Home/Daniel Larison/A Dangerous Escalation of the U.S. Role in the War on Yemen

A Dangerous Escalation of the U.S. Role in the War on Yemen

U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen keeps getting worse:

The war-torn Arabian nation of Yemen has emerged as a surprise complication for U.S.-Iranian relations in the late stages of President Barack Obama’s nuclear diplomacy with Tehran.

The Obama administration dispatched an aircraft carrier to Yemen’s coastal waters over the weekend, an escalation of American involvement in that country’s civil war that also serves as a show of strength against Iran just as negotiators resume the nuclear talks this week in Vienna.

If Yemen has become a “surprise complication” for the administration’s diplomacy with Iran, Obama has no one to blame but himself. In a misguided bid to “reassure” the Saudis and its GCC allies, the U.S. first backed a reckless attack on Yemen that has succeeded mainly in further wrecking the country. Now it is moving more U.S. ships into the area in an even more dangerous bid to confront an approaching Iranian flotilla. This not only represents a serious escalation of U.S. involvement in the war and a closer identification of the U.S. with the Saudi-led blockade, but also risks an unnecessary and entirely avoidable clash with Iran. This would be foolish at any time, but it is even more so when the nuclear talks are still ongoing. The “show of strength” will be taken as a challenge, and will likely lead to more confrontational behavior from Tehran.

The Wall Street Journalreports:

American officials aren’t certain of the Iranian flotilla’s intentions. If the Iranian ships try to head for Yemen, it could create a dramatic showdown this week in the Gulf of Aden. U.S. officials don’t expect American sailors to try to board the Iranian ships.

Saudi Arabian and Egyptian ships have been at the forefront of an effort to prevent any potential efforts by Iran to secret arms into Yemen by sea and their forces could try to intercept the Iranian flotilla.

“It all depends on what the Iranian ships do,” said one U.S. military official. “If they try to head for Yemen, there may be a bit of a showdown.”

If that were to happen, it would almost certainly poison the talks on the nuclear issue. Depending on how much of a “showdown” there is, in the worst-case scenario it could trigger a new conflict. Even if the worst doesn’t happen, it will raise tensions and make any final agreement on the nuclear issue harder to reach. U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen has never seemed more unwise or more contrary to U.S. interests than it does now.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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