Noah Rothman makes a nonsensical claim:
Perhaps the most glaring example of the undue deference Washington yielded to irresponsible actors like Iran is how the United States turned a blind eye toward Tehran while it sparked a bloody regional proxy war in Yemen.
The U.S. couldn’t have “turned a blind eye toward Tehran” in this case, since Iranian involvement in Yemen is “trivial” by all informed accounts. Iran didn’t spark a “bloody regional proxy war.” This treats the Houthis as Iranian proxies, but they aren’t any such thing. It assumes that the conflict in Yemen was started by Iranian interference, but the causes of the conflict were local in origin. Misreading Yemen’s internal conflict as a proxy war instigated by Iran is about as wrong as one can go. It’s true that the Saudis and other governments in the region have chosen to misrepresent the conflict in this way, and they have chosen to exaggerate the extent of Iran’s support and its role in the conflict to justify their own appalling war on Yemen, but that just underscores how inaccurate and misleading this claim is.
Rothman cites a report from January on the administration’s “informal” contacts with the Houthis after they had taken Sanaa. As the article makes clear, the point of establishing these contacts was to retain Yemeni support for U.S. strikes on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). That was the extent of the “shift” that the article mentioned. At that time, the U.S. was focused on continuing to target AQAP, and to do that there needed to be some coordination with the Houthis, who were in control of the capital and likewise hostile to AQAP. The administration evidently decided in late March that it was more important to “reassure” the Saudis and the other Gulf states by backing the reckless Saudi-led war, and it has done this despite the fact that the war has benefited AQAP and allowed the group to gain ground and to acquire new weapons. Whatever limited significance the contacts with the Houthis had, they obviously didn’t last long and amounted to nothing. Far from “refusing to address Iranian provocations,” the administration endorsed the Saudis’ paranoid fantasy about growing Iranian influence and has been assisting the Saudis in their wrecking of Yemen ever since. Yemen is today being pummeled and starved because the U.S. and its regional clients are only too willing to combat an imaginary “expansion” of Iranian influence.