Saturday, August 08, 2015

The US Congress can do something about the greatest evil of our time

From Prager University, 3 August 2015: 

Jew-baiting in the White House

Chuck Schumer, senior Senator from New York announced that he is opposing the Administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.

Some of us support the deal, because—like a majority of American Jews—we support the president, and we sympathize with his aims of ending Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons while keeping America out of another Middle Eastern war. Some of us oppose the deal because we believe that it falls very short of the criteria for meaningful limits on and inspections of Iran’s nuclear research programs that the Administration itself repeatedly promised to America and the world. Some of us are less concerned with the specifics of the deal than with the prospect of an American alliance with the theocratic Iranian regime, which the deal appears to be designed to cement.

As heated as the arguments between us can get, we can all agree that all of these positions, and their many variants, are entirely within the bounds of legitimate political debate

What we increasingly can’t stomach—and feel obliged to speak out about right now—is the use of Jew-baiting and other blatant and retrograde forms of racial and ethnic prejudice as tools to sell a political deal, or to smear those who oppose it. Accusing Senator Schumer of loyalty to a foreign government is bigotry, pure and simple. Accusing Senators and Congressmen whose misgivings about the Iran deal are shared by a majority of the U.S. electorate of being agents of a foreign power, or of selling their votes to shadowy lobbyists, or of acting contrary to the best interests of the United States, is the kind of naked appeal to bigotry and prejudice that would be familiar in the politics of the pre-Civil Rights Era South.

This use of anti-Jewish incitement as a political tool is a sickening new development in American political discourse, and we have heard too much of it lately—some coming, ominously, from our own White House and its representatives. Let’s not mince words: Murmuring about “money” and “lobbying” and “foreign interests” who seek to drag America into war is a direct attempt to play the dual-loyalty card. It’s the kind of dark, nasty stuff we might expect to hear at a white power rally, not from the President of the United States—and it’s gotten so blatant that even many of us who are generally sympathetic to the administration, and even this deal, have been shaken by it.

We do not accept the idea that Senator Schumer or anyone else is a fair target for racist incitement, anymore than we accept the idea that the basic norms of political discourse in this country do not apply to Jews. Whatever one feels about the merits of the Iran deal, sales techniques that call into question the patriotism of American Jews are examples of bigotry—no matter who does it. On this question, we should all stand in defense of Senator Schumer.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Iranian mullahs are crazy, for good reason

Someone should tell the mullahs in Tehran that there’s no way Hitler could have lost that war, if only he had had the Jews on his side. There’s more than a modicum of truth in the joke. Killing six million Jews diverted resources from the German war effort. More importantly, Jewish physicists, including Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner, Robert Oppenheimer, David Bohm, Rudolf Peierls, Otto Frisch Felix Bloch, Niels Bohr, Otto Hahn, and Edward Teller, led the American effort to build an atom bomb. Enrico Fermi, whose wife was Jewish, left Italy for America after Mussolini imposed race laws in 1938. Albert Einstein had spent the First World War in Berlin; at the outbreak of the Second, he helped persuade Franklin Roosevelt to fund the Manhattan Project.
100,000 German Jews had served in World War I, 12,000 died on the battlefield, and 35,000 were decorated for bravery, a higher proportion than the general population. Jewish loyalty to Germany was not in question in 1933. The Jews of Eastern Europe, moreover, were in general more sympathetic to Germany than to Russia. Killing Jews served no rational German objective. Yet no-one can argue that Jew-hatred was merely incidental to the Nazi regime. On the contrary, it was the raison d’etre of National Socialism.
Hitler was crazy, if by crazy we mean that his obsessions caused him to act repeatedly against self-interest. He made costlier mistakes in the conduct of war to be sure, for example, declaring war on America after Pearl Harbor, as Andrew Roberts observes in his 2011 study The Storm of War.  But his Jew-hatred defined a deluded mind. In 1933, the vast majority of German Jews (including the Orthodox Jewish leadership) thought Hitler’s raving were just rhetoric. They learned better.
In the Nazi mind, race theory replaced the old religious notion of national election. Germany was the last of Europe’s great nations to arrogate unto itself the status of Chosen People, three centuries after Richelieu’s France and Olivares’ Spain fought it out during the Thirty Years War. For Germany to be the Master Race, the historic exemplar of national election had to be eliminated, namely the Jews. That is a big assertion, to which I devoted the much 2011 book How Civilizations Die.  After 1930, Germany’s total fertility rate fell below replacement for the first time in its history, to just 1.7 children per female when Hitler took power in 1933. His apocalyptic fears of the disappearance of the Germans were not unfounded. Germany had begun to die, and Hitler proposed a messianic, megalomaniac vision to restore it. Hitler may have been crazy, but even paranoids have things to worry about. Germany’s total fertility rate is shown below.
Germany: Total Fertility and Replacement Rate (Source: Kenzia and Zimmermann, IZA DP No. 6355)
Germany: Total Fertility and Replacement Rate (Source: Kenzia and Zimmermann, IZA DP No. 6355)
Source: Kenzia and Zimmermann, IZA Discussion Paper No. 6355
Source: UN

