From intervention to regional war

From intervention to regional war
3 min read
06 Apr, 2015
Comment: Iran and Saudi Arabia have intervened in a number of conflicts as they seek to extend their interests. The conditions are there for a regional war, says Salameh Kaileh.
Houthis in Sanaa demonstrate against 'Operation Decisive Storm' [AFP]
The Saudi-led intervention in Yemen against the Houthis is taking place with the backing of Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has previously intervened in Bahrain and Turkey, and it has been trying to get involved in Syria.

But the action in Yemen is helping to create conditions for a region-wide conflict extending from Syria to Yemen, and nations are being reshaped on a moderate-extremist axis or a Sunni-Shia axis.

In Yemen the Houthis declared they had taken over the state with Iranian support. They have tried and still are trying to crush the "regime" led by President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, which came to power in February 2012 after the 2011 revolution. Hadi's regime was installed with the aid of the old regime led by Ali Abdallah Saleh. Hadi, who was vice-president under Saleh's regime, remained in power, and Saleh has kept control of the army and police.

Troops sent by Iran to fight in Syria are organised according to the Wilayat al-Faqih, the Shia doctrine that gives Islam custodianship over people and forms the basis of the Iranian constitution. These troops are preventing Syrian President Bashir al-Assad's regime from falling.
     Intervention is about creating a regional conflict extending from Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

In Iraq, Shias organised into popular mobilisation militias are fighting against the Islamic State group [IS], and directed by Iranian forces. Their leaders say they control four Arab capitals. Some officials have even talked about the return of the Persian empire with Baghdad as its capital, and Iraq assimilated into Iranian culture and civilization.

Iran seems to control the Arab Mashriq, and to be fighting against its revolutions from a sectarian perspective. 

This situation has intensified over the past four years, especially following the Iranian-backed Houthi coup. Iran now looks as if is the main power controlling the region after the decline and collapse of the Arabs.

Friendly relations have also been fostered between the US and Iran, now Iran has become a "cornerstone" in the US's regional strategy.

This has led to fears in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf that the US will suppport Iran as the new regional hegemon.

Saudi intervention in Yemen, therefore, can only be understood in the context of the need to challenge Iranian expansionism amid fears of US support for Iran.

However, the US would benefit if it supported a more equal regional balance of power, and if it destroyed Iran's regional dominance and make it accept the US limits.

There are fears the conflict could escalate so it is no longer simply about Iranian intervention versus Saudi-led intervention.

This could lead to a regional conflict pitting Iran against Saudi Arabia, Arab Gulf states, Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan. It could escalate further if the US and Russia try to interfere and solve the region's problems.

One solution for Iraq is to rearrange the power hierarchy so that Iran takes a secondary role after the US.

In Yemen, power could be rearranged so the Houthi's have a bigger role, but do not control the state.

A second scenario is for Iran to give up its imperial ambitions and accept these solutions, before a regional conflict breaks out.

In a third scenario, if there is a clear agreement between the US and Iran over the nuclear issue Iran will become the US's key ally in the Gulf. 

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.