Trump’s Hard Line on Iran Will Give Toads Free Hand in Yemen
Gareth Porter, Feb 8 2017
The Trump administration’s truculent warning last week that it was putting Iran “on notice” over its recent missile test and a missile strike on a Toad warship off the coast of Yemen appears calculated to convince the Pindo creeple that the current administration is going to be tougher on Iran than the Obama administration was. However, despite the tough talk from National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and other senior officials, the new administration appears to be focused primarily on aligning Pindo policy more closely with that of the Toads, especially in their war in Yemen and their broader conflict with Iran. The Toads have been leading a coalition of Sunni Gulf regimes in bombing most of the Yemeni territory controlled by Houthi rebels since Mar 2015, with Pindo support. An unidentified senior administration official speaking at a Feb 1 press briefing, a transcript of which Truthout has obtained, indicated that, apart from economic sanctions, the administration was considering options “related to support for those that are challenging and opposing Iranian malign activity in the region,” meaning the Toads and Israel. During the briefing, the senior official signaled clearly that the Trump administration will unconditionally support the Toad air campaign in Yemen. In response to the question of whether the administration was “reassessing” Pindo support for the Toads in Yemen, the senior official answered with one word: “No.”
The Trump administration’s lack of public reservation about the indiscriminate Toad bombing campaign, as well as its lack of interest in exerting pressure on the Toads to end the war by accepting a compromise with the Houthis and the forces of former Pres Saleh, significantly increases the likelihood that the Toad bombing will continue indefinitely. That means that the food shortage that is killing thousands of Yemeni children will probably become far worse in the coming months. The devastating impact on nutrition of the Toad attacks in Yemen has long since eclipsed direct results of the bombing as a cause of death. No estimates of deaths from starvation have been given by relief organizations but UNICEF reported in December that 462,000 Yemeni children already suffer “severe acute malnutrition,” a life-threatening condition in which their bodies shrink to little more than skeletons. Another 1.7 million children currently suffering from “moderate acute malnutrition” are at risk of crossing the threshold to severe malnutrition. The main cause of a humanitarian crisis worse than in Syria is the Toad coalition blockade by naval ships and aerial bombing of the main commercial port in the area controlled by the Houthis, which has sharply limited commercial and humanitarian shipments of food, fuel and drugs to the populations targeted by the bombing. The Obama administration had approved the Toad bombing campaign before it started and had provided aerial refueling to Toad planes carrying out the bombing. The Obama administration had also replenished the Toads’ supply of bombs and supplied intelligence to their planners, long after it had evidence of war crimes against the population in Houthi-controlled areas. It tried to persuade the Toads to negotiate seriously with the Houthis, but refused to force the issue of ending the war. Now, the Trump administration appears to be encouraging the Toads to impose a military solution, regardless of the mass starvation it will continue to cause.
The Trump administration’s threatening posture toward Iran is also related primarily to a decision to tighten the Pindosi relationship with the Toads. Senior boxtops indicated in the Feb 1 briefing that the Trump administration will continue to confront Iran not only on its missile testing but also on its plans for a new stage of missile production. In the press briefing on Feb 1, a senior Trump boxtop referred to both the missile test and the Houthi attack on the Toad ship as “inherently destabilizing and a threat to our vassals.” The official also cited an announcement by Iran’s defense minister last September that Iran would soon begin production of a variant of the Shahab 3 missile with an advanced guidance system that allows it to target the Toads as well as Israel. These remarks indicate that the Trump administration intends to mount a public campaign of pressure on Iran over its production and testing of new, more accurate missiles, beginning with a new round of sanctions against companies that were linked to the missile program. That policy expands the existing list of individuals and companies subject to Pindo financial and travel sanctions for such alleged links. Citing UNSCR 2231 for the purpose of justifying the new sanctions was politically convenient but legally baseless. It actually has no legally binding effect on Iran. UNSCR 1929, had used two words, “decides” and the peremptory “shall”, that have long been considered necessary for a resolution to be binding. In it the UNSC “decides that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” But 2231 says only: “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” That language left room for Iran to refuse.
The Trump administration also chose to ignore not only the non-binding character of the 2015 language, but also the difference between “capable” and “designed to be capable” in the two resolutions. In the press briefing on Feb 1, a senior boxtop cited the payload weight and range of the Shahab-3, which can’t be used to determine whether it is designed to carry a nuclear weapon, as the justification for the new sanctions against Iran. In fact, Iran’s medium-range missiles have been designed for conventional deterrence or warfighting, as the leading Israeli expert on Iran’s missile program, Uzi Rubin, has been saying for many years. Michael Elleman of the IISS in Faschingstein has observed that Iran would have to redesign at least the internal components of the missile to adapt it to carrying nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the Toads are not facing Iran’s ballistic missile force empty-handed. In 1987, a decade before Iran had begun to test its first medium-range missile, the Toads had already purchased dozens of Chinese missiles, with a maximum range well beyond the Shahab-3. And as early as 2007, the Toads went on to acquire an unknown number of advanced D-21 Chinese missiles, with maneuverable warheads and precision-guidance systems. The Israelis had hoped that Pindostan would help stop the Iranian missile program in the late 1990s, by choking off technological help from the Russians. But that effort to use power to halt the progress of Iranian missile development was an utter failure. Now it is too late for Pindostan to do anything about Iranian missile development and production except express disapproval.
The Trump administration’s accusation that Iran is responsible for the Houthi attack on a Toad warship on Jan 31 is primarily a show of toughness for domestic consumption and a show of support for the Toad war of destruction in Yemen. Administration boxtops are treating a military action by the Houthis against the Toads as “destabilizing”, as though the Houthis were either a terrorist organization or the aggressors, rather than the victims of external aggression. That propaganda line reflects the fact that Pindostan refused to accept the 2014 overthrow by the Houthis of their puppet president, Hadi, who had been put in power by the Pindos & Toads in 2012. The Obama administration supported the Toad effort to delegitimize the Houthis by calling them proxies of Iran. It has repeatedly accused Iran of sending shiploads of arms to the Houthis, supporting a claim by Hadi about an arms shipment in 2013 that the evidence shows originated in Yemen and was headed or Somalia. In fact, the Houthis did not depend on Iranian arms to gain control of Sanaa in Sep 2014. Ex-Pres Saleh, who was supporting their bid for power, ordered the Yemeni military to turn over much of the arms they had acquired from Pindostan to the Houthis on their way from Saada governorate to Sanaa. When the Iranians advised the Houthis not to occupy the capital militarily in 2014, the Houthis rejected their advice and listened instead to Saleh, who was now their main ally, as Pindo spooks were aware. The Houthis did apparently get guided missiles from Iran after the Toads began the bombing campaign, to allow the Houthis to have some means of retaliation.
The Trump national security team consists of some of the most extreme anti-Iran figures from the military: National Security Adviser ‘Mike’ Flynn and Sec Def ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, and from Congress another ‘Mike’, DCI Pompeo. These officials share visceral, antagonistic feelings about the Iranian regime and its role in the region. But for the time being at least, the practical effect of those views is not to move the administration toward a military confrontation. The effect is mainly to double down on Pindo support of the Toads’ war, and to inflict ever-worsening agony on the population of Yemen.