Source: UN
A fortiori, Iran’s self-interest would dictate cordial relations with the State of Israel. Israel was Iran’s ally under the Shah, and the alliance continued covertly during the first years of the Iran-Iraq War. By some accounts, Iran obtained 80% of its weapons imports from Israel at the onset of the war, and bought a total of $500 million in weapons from Israel between 1981 and 1983. Israeli technicians kept Iran’s Phantom F-4’s flying after America cut off spare parts. It did so with American sanction, to be sure. The Reagan administration wanted to forestall a decisive victory by either Iraq or Iran.
The last thing Iran should want is an alliance between Israel and its Sunni opponents—Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, but potentially Turkey and Pakistan as well. An open alliance between the House of Saud and the State of Israel is improbable in the extreme, but in the fluid and opaque fields of perpetual warfare that stretch from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, there is ample room for covert collaboration. Shia communities from South Lebanon to central Iraq are vulnerable, and the last thing Iran should want is an Israeli role in the Sunni-Shia war.
But Iran’s leaders talk about the destruction of the State of Israel obsessively. The veteran Iran analyst Amir Taheri last week reviewed a new Persian-language book under the signature of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei that offers an intricate scenario for Israel, which he calls “a cancerous tumor” subject to “annihilation” and “effacement.” No land that once belonged to the Ummah may be left in infidel hands, Khamenei insists, much less a “hostile infidel” who has waged war on Muslims. He proposes a low-intensity war that will make life in Israel so unpleasant that most Israelis will leave. Taheri reports that “Khamenei boasts about the success of his plans to make life impossible for Israelis through terror attacks from Lebanon and Gaza. His latest scheme is to recruit ‘fighters’ in the West Bank to set-up Hezbollah-style units…Khamenei describes Israel as ‘a cancerous tumor’ whose elimination would mean that “the West’s hegemony and threats will be discredited” in the Middle East. In its place, he boasts, ‘the hegemony of Iran will be promoted.’
Iran’s national megalomania trumps rational self-interest. This is not a uniquely Muslim characteristic, nor a peculiarly Shi’ite one. Persian identity is imperial. It has been since Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon in B.C.E. 539. There is a scenario under which Persia might become a shrinking but successful nation of modest regional importance, but that is not accessible to the Persian psyche.
Khamenei’s existential problem is to persuade the Persians to continue to exist at all. The collapse of Iran’s fertility rate from 7 children per female in 1969 to between 1.6 and 1.8 children at present ranks as one of history’s great examples of genosuicide.
Iran’s reality is galloping demographic decline. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of Iranian females between the ages of 20 and 24 – prospective young mothers – will fall from 4.595 million to only 2.583 million, that is, by 43%. The number of women aged 25-29 will fall from 4.63 million to 3.47 million. That is the result of the unprecedented collapse of Iranian fertility after 1990. Iran’s present fertility rate is estimated at 1.6 to 1.8 children per female, and the number of Iranian women between 20 and 30 will fall by a third over just 10 years.
Source: UN
Source: UN
Nonetheless, the Tehran regime now says it wants to double its population, to 150 million by 2050. At current fertility, Iran’s population will reach about 80 million by mid-century, but 30% of Iranians will be over the age of 60, against only 8% today. To produce another 70 million Iranians by 2050 would require every Iranian woman between 20 and 40 to have between 5 and 6 children. The regime now offers incentives to prospective parents and has withdrawn public subsidies for birth control. It is probably much too late.
Before him, Ayatollah Khamenei visualizes a Shia revival and a reborn Persian empire; behind him, he observes what may be the most demoralized people in the world. Looking into the Persian future, Khamenei sees what Hitler saw in 1933.
Between 23% and 25% of Iranian couples claim to be infertile, which might be an excuse not to bear children. It also might be the result of the world’s highest reported rates of venereal infection, associated with Shi’ite “temporary marriage,” or clerically-approved prostitution. Iranian studies report Chlamydia infection rates of 12.6% in Tehran and 21.25% in Isfahan, vs. 0.6% in the United States and 4.3% worldwide.
Iran also has the worst drug problem of any country in the world. According to Iran’s interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, six million Iranians (20% of the population over age 15) have been affected by drug abuse, and 1.3 million (or 4.3% of Iranians over age 15) are addicts, using heroin as well as crystal meth. Only 36.7% of Iran’s population is economically active, one of the lowest counts in the world.
The clerical regime has ruined Iran and reduced its people to despair. It has nothing to lose and nowhere to retreat, because to continue in the present direction means that gradual extinction is inevitable. Asia Times’ Chan Akya observes that there is a precedent for the self-extinction of Persians, namely the Zoroastrian, or Parsi, community in India, whose numbers have fallen by half since 1940, and will fall again by half by 2020 as the aging community dies out.
The mullahs are crazy, and will act like crazy men. Like Hitler, they have good reason to do so.

