Did you hear about the Saudi airstrike last month when a wedding party was struck, killing 131 people? A few days later another wedding was hit killing more than 20 others according to local officials.
These were strikes in Yemen. The site of a massive Saudi air campaign. To refresh your memory back in January Yemen's president was ousted by Houthi rebels. The Saudi royal family panicked because the Houthis are Shiites. And was seen as a proxy force for Saudi Arabia's hated Shiite rival Iran. So Saudi Arabia and a coalition of its allies began punishing airstrikes in March.
The U.S. is part of the effort backing the Saudis with logistical and intelligence support for the strikes. According to the U.N. over 2,000 civilians have been killed since the Saudis joined the fight just a few months ago. The majority of them were allegedly hit by coalition airstrikes. By contrast only 16 percent of civilian deaths and injuries in Afghanistan were caused by pro-government forces in the first half of 2015. And only 1 percent were caused by international forces.
The Saudis have declared whole cities in Yemen to be its target, Amnesty International says. Their striking non-military targets with great frequency showing an appalling disregard for civilian lives, the group says, and there is damming evidence of war crimes despite Saudi's assertion to the contrary.
The U.S. doesn't say much about the strikes and it even failed to push through an independent U.N. investigation that the Saudis opposed. The result has been a humanitarian nightmare. Nearly 1.5 million Yemenis have been displaced and more than 21 million need humanitarian aid, the U.N. says. That is about 80 percent of the population. Entire cities lie in ruins and much of the country is on the brink of famine, the U.N. says, in part because the Saudis are blockading Yemen's ports.
It's not even clear why the U.S. should be helping the Saudis in the first place. Iran's involvement there is not strong or direct and the Yemeni president the United States hopes to restore to power may have been democratically elected but he was the only candidate on the ballot. In fact, this whole operation might be creating more terrorism.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has gained substantial ground in Yemen, thanks to all of this instability. What's odd is that the Houthis are bitter rivals of al Qaeda in Yemen and historically effective at fighting them. What's more ISIS is also gaining momentum amid this chaos, mounting suicide bombings all over the country. Saudi Arabia's actions are largely shaped by its intensely anti-Shiite and radical world view. One that has fed Sunni extremism for decades.
Why should the United States encourage and affirm a Wahhabi foreign policy?
The following commentary is from Fareed Zakaria on GPS:
Assad's brutal response to the Syrian people was important in the rise of ISIS as well as the Shia revival in Iraq.
Ba'athism, Americanism, Islamism, Sectarianism and Authoritarianism all have played a part in baking this cake.
A hypothetical causation pie. Some may give more weight to other ingredients depending on their perspective but all have a role in the rise of ISIS.
Roger Cohen, New York Times:
Only Arabs can find the answer to this crisis. But history, I suspect, will not judge Obama kindly for having failed to foster the great liberation movement that rose up in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere.
The "Don't do stupid stuff" doctrine in Syria turned into "don't do stuff", which was stupid.
Revolutions cannot be manufactured they can only be assisted. The Syrian revolution needed assistance in 2011 but none came from the global community and many of the leaders of the Syrian democratic side were either imprisoned, killed, or fled. By the time the Obama administration tried any strategy it was too little too late.
The Assad regime did receive assistance from Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia.
Power does not disappear it just reappears in another form.
No longer is the United States invading the Middle East to knock down dictators but now a power like Russia is invading the Middle East to prop up dictators.
That is the reason why all the players in the area including Israel and Saudi Arabia are now having to speak with Russia.
Good piece by Dennis Ross in the Washington Post:
President Obama has been consistent on Syria. Even when I was in the administration, the president made clear that he did not want to get dragged into the conflict there. The legacy of Iraq weighed heavily on him. He was elected to get us out of Middle East wars, not into them. He was not going to get involved in “someone else’s civil war.”
Today it is known that from Russia to Tehran, Baghdad, and Damascus there is now an alliance of intelligence sharing and maybe even a deepening of this alliance. Putin has rolled the dice with the Shia block through the Middle East.
Could the alliance of Russia and Iran be the new alliance that carries influential weight in the Middle East for the foreseeable future?
The alliance of the Americans and the Saudis after WWII was an alliance that held influence in the Middle East up until the last couple years. That alliance was key to the first Gulf War of 1990 that was a catalyst to many events after.