For decades, the Persian Gulf region – subsumed under a latent Sunni-Shia divide – was animated by a drama of Iraq-Iran rivalry; each power balanced the other. The elimination of Saddam Hussein, by the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, introduced a new chapter in the regional affairs – Saudi Arabia and Iran as the twin pillars of the regional power-configuration. Historically, despite numerous efforts by each party to improve bilateral relations and deepen cooperation, Iran-Saudi relations have been fraught with intermittent rhetorical wars and grim strategic competition.
U.S. support for Yemen Saleh regime will inevitably draw it into conflicts in the country’s north and the south, with disastrous results for all concerned.
The March capture in San`a of a New Jersey man with alleged ties to al-Qaeda has renewed public concern over potential threats of terrorism from Yemen. On March 14 and 15, Yemen’s air force again carried out airstrikes against what the government said were terrorist hideouts in Abyan province, in the south of the country. But as in other countries where terrorist organizations coexist with corrupt and repressive central governments and home-grown insurgencies, the fight against terrorism in Yemen is fraught with the pitfalls that come with a rampant disregard for human rights.
The United States may be on the verge of involvement in yet another counterinsurgency war which, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, may make a bad situation even worse. The attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight by a Nigerian apparently planned in Yemen, the alleged ties between the perpetrator of the Ft. Hood massacre to a radical Yemeni cleric, and an ongoing U.S.-backed Yemeni military offensive against al-Qaeda have all focused U.S. attention on that country.
President George W. Bush’s address before the United Nations General Assembly on September 19 appeared to be designed for the domestic U.S. audience. Indeed, few of the foreign delegations or international journalists present could take seriously his rhetoric regarding the promotion of democracy in the Middle East, given the reality of U.S. policy in the region.