There are alternatives to this bad deal with Iran

From Times of Israel, 16 July, by Raphael Ahren:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press following the nuclear deal with Iran, at the PM's Office in Jerusalem, on July 14, 2015. (Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press following the nuclear deal with Iran, at the PM's Office in Jerusalem, on July 14, 2015. (Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israel forcefully rejected...US President Barack Obama’s assertion that critics of the nuclear agreement with Iran have failed to present better options, arguing that a good deal is still possible if the international community, led by Washington, maintains the sanctions regime on Tehran.
“We have consistently laid out an alternative, which is a better deal that actually blocks Iran’s path to the bomb and links the lifting of restrictions on Iran to tangible changes in Iranian behavior,” a senior Israeli official said.
The official also disputed Obama’s contention that the entire international community backs the Vienna agreement, which the United States and five world powers signed with Iran on Tuesday. He also indicated that the Israeli government is convinced it can persuade US lawmakers to oppose the deal. “We believe we can win on the substance,” he told The Times of Israel.
Defending the deal at a lengthy press conference Wednesday, the president argued that critics of the agreement have not produced a better proposition on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “For all the objections of Prime Minister Netanyahu, or, for that matter, some of the Republican leadership that’s already spoken, none of them have presented to me, or the American people, a better alternative,” Obama said.
The president added that he had yet to hear about a better solution to the Iranian nuclear standoff, arguing that there are only two options: the nuclear standoff can either be resolved diplomatically, through the deal the P5+1 world powers negotiated, or through war. “Those are the options,” Obama said.
But the senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, contested that argument, saying that the international community should have “held out for a better deal” by maintaining and even intensifying the sanctions in Iran and insisting they only be lifted after Iran demonstrates compliance with the P5+1’s demands.
The official also disagreed with Obama’s reasoning that it would have been impossible to keep up the international sanctions regime against Iran.
“We don’t believe that sanctions would collapse; on the contrary,” the official said, “we sincerely believe that the sanctions can be maintained in place, if there is American leadership on this matter.”
Because of the United States’ global economic power, its sanctions directly affect international economic behavior, he reasoned. “If you’re a German or a Swiss company and want to do business in Iran but in so doing have to give up on the American market, it’s a no-brainer. If forced to choose between the American or the Iranian economy, what are most rational people going to do?”
President Barack Obama answers questions about the Iran nuclear deal during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. The president defended his high-stakes nuclear accord with Iran as a sign of American leadership that will make the world safer. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
US President Barack Obama answers questions about the Iran nuclear deal at a news conference in the White House, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
During his press conference Wednesday, Obama said it is “absolutely not true” that it was possible, in the absence of a deal, to “keep sanctions in place with the same vigor and effectiveness as we have right now.”
The international sanctions regime required the cooperation of countries all around the world, “many of whom really want to purchase oil from Iran,” Obama said. “The imposition of sanctions — their cooperation with us — has cost them billions of dollars, made it harder for them. They’ve been willing to do that because they’ve believed we were sincere about trying to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully.”
If, however, the international community saw the US walk away from the agreement, the sanctions regime would fall, the president argued. “And so we could still maintain some of our unilateral sanctions, but it would be far less effective — as it was before we were able to put together these multilateral sanctions.”
‘Iran’s neighbors — those who know Iran the best — are united in opposition to the deal’
The senior Israeli official also challenged Obama’s assertion that “99 percent of the world community” believes that the Vienna agreement satisfactorily resolves the Iranian nuclear threat.
“The entire international community is not backing the deal. There is a lot of opposition to it, especially from countries in the region,” the official said. “Iran’s neighbors — those who know Iran best — are united in opposition to the deal.”
Israel is widely expected to lobby the US Congress against the deal, but the official refused to reveal whether Jerusalem intends to dispatch officials to Capitol Hill or whether the prime minister plans to conduct phone conversations with congressmen. “We will be making our case to all those who are in interesting in hearing it,” the senior official said. “We believe we can win on the substance.”
The official also reflected on UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond’s assertion that Israel would have opposed any deal with Iran. “These comments are coming from someone who was part of the decision-making process in Vienna. He has the task of justifying the deal, when it is becoming increasingly apparent to people studying the details that this deal is increasingly difficult to justify.”
Hammond, who is set to meet with Israeli officials in Jerusalem Thursday, told British lawmakers on Wednesday that “Israel doesn’t want any deal with Iran.” Rather, he said, “Israel wants a permanent state of standoff, and I don’t believe that’s in the interests of the region.”

We don’t have to choose between ISIS and Iran’s revolutionary regime.

From World Affairs journal, Summer 2015, by Michael J Torrent:

