Recently, the US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq posted a Facebook post announcing the cessation of Consular activities (Visas, Passports, etc) due to the damage and continued threat from the New Years Eve and New Years Day Iranian-backed Iraqi militia/protester attack on the embassy.
As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom II, a former State Department contracted Cultural Advisor of the last class of Iraqi YES Program students, and having spent roughly 2.5 years in the Baghdad Regional Security Office, I thought it would be important to share with my fellow Americans, 30 snippets from Iraqis who appreciate our sacrifices.
These snippets are comments on the US Embassy Baghdad Facebook post. When you think Iraq is a place we need to remove ourselves from, may I remind you that there are Iraqis who need and cherish our support and continued presence. As a reminder, the militia protestors at the embassy are the not same protesters who have been protesting in Baghdad for the last 3 months while getting gunned down by Iranian-backed security forces.
I hope you find these as touching as I did:
Worry not; the world is still falling apart. BBC reported an original attack in Jakarta: Jakarta attacks: Bombs and gunfire rock Indonesian capital Which is particularly ironic following the fanfare that The Atlantic’s article “ISIS in the World’s Largest Muslim Country- Why are so few Indonesians joining the Islamic State?” got.
As the SOTU played out Iran was detaining 10 US Navy Sailors as a near PR stunt. And as such they were released soon after: Iran releases 10 US Navy sailors after boat drifted in Persian Gulf. If half of your Facebook friends are like mine there much anger and social media promises to seek revenge against Iran once social media comment at a time.
OPSEC being what it is, the US announced that “Special U.S. targeting force ‘now in place’ in Iraq.” Good thing they are not ya know, like a secret force.
In the wake of the continued Iran-Saudi Charlie Foxtrot, Saudi has called in its chips from Sunni allies, including the nascently stabilizing Somalia. And as such Iran received some blow back when an Iranian Aid Agency Looted In Somalia After African Nation Cuts Ties With Tehran.
As Nigeria continues to face security troubles with Boko Haram, it is reported that UK Sends Troops To Train Nigerian Soldiers.
Russia is continually nervous about the implosion of Afghanistan and as such decided that sending more guns will help: Russia to send small arms to Afghanistan
Turkey already pinned between a Europe and a hardplace and just facing a notable terrorist attack, has seen yet another attack in there southern region: Deadly car bomb hits police HQ near Diyarbakir, Turkey.
In case you thought Al Qaeda was gone – wait who is Al Qaeda? Yeah, they are still around releasing podcasts in the glorious shadow of ISIL: Al Qaeda releases 3 new messages from Ayman al Zawahiri
Recent reporting has illustrated an increase of instability coming out of India. The small yet potent Islamic minority there continues to produce some unsavory extremists as of late: Arrested in Syria, four Indian youths ‘planning to join ISIS’
#Afghanistan keen on opening Chabahar port in #Iran for transit to #India
“I am sure once the port comes into operation in full swing, we can look at increasing the $600 million trade to $5 billion in maximum 5 years,”
#Iran – #Hezbollah tells its cells to find new sources of money
I guess the one benefit of the proxy war in Syria is that it is draining funds from Iran away from Hezbollah. Then again Hezbollah for decades have been very skilled at fund-raising from donors and especially global networks of illicit markets.
This is a really specific unique inquiry. By general stability logic you would think that Iran would benefit and therefore desire a stable Yemen. However based off their actions that seems to not be the case. The southern secessionist movement has been in play since the unification of southern and northern Yemen. Southern Yemen being historically Communist and before that, under British ‘control’. It is unique to consider the religious regime of Iran would be supportive of a fundamentally atheist movement (communist) but I can see the intricacies. There have long been accusations of Iran meddling in Yemeni internal affairs. Knowing that Iran is fairly good at subtle subterfuge it is not surprising that this has been difficult to prove for certain.
Recently Yemen President came out and publicly stated that Iran has been meddling in Yemeni internal affairs particularly regarding support of the Southern Secessionist movement. However there is also a large amount of speculation (with minimal proof) that Iran directly supports the Houthi movement (partially as a proxy war against the Saudi supported Salafists). I have seen some minimal reporting (validation I’m not sure of) claiming that Iran has IRGC operatives in Yemen (Sa’ada region) training and funding the Houthi movement. Though by their very nature these types of clandestine operations are hard to prove. There are however, a ridiculous number of weapons shipments intercepted on a regular basis that point to Iran. These shipments are presumably directed towards the Houthis in Sa’ada and/or the Southern movement. Most people in Yemen I have spoken to reject the notion of Iranian support to the Houthis. Though most of these people were Shia (ergo Houthi affiliated to some degree).
Considering Iran is looking to expand commercially via infrastructure into the Arabian Peninsula, I believe Iran wants a stable Yemen in order to extract markets and potentially exploit various natural resources. However they also want an Iran-friendly region with power-pockets of Shia (this would explain why they support the Houthis and Secessionists. Ideally they would support the complete dismantling of the current pro-US regime in order to replace it with a preferred administration. However, the chances of that happening is slim to known so it seems Iran is left to just endlessly meddle in their affairs in a childish manner.
