the enemies of Islam.

THE END-OF-TIMES WORLDVIEW

The Iranian regime’s view of the world is centered around the appearance of the Mahdi, also known as the Hidden 12th Imam in Shia Islam. It also explains its strategy in the context of prophecies surrounding the Mahdi’s arrival on the scene, including issues related to Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

Former President Ahmadinejad famously displayed his belief that the Mahdi’s return is very near to the point that other regime elements derided him and his clique as “deviant” for believing that the Mahdi is directly guiding them.

Ahmadinejad was not doing this for domestic political reasons. If anything, it hurt him politically. He’s continued the rhetoric even after leaving the office. In April, he said the Iranian regime will “provide the setting for the Hidden Imam’s world revolution” and it’s the “prime goal” to facilitate the “beginnings of the emergence of the Hidden Imam.”

Supreme Leader Khamenei’s beliefs are not different. He likewise preaches that the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran is the fulfillment of prophecy to set the stage for the Mahdi to defeat Iran’s enemies.

Like Ahamdinejad, Khamenei believes Iran has a responsibility to consciously fulfill prophecy in order to trigger this event. His representative in the Revolutionary Guards said in June that Iran needs to shape the necessary “regional preparedness” for it to happen.

In July 2010, a senior Iranian cleric said that Khamenei told his inner circle that he had met with the Mahdi, who promised to “reappear” during his lifetime. A sermon by a top cleric in Qom and shown on state television claimed that Khamenei said “May Ali protect you” the second he was born.

The most vivid explanation of the end-of-times prophecy in the Iranian regime’s calculations came in 2011 when a terrifying videowas leaked titled, “The Coming is Upon Us.” It was obtained by Reza Kahlili, a former CIA spy within the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The Iranian regime did not contest its authenticity.

The basis of the video was that the Iranian regime is fulfilling specific prophecies to trigger the appearance of the Hidden 12th Imam. Supreme Leader Khamenei, President Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah are depicted as the incarnations of figures foretold in prophecy.

Kahlili said the production of the film was overseen by President Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff and it ends with a list of endorsements from clerics. A portion was shown on the regime-controlled media.

The blowback was fierce even from within the regime. A major seminary in Qom even condemned the comparison of Ahmadinejad to the military commander who will lead the final war. Significantly, it did not condemn the comparison of Khamenei to the political leader who will ally with the Mahdi known as “Seyed Khorasani.”

The regime tried to distance itself from the video, but the filmmakers said it was shown to Khamenei and Ahmadinejad for approval. They also pointed out that prominent clerics and Revolutionary Guards commanders call him “Seyed Khorasani” to his face. Khamenei’s representative in the Guards told a state newspaper on April 12, 2011 that ayatollahs agreed that Khamenei is Khorasani.

The Iranian regime’s foreign policy is based on a fusion of these strategic and ideological goals. It rationally pursues these extremist objectives. The mistake that many Western analysts make is conflating the two. The regime appears Soviet-like in its strategic calculations, but they are made for a highly ideological end.

DEATH OF SAUDI KING & COUP IN YEMEN

The full significance of the death of Saudi King Abdullah can only be understood through the Iranian prophetic framework.

Read more at Clarion Project

New York Times Discovers Yemen’s ‘Death to America’ Houthi Rebels are Moderates and Possible U.S. Partners

PJ Media, By Patrick Poole On January 26, 2015

The New York Times launched some weapons-grade stupidity on Sunday with an article by Rod Nordland and Eric Schmitt citing “experts” claiming that the Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen that have swept though critical parts of the country, including the capital Sanaa, are not just moderates, but possible U.S. counter-terrorism partners.

Because of the ongoing Houthi offensive, Yemen’s information minister admitted last week that the government had lost effective control of the country.

Amanpour tweet

Thankfully, the Times is here to assure us that when the Houthis shout “Death to America” they really don’t mean it:

At first glance the official slogan and emblem of the Houthis, who are now the dominant force in Yemen, does not offer much hope to American policy makers.

It includes the words “Death to America, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews.” Houthis shout it when they march, wear it on arm patches, paint it on buildings and stick it onto their car windows. When pictured, those words are rendered in red, framed by “God is great” and “Victory to Islam” in green, on a white background.

Sometimes the red words are shown dripping blood.

But for all their harsh sloganeering, the Houthis may be a lot more moderate than it suggests, according to many diplomats and analysts who have followed them closely. They say it would be premature to dismiss them as Yemen’s Hezbollah, despite their alliance with Iran.

For reference purposes, here’s the slogan in question:

Houthi logo

Houthis tweet

Ah, but we have nothing to fear, because they fight Al-Qaeda says the Pentagon:

On Wednesday, Michael G. Vickers, the Pentagon’s top intelligence policy official, noted that the Houthis’ dominance had been growing over the past several months as they expanded their control since last September, but he said that has not interfered with American missions. “The Houthis are anti-Al Qaeda, and we’ve been able to continue some of our counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda in the past couple months,” Mr. Vickers said.

And they’re nothing like yet another Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, say the “experts”:

“The Houthis are not Hezbollah,” said Charles Schmitz, an expert on the group and a professor at Towson University, referring to the Iranian-supported group that dominates Lebanon and is actively fighting on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. “They are domestic, homegrown, and have very deep roots in Yemen, going back thousands of years.”

In fact, they could be U.S. counter-terrorism partners if they only dropped their “Death to America” sloganeering (!!) the “experts” continue:

April Alley, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Sana, said: “Theoretically there is quite a bit of common ground in Yemen between the Houthis and the U.S., particularly when it comes to security issues and Al Qaeda. But so far it’s not been enough to overcome the obstacles. The Houthis have their own limits in which they can engage the Americans given the political narrative they have propagated.”

It should be noted that last week a U.S. Embassy vehicle carrying U.S. personnel was shot up at a Houthi checkpoint.

And a Houthi checkpoint featuring the “Death to America” signs has been operating right outside the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa since September:

Yemen photo

 

Houthi checkpoint tweets

 

One curious omission in the Times article, however, is that Obama hailed Yemen as one of his administration’s counter-terrorism successes back in September:

t4

 

So with Iran or Iranian proxies in charge of another Arab capital (Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, Sanaa) we have nothing to fear, the New York Times is here to tell us.

And the Houthis take their place as acclaimed moderates in the U.S. foreign policy narrative bubble, along with the “largely secular” Muslim Brotherhood, the“vetted moderate” Syrian rebels, the “moderate elements” of Hezbollah (as cited by CIA Director John Brennan), and even “moderate” Al-Qaeda.