... Hardly anyone aside from the Saudis ...seems to recognize that the Iranian government’s ultimate goal is regional hegemony and that its nuclear weapons program is simply a means to that end.
The Middle East has five hot spots—or “shatter zones,” as Robert D. Kaplan called them in his landmark book, The Revenge of Geography—which are more prone to conflict than others, where borders are either unstable or porous, where central governments have a hard time keeping everything wired together, and where instability is endemic or chronic. 
  1. Gaza, where Hamas wages relentless rocket wars against Israel, is one such shatter zone.
  2. The Lebanese-Israeli border, where Hezbollah does the same on a much more terrifying scale, is another.
  3. Yemen, which is finally falling apart on an epic scale, has been one for decades.
  4. Syria and
  5. Iraq have merged into a single multinational shatter zone with more armed factions than anyone but the CIA can keep track of.  
What do these shatter zones have in common? The Iranian government backs militias and terrorist armies in all of them. As Kaplan writes, “The instability Iran will cause will not come from its implosion, but from a strong, internally coherent nation that explodes outward from a natural geographic platform to shatter the region around it.”
That’s why Iran is a problem for American foreign policy makers in the first place; and that’s why trading sanctions relief for an international weapons inspection regime will have no effect on any of it whatsoever. 
Iran has been a regional power since the time of the Persian Empire, and its Islamic leaders have played an entirely pernicious role in the Middle East since they seized power from Mohammad Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1979, stormed the US Embassy in Tehran, and held 66 American diplomats hostage for 444 days.
In 1982, they went international. When the Israelis invaded Lebanon to dislodge Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Army, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders forged a network of terrorist and guerrilla cells among their coreligionists in Lebanon’s Shia population.
Hezbollah, the poisoned fruit of these efforts, initially had no name. It was a hidden force that struck from the shadows. It left a hell of a mark, though, for an organization of anonymous nobodies when it blew up the American Embassy in Beirut and hit French and American peacekeeping troops—who were there at the invitation of the Lebanese government—with suicide truck bombers in 1983 that killed 368 people.
When Hezbollah’s leaders finally sent out a birth announcement in their 1985 Open Letter, they weren’t the least bit shy about telling the world who they worked for. “We are,” they wrote, “the Party of God (Hizb Allah), the vanguard of which was made victorious by God in Iran . . . We obey the orders of one leader, wise and just, that of our tutor and faqih [jurist] who fulfills all the necessary conditions: Ruhollah Musawi Khomeini. God save him!”
The Israelis fought a grinding counterinsurgency against Hezbollah for 18 years in southern Lebanon before withdrawing in 2000, and they fought a devastating war in 2006 along the border that killed thousands and produced more than a million refugees in both countries. Hezbollah was better armed and equipped than the Lebanese government even then, but today its missiles can reach Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and even the Dimona nuclear power plant all the way down in the southern part of the country. 
Until September 11, 2001, no terrorist organization in the world had killed more Americans than Hezbollah. Hamas in Gaza isn’t even qualified as a batboy in the league Hezbollah plays in.
Hezbollah is more than just an anti-Western and anti-Jewish terrorist organization. It is also a ruthless sectarian Shia militia that imposes its will at gunpoint on Lebanon’s Sunnis, Christians, and Druze. It has toppled elected governments, invaded and occupied parts of Beirut, and, according to a United Nations indictment, assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Hezbollah is, for all intents and purposes, the foreign legion of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The parts of the country it occupies—the northern Bekaa Valley, the Israeli border region, and the suburbs south of Beirut—constitute a de facto Iranian-controlled state-within-a-state inside Lebanon. 
After the United States demolished Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated regime in 2003, Iran’s rulers duplicated their Lebanon strategy in Iraq by sponsoring a smorgasbord of sectarian Shia militias and death squads that waged war against the Iraqi government, the American military, Sunni civilians, and politically moderate Shias. 
Unlike Lebanon—which is more or less evenly divided between Christians, Sunnis, and Shias—Iraq has an outright Shia majority that feels a gravitational pull toward their fellow Shias in Iran and a revulsion for the Sunni minority that backed Hussein’s brutal totalitarianism and today tolerates the even more deranged occupation by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. 