If there is any true Iranian strategy that is conceivably possible it would be to destroy the efforts by the GCC with regards to a peaceful transition and development (the mostly Sunni/Saudi backed GCC is heavily involved in Yemen’s NDC and Saleh Regime transition) in order to create a power vacuum and alliance shift to Iran and away from GCC/Saudi affiliation. If Iran can show that GCC efforts are failed efforts that they probably believe they can grab some power in the country and particularly have a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula.
In reality, Iran is never going to “take over” Yemen by proxy or otherwise, the best option they have from a pure realist perspective is to support a Houthi and Southern movement effort to have their own autonomous or semi-autonomous areas that Iran can use as proxy-forward operating bases on the Peninsula. The way this would be done is to have these two factions/movements cause enough trouble in the peace process to the point that the UN/GCC/US coalition provides concessions to these movements. This has already been done to a great degree with the Houthis. There has been a good amount of commentary on how before the Saleh regime the Houthis were nobody and now they have a seat at the table – one that I actually sat at during the final moments of the NDC. They were rather furious that an “American Researcher” was sitting in on their meeting that was to decide the future of Yemen from a Houthi perspective.
In the end, Iran would love to take over Yemen, but they cannot, they can merely push their hands into the peace process to extract a degree of proxy power via the Houthis (and lesser so the Southern movement). As per whether they support the Houthis it takes only a walk through a Houthi neighborhood (I lived in one) where you see the Houthi motto banners everywhere saying effectively “Death to America, Death to Israel” – and we all know whose motto that is…Iran’s.
According to a New York Times article a classified US-led military base named the Combined Air and Space Operations Center (CASOC) located just outside Doha, Qatar has become public during a recent trip by the US Defense Secretary Hagel. During his visit with his counterpart he signed “a new Defense Cooperation Agreement that includes joint training and exercises and other unspecified cooperative military actions.”
Despite Middle Eastern CENTCOM Operations seemingly in withdrawal mode across the region, this announcement illustrates a continued commitment to US engagement in the region and foreshadows an increase in Command and Control (C2) operations with a focus on joint multinational operations. Between the lines, we can read that this means significant logistics & intelligence support to regional allies while running point on Joint Special Operations efforts while including extensive training & support to regional allies’ Special Operations Forces.
Simultaneously the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has agreed to establish a Joint Military Command and Police Force. The GCC consists of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. The GCC is most known for its efforts to assist in stabilizing the Republic of Yemen following the Arab Spring revolution.
The GCC owning its own Joint Military Command with the CASOC being based out of Qatar we are seeing a dramatic shift in Middle East Operations with the GCC on point and the US-led CASOC in the supporting role. Considering the GCC’s anti-Iran stance and concern for stability in the region it is conceivable to see a GCC led operational enterprise across the region focusing on stabilizing Syria, facilitating Yemen’s transition and countering Iranian expansive reach into Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
Yemen official: Defense Ministry attackers targeted president
“The report also indicated that explosives used in the attack matched explosives seized by Yemeni authorities from Iranian ships.”
Something I find phenomenally interesting is the “Freakanomics“, if you will, of international security relations. Two examples of this is how perceivably bad situations can inherently develop positive outcomes. The first example of this is the littoral communities of Somalia that benefited from piracy (specifically during its hey-day from 2007-2010). I drafted a write up a few years back of how the littoral communities with infused cash began rather positive urban development using the cash they extorted from their hostage-taking. This of course lends itself to the theory that economic development stems violence & crime – and piracy in the long run. This is an entire other topic though somewhat tied to the fact that Somali Piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden has essentially created a situation where international Naval powers have been forced (at times in consensus, at times in coincidence) to execute effectively joint counter-piracy sea operations in the region.
Iran, yesterday or so, rescued more pirate victims – this time the victims were Yemeni. I love seeing this. it is a sign of what I view the future of International Security to be. For Iran, this is not the first time either. Here we see one example of Iran’s efforts back in 2012, and again Iran’s interdiction of a hijacking and detention of a senior Piracy King. As Wired Magazine points out in their article: “This isn’t the first time Iranian mariners have concerned themselves with pirates. As the pirates have moved aggressively into the northern Indian Ocean, Iran’s navy has stepped up patrols and maritime surveillance, even joining in international counter-piracy patrols.”
Ergo, this is the irony of International Security Dynamics; as Wired continues: “Piracy may be unique in international affairs for its ability to bring enemies together. Pakistan has saved Indian sailors from Somali pirates. China and Taiwan, same thing. The U.S. Navy saved Iranian sailors practically every weekend in January. Cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria, etc.”
In a way, to illustrate this with the arguably most extreme of terms, it is two potential foes conducting joint combat operations together to protect globalization. Despite the Information Operations between the two countries, and often perceived disdain, there is much positive outcome from it. The end game result ultimately has shown it’s capacity for solution production.
In this article we see rising global powers – India compete with China for access to the Middle East /Central Asia region of Iran, Afghanistan & Pakistan. To ascertain a greater grasp of the background here check out Robert Kaplan’s book, Monsoon.