Again, the news cycle is moving so quickly, no one is able to completely keep up. However, with all of the focus on executive orders on immigration some major events are slipping by unnoticed. The take away is that the Middle East is again moving rapidly toward all-out war. The immigration issue is serious and important, but the war that could potential break out in the Middle East could be staggering. Here are the most recent highlights with comment:
Yemen in particular has become a flashpoint. Starting from the top, a unit from SEAL Team Six got mauled badly and lost an operator while conducting a direct action raid on a suspected al-Qaeda facility. Further, their MV-22 Osprey crashed and was destroyed on the ground. The base model of a single Osprey costs over $73,000,000 dollars and this was a special operations variant, which comes in closer to one hundred million dollars. This was in exchange for killing 14 alleged terrorists of at best, medium value, and collecting some information to better identify their network. This shows that President Trump is less risk averse when it comes to launching our soldiers into combat. If this becomes a trend, it means much more kinetic warfare and far greater US casualties. Previous to this raid, attacks in Yemen were almost exclusively being carried out by airstrikes.
If not bad enough, a Saudi Arabian Frigate, which is a warship, was attacked according to the US government, by a small boat laden with explosives. However, video evidence supports the assessment that believes the ship was hit by a missile supplied by Iran. Anti-ship missiles have been fired at US Warships in the same area over the last six months. Further, one man can be heard speaking in an Iranian accent chanting death to America. If it was indeed a missile that hit the boat, the fact is being downplayed and covered up to prevent outrage in Saudi Arabia that would demand revenge and initiate a war with Iran. This is not unprecedented in the region. An advanced ship from the UAE was also recently hit by an Iranian supplied anti-ship missile launched from Yemen and damaged so badly it had to be decommissioned. However, the UAE never officially acknowledge the attack.
Irrespective of how the attack occurred, the blast appears to have struck the upper portion of the stern of the Saudi ship inflicting serious damage and killing at least two Saudi sailors. This is a major act of war and is believed to have been launched by the Houthi rebels in Yemen. One may say this is the cost of starting an unnecessary war and invading Yemen. I would agree that it was stupid for Saudi Arabia to intervene militarily in Yemen. However, the Saudis tonight are not discussing whether or not their war was smart. What they are discussing his how to retaliate. If it in fact was an attack launched by the Houthis, the missile was undoubtedly supplied by Iran. Everyone knows this, but the question is if the Kingdom will hold the Houthis and/or the Iranians responsible. I assess the possibility of Saudi Arabia expanding their war in Yemen as high. I also see a medium likelihood of Saudi Arabia expanding it to Iran to include indicting any Iranian flagged ship near Yemen. This will undoubtedly provoke another cycle of violence. Worst case is Saudi Arabia decides to retaliate directly against Iran, but I assess this as unlikely. The fact that Saudi Arabia has not said anything about the ban in immigration from seven predominately Muslim countries factors into this situation. It is highly likely the Saudis will try to lean heavily on the US to take out Iran for them, which brings me to my next point.
Iran test launched a ballistic missile this week in violation of pretty much everything the international community has told Iran it could not do. Iran became a serial violator of any international dictates since the Obama Administration was in office. Their transgressions included seizing US Navy vessels and their crews in international waters, providing weapons to attack and kill Americans, holding Americans hostage, developing long range missile technology, and feigning attacks on our warships. Following precedent, Iran conducted a launch of another ballistic missile and has yet to be “reprimanded” by the new Administration. Perhaps, Iran thinks it has gotten away with it and President Trump will be a push over. If so, I believe they have badly miscalculated the new American President. President Trump in a short amount of time will respond. How, is the only question. Trumps retaliatory options range from lodging a diplomatic protest and re-invoking sanctions to launching a nuclear strike.
Yes, I do think President Trump is serious enough he may indeed use nuclear weapons during his time in office to prevent a bloody and costly deployment of ground troops against a country like North Korea or Iran. Nonetheless, I assess the Administration will come out with a clear warning to Iran, but will stop short of a military strike. Iran will get one warning, but no more. However, there is a perfect coalescing of Saudi and US interests with regards to annihilating Iran. Iran should take this seriously because Saudi Arabia may be on the phone right now with Washington discussing military options for the attack on their ship. If Trump greenlights retaliation, we could have a major outbreak of war in days. However, I reiterate, I think right now we will have some clear red lines drawn and preparations made, but the war won’t begin just yet.
In summary, things are getting hotter in the Middle East. All that is needed is a slight nudge and the entire region could erupt. I do not see anything getting calmer anytime soon. In fact, I think we are about to see a major escalation of war in the Middle East.
By Guiles Hendrik
January 30, 2017