The central government, then, is firmly aligned with Tehran. Iran’s clients don’t run a Hezbollah-style state-within-a-state in Iraq. They don’t have to. Now that Hussein is out of the way, Iraq’s Shias can dominate Baghdad with the weight of sheer demographics alone. But Iran isn’t content with merely having strong diplomatic relations with its neighbor. It still sponsors sectarian Shia militias in the center and south of the country that outperform the American-trained national army. They may one day even supplant Iraq’s national army as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has more or less supplanted the Iranian national army. Iraq’s Shia militias are already the most powerful armed force outside the Kurdish autonomous region and ISIS-held territory.
When ISIS took complete control of the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, in May of 2015, the Iraqi soldiers tasked with protecting it dropped their weapons and ran as they had earlier in Mosul, Tikrit, and Fallujah. So Iraq’s central government tasked its Iranian-backed Shia militias with taking it back. 
On the one hand, we can hardly fault Baghdad for sending in whatever competent fighting force is available when it needs to liberate a city from a psychopathic terrorist army, but the only reason ISIS gained a foothold among Iraq’s Sunnis in the first place is because the Baghdad government spent years acting like the sectarian dictatorship that it is, by treating the Sunni minority like second-class citizens, and by trumping up bogus charges against Sunni officials in the capital. When ISIS promised to protect Iraq’s Sunnis from the Iranian-backed Shia rulers in Baghdad, the narrative seemed almost plausible. So ISIS, after being vomited out of Anbar Province in 2007, was allowed to come back.
Most of Iraq’s Sunnis fear and loathe ISIS. They previously fought ISIS under its former name, al-Qaeda in Iraq. But they fear and loathe the central government and its Shiite militias even more. They’d rather be oppressed by “their own” than by “the other” if they had to choose. But they have to choose because Iran has made Iraq its second national project after Lebanon.
It doesn’t have to be this way. At least some of the tribal Sunni militias would gladly fight ISIS as they did in the past with American backing. If they did, residents of Ramadi, Fallujah, and Mosul would view them as liberators and protectors rather than potential oppressors, but Tehran and Baghdad will have none of it.
“All attempts to send arms and ammunition must be through the central government,” Adnan al-Assadi, a member of Parliament, told CNN back in May. “That is why we refused the American proposal to arm the tribes in Anbar. We want to make sure that the weapons would not end up in the wrong hands, especially ISIS.”
That may appear reasonable on the surface, but ISIS can seize weapons from Shia militias just as easily as it can seize weapons from Sunni militias. The real reason for the government’s reluctance ought to be obvious: Iraq’s Shias do not want to arm Iraq’s Sunnis. They’d rather have ISIS controlling huge swaths of the country than a genuinely popular Sunni movement with staying power that’s implacably hostile to the Iranian-backed project in Mesopotamia. 
The catastrophe in Iraq is bad enough, but the Iranian handiwork in Syria is looking even more apocalyptic nowadays. ISIS wouldn’t even exist, of course, if it weren’t for the predatory regime of Bashar al-Assad, and the close alliance that has existed between Damascus and Tehran since the 1979 revolution that brought the ayatollahs to power.
Syria’s government is dominated by the Alawites, who make up just 15 percent of the population. Their religion is a heterodox blend of Christianity, Gnosticism, and Shia Islam. They aren’t Shias. They aren’t even Muslims. Their Arab Socialist Baath Party is and has always been as secular as the Communist Party was in the Soviet Union (and it was in fact a client of the Soviet Union). A marriage between an aggressively secular Alawite regime and Iran’s clerical Islamic Republic was hardly inevitable, but it’s certainly logical. The two nations had a common enemy wedged between them in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and both have been threatened by the region’s Sunni Arab majority since their inception. 
Hezbollah is their first child, and the three of them together make up the core of what analyst Lee Smith calls the Resistance Bloc in his book, The Strong Horse. The Party of God, as it calls itself, wouldn’t exist without Iranian money and weapons, nor would it exist without Damascus as the logistics hub that connects them. And it would have expired decades ago if Syria hadn’t conquered and effectively annexed Lebanon at the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990.
