National Security

America and the Proxy War in Yemen

Our troops are aiding and supplying the Saudis in their fight against Iranian-backed rebels.

Harold Hutchison · May 7, 2018

The military action involving American special forces working with the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen has drawn fire for unnecessarily endangering American troops. Of course, the question some might fairly ask is, “Why are American troops involved?”

Well, if you want an arguably proximate cause for American involvement, just look at the events of October 2016. When U.S. Navy warships are fired on, a response is necessary. Barack Obama sent a few Tomahawks at the Houthi, which was pitiful. The real issue goes deeper than such action will address.

The fundamental truth since 1979 is that while we may not see ourselves at war with Iran, the Iranian regime clearly sees itself as being at war with the United States. Iran has sponsored terrorist attacks against Americans. Iranian-laid mines damaged the guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) in 1988. Iran also provided material for IEDs to insurgents in Iraq. The war is not out in the open, but it’s pretty darn foolish to deny it.

We’ve been supplying the Saudi-led coalition with weapons for some time. But American troops do not appear to actually be in Yemen; they are in Saudi Arabia, helping train Saudi troops. The Green Berets have done this sort of thing for decades. Often a 12-man Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA), better known as an “A-Team,” can have a greater impact than deploying thousands of troops.

Why are they there? They are helping the Saudis track down arms caches and the Iranian-provided missiles that the Iranian-backed Houthis are firing into Saudi Arabia. Air strikes have been launched against terrorist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida. Remember the underwear bomber and the Fort Hood attacks in 2009? The terrorist group responsible for those operated out of Yemen.

Moreover, Yemen occupies a strategic position on top of the Bab el Mandab, a waterway that allows a shorter trip for carriers deploying to Central Command from the Mediterranean Sea. If this were to be cut off, there could be some disastrous consequences.

Where is Congress in all of this? Well, our representatives haven’t weighed in. But then again, outside October 2016, American forces were not exactly in combat. At the same time, American troops are in a supporting role for countries at war. So, we’re caught in a constitutional gray area here — American troops potentially face combat, but it’s not good strategy to have Congress micromanage every deployment.

In the meantime, the best thing to do is to continue supporting the Saudis with aerial refueling, sharing intelligence and supplying them with the weapons needed to win the proxy war in Yemen.

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