The Catastrophic Strategic Consequences of the Fall of Yemen

AP Photo/Hani Mohammed

Iranian control of Yemen gives the Mullahs the option of cutting off the sea lanes connecting the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. This is a very real threat, as the Iran-backed Houthi rebels consolidate control over Yemen. Most of the West’s oil and Western trade with the Far East depends on these sea lanes.

The Iranians know this. As reported a few days before the fall of Yemen:

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said that Iran plans to maintain its naval presence in international waters, especially the Gulf of Aden and the northern Indian Ocean, Farsnews reported Tuesday.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Navy has deployed in the North of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden and this presence will continue forever,” Sayyari said.

His statement confirms reports that Iran sees the Red Sea as a strategic central region in the Middle East, especially for gaining a foothold in the heart of the Arab security zone. The strategic shipping region is at the crossing of continents and connects, via the Suez Canal, between the Mediterranean Sea (and thus Europe and North Africa) and the Indian Ocean – gateway to Africa, the Gulf and Asia.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP – the group behind the Paris Charlie Hebdo attack and the 2009 underwear bombing plot) also understands this, as its (now dead) deputy leader, former Guantanamo Bay inmate Saeed al-Shehri, said in 2010:

Shehri called on Somalia’s Islamist al Shabaab insurgents to help block a narrow strait at the mouth of the Red Sea that separates Yemen from the Horn of Africa. “At such a time the Bab (al Mandab) will be closed and that will tighten the noose on the Jews (Israel), because through it America supports them by the Red Sea,” Shehri said.

Egypt is taking this threat seriously, and is strengthening its navy with several new ships from Europe. It is monitoring the increasing Iranian activity in the Gulf of Aden and, according to Egyptian intelligence, a secret Iranian base built “at the port of Asab in Eritrea on the Red Sea.”

The Red Sea is one of five strategic maritime “chokepoints,” two of which (the Panama Canal and the Strait of Malacca) are under the control of Red China, largely thanks to Bill Clinton; and another one, the Turkish Straits, is controlled by the Turkey’s Islamist regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and is threatened by Russia’s seizure of Crimea. The fifth chokepoint, the Straits of Gibraltar, is, for now, in good hands.

In 2012, John Bolton warned in Human Events:

If international trade, investment, finance, and communications were to be imperiled by growing global anarchy or the belligerence of regional powers, our economy would suffer, and so would many others. The inextricable linkage between a strong America abroad and a strong America at home is one that Obama ignores at our collective peril.