Every armed faction in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, signed on to the Syrian-brokered Taif Agreement, which required the disarmament of every militia in the country. But the Assads governed Lebanon with the same crooked and cynical dishonesty they perfected at home, and as the occupying power they not only allowed Hezbollah to hold onto its arsenal, but also allowed Hezbollah to import rockets and even missiles from Iran.
“For Syria,” historian William Harris wrote in The New Face of Lebanon, “Hezbollah could persist as both a check on the Lebanese regime and as a means to bother Israel when convenient.”
The Party of God is now a powerful force unto itself, but it rightly views the potential downfall of the Assad regime as the beginning of its own end. The fact that Assad might be replaced by the anti-Shia genocidaires of ISIS compelled its fighters to invade Syria without an exit strategy—with the help of Iranian commanders, of course—to either prop up their co-patron or die.
Rather than going all-in, the Iranians could have cut their losses in Syria and pressured Assad into leaving the country. ISIS would be hiding under rocks right now had that happened. Hardly any Sunnis in Syria would tolerate such a deranged revolution if they had no one to revolt against. But the Resistance Bloc will only back down if it’s forced to back down. If ISIS devours Syria and Iraq as a result, then so be it.
And while the Resistance Bloc is fighting for its survival in the Levant, it’s expanding into the Arabian Peninsula.
The Shia-dominated Houthi movement took control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, earlier this year following the revolution that toppled former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and its fighters are well on their way to taking the port city of Aden, in the Sunni part of the country.
The Houthis, of course, are backed by Iran.
They’re no more likely to conquer every inch of that country than Iran’s other regional proxies are to conquer every inch of anywhere else. Shias make up slightly less than half of Yemen’s population, and their natural “territory” is restricted to the northwestern region in and around the capital. Taking and holding it all is likely impossible. No government—Sunni, Shia, or otherwise—has managed to control all of Yemen for long. 
And the Saudis are doing their damnedest to make sure it stays that way. Their fighter jets have been pounding Houthi positions throughout the country since March.
Saudi Arabia is more alarmed at Iranian expansion in the region than anyone else, and for good reason. It’s the only Arab country with a substantial Shia minority that hasn’t yet been hit by Iranian-backed revolution, upheaval, or sectarian strife, although events in Yemen could quickly change that.
In the city and province of Najran, in the southwestern corner just over the Yemeni border, Shias are the largest religious group, and they’re linked by sect, tribe, and custom to the Houthis.
Not only is the border there porous and poorly defined, but that part of Saudi Arabia once belonged to Yemen. The Saudis conquered and annexed it in 1934. Najran is almost identical architecturally to the Yemeni capital, and you can walk from Najran to Yemen is a little over an hour. 
Will the Houthis be content to let Najran remain in Saudi hands now that they have Iranian guns, money, power, and wind at their back? Maybe. But the Saudis won’t bet their sovereignty on a maybe.
Roughly 15 percent of Saudi Arabia’s citizens are Shias. They’re not a large minority, but Syria’s Alawites are no larger and they’ve been ruling the entire country since 1971. And Shias make up the absolute majority in the Eastern Province, the country’s largest, where most of the oil is concentrated. 
Support among Yemen’s Sunnis for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—the most dangerous branch of al-Qaeda on earth—is rising for purely sectarian reasons just as it has in Syria and Iraq. Iran can’t intervene anywhere in the region right now without provoking a psychotic backlash that’s as dangerous to Tehran and its interests as it is to America’s.
If Iranian adventurism spreads to Saudi Arabia, watch out. Everywhere in the entire Middle East where Sunnis and Shias live adjacent to one another will have turned into a shatter zone. 
The entire world’s oil patch will have turned into a shatter zone.
US foreign policy in the Middle East is focused on two things right now:
  • containing ISIS and
  • preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
These are both worthy goals, but if sanctions are lifted on Iran as part of a nuclear deal, whether or not it gets the bomb, Tehran will certainly have more money and resources to funnel to Hezbollah, the Assad regime, Iraq’s Shia militias, the Houthis in Yemen, and—perhaps—to Saudi Arabia’s disaffected Shia minority. The region will become even less stable than it already is. ISIS and al-Qaeda will likely grow stronger than they already are.

