By Mohammad Mazhari

Biden hasn’t done much to end war on Yemen: analyst

November 12, 2021 - 17:46

TEHRAN - A geopolitical analyst says the Biden administration has failed to advance the policy of ending the war on Yemen.

“It hasn’t done much to substantively advance that policy,” Andrew Korybko tells the Tehran Times.

 “The Biden Administration doesn’t seem to sincerely believe in bringing peace to Yemen, but rather hopes to apply differing degrees of pressure upon Saudi Arabia – mostly symbolic – as part of its larger intent to recalibrate the U.S. regional policy. The end goal appears to be to restore some sense of balance between that country and Iran,” He adds.

Following is the text of the interview:

How do you evaluate successive U.S. administrations’ ties with Saudi Arabia? Do you see any difference between Democrats and Republicans?

The Democrats tend to at least give off the impression of wanting to restore balance to U.S.-Saudi ties in the sense of not shying away from criticizing the Kingdom. The Republicans, meanwhile, are loath to do so since they fear that such behavior “emboldens” Iran. They consider the Islamic Republic to be their nemesis for ideological reasons and thus try to do everything that they can to actively “contain” it.
This observation is confirmed by reviewing Obama’s, Trump’s, and Biden’s policies towards Saudi Arabia. The first neglected the Kingdom’s interests by reaching the nuclear deal with Iran. The second pulled out of the deal partly due to its Saudi ally’s concerns and then reached a major military deal with it. As for Biden, he’s criticized the Kingdom and wants to revive the Iranian nuclear deal with Iran.

That being the case, however, the Democrats shouldn’t automatically be trusted by Iran. Unlike the Republicans who try to destabilize it overtly, the Democrats hope to do so covertly after “opening up” the country and then gradually subverting it in economic, social, and political ways. They’re less dangerous in the short-term, but no less dangerous in the long one.

Do you think that the Biden administration is keen to back the Obama approach towards West Asia, for example power-sharing between rivals such as Iran and Saudi Arabia)?
Yes, that does indeed seem to be the Biden administration’s approach. The reasons for this are several. First, it wants to reverse almost all of Trump’s foreign policy moves in order to spite him. Second, many the Biden administration’s members used to work with the Obama one or were influenced by such people. And third, it’s a more pragmatic approach than always supporting the Saudis just for the sake of it.

The Biden admin. doesn’t sincerely believe in bringing peace to Yemen, but rather hopes to apply pressure upon Saudis, mostly symbolic.What are the main reasons for Saudi decision to cut diplomatic ties with Lebanon under the pretext of the August remarks by a person who has been appointed as minister in the new Najib Mikati cabinet?

Saudi Arabia likely feels that it’s many overly ambitious moves under Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) have counterproductively contributed to strategic losses on practically every regional front. Instead of recalibrating his country’s policies, he’s evidently doubling down by trying to provoke another crisis in the hopes that it can lead to a strategic breakthrough to make up for his losses.
In the Lebanese context, he’s well aware of how economically dependent that country is on his own. The plan seems to be to exploit that given pretext in order to economically punish it for the purpose of manipulating its domestic political composition. Specifically, Saudi Arabia hopes to reduce Hezbollah’s influence, which it believes is an Iranian proxy despite the group having proven its independence.

How do you assess the Biden administration's performance when it comes to ending the war in Yemen?

It hasn’t done much to substantively advance that policy. The Biden administration doesn’t seem to sincerely believe in bringing peace to Yemen, but rather hopes to apply differing degrees of pressure upon Saudi Arabia – mostly symbolic – as part of its larger intent to recalibrate the U.S. regional policy. The end goal appears to be to restore some sense of balance between that country and Iran.

It’s a lot easier said than done, of course, but even the mostly symbolic moves that it’s made thus far with respect to condemning the kingdom, halting support for offensive operations in Yemen, and stopping the sale of offensive arms have already succeeded in conveying the message to Saudi Arabia that U.S. policy towards it is presently being reconsidered.

It’s too early to tell and there isn’t enough open source information to make confident assessments in this respect, but one possible scenario is that the U.S. hopes to pressure Saudi Arabia into reaching a deal with Iran aimed at ending the Yemeni War through some sort of political compromise. That outcome could then be leveraged to advance the U.S. nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic.

Do you predict Saudi Arabia will resort to diversifying its alliance especially in terms of military cooperation? Apparently, China and Russia are planning to replace the U.S. in some parts.      

Neither China nor Russia can ever realistically replace the U.S. role in Saudi Arabia’s military-industrial complex, but they can contribute to the kingdom’s incipient efforts to diversify its disproportionate dependence on its traditional ally. This takes the form of Saudi Arabia setting up a Chinese drone factory on its territory and Russia reaching an arms deal with it after King Salman’s Moscow trip in 2017.

 Both of those developments augmented the kingdom’s military capabilities and showed that it has alternatives to the U.S. Even so, those two will struggle to replace the U.S. traditional role when it comes to providing jets and tanks, but Russia has reportedly sought to strike a deal with the Saudis for its S-400 air defense system. Any progress on that front could trigger the U.S. CAATSA sanctions, though.


 

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