We’re kidding ourselves if we think that won’t affect us. It’s not just about the oil, although until every car in the world is powered by green energy we can’t pretend the global economy won’t crash if gasoline becomes scarce. We also have security concerns in the region. What happens in the Middle East hasn’t stayed in the Middle East now for decades. 
The head-choppers of ISIS are problematic for obvious reasons. Their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said, “I’ll see you in New York,” to American military personnel when they (foolishly) released him from Iraq’s Camp Bucca prison in 2004. But the Iranian-led Resistance Bloc has behaved just as atrociously since 1979 and will continue to do so with or without nuclear weapons.
US involvement in Syria and Iraq is minimal now, but even the little we are doing makes little sense.

We’re against ISIS in both countries, which is entirely fine and appropriate, but
  • in Iraq we’re using air power to cover advances by Shia militias and therefore furthering Iranian interests, and
  • in Syria we’re working against Iranian interests by undermining Assad and Hezbollah.
  • Meanwhile, the nuclear deal Washington is negotiating with Tehran places a grand total of zero requirements on Iran’s rulers to roll back in their necklace of shatter zones. 
We don’t have to choose between ISIS and Iran’s revolutionary regime. They’re both murderous Islamist powers with global ambitions, and they’re both implacably hostile to us and our interests. Resisting both simultaneously wouldn’t make our foreign policy even a whit more complicated. It would, however, make our foreign policy much more coherent.