Tags: yemen | government | collapse | Iran

Lt. Gen. Bolger: A Yemeni Collapse Could Harm US

By    |   Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 01:58 PM

A collapse of Yemen's government — once hailed as a model Arab democracy and anti-terror ally — would be a victory for Iran, which is backing the rebels who have encircled the president's home, and bad news for western nations, says a former wartime commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's not a good development for the United States," retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV Thursday as news of the Yemeni government offering its resignation to the besieged president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, interrupted their interview.

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While the rebels, called the Houthis, deny being Iran's proxies, Bolger, author of "Why We Lost: A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars," said a political earthquake in Yemen could give Iran leverage over a crucial sea lane through which Middle Eastern oil flows to the West.

A government collapse would also become a cautionary tale for the Obama administration, which had proclaimed Yemen a "model" government and ally in the wake of the democratic Arab Spring movement, he said.

It was a Yemeni terrorist group, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, that took credit for this month's deadly attacks in Paris.

"We should be very careful about declaring victory when the enemy is still in the field, whether it's Iraq, Afghanistan, or Yemen," said Bolger, who observed that in Yemen the Obama administration "spiked the ball when they were still moving down the field."

The oil lane in question, said Bolger, is the Bab-el-Mandeb, which tellingly translates to "Gate of Grief," and links the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea along Yemen's coast.

"What that means for Americans is, about 10 percent of the world's oil that moves by sea passes through that strait, the Bab-el-Mandeb," said Bolger. "In Arabic, by the way, that means 'Gate of Grief, and there'd be a lot of grief if that oil was cut off."

"So who controls Yemen is more than a matter of academic interest," he said. "We benefited from low fuel prices lately. That would change overnight if an unfriendly power grabbed control of Yemen."

The U.S. is less dependent than ever on Middle East oil, but our allies and trading partners in Europe need it to keep their economies humming, said Bolger.

"So there would be an impact here even if we could produce enough oil to counteract whatever might be stopped going through that key waterway," he said.

The scenario could lead to even more U.S. military intervention in the Middle East, be it boots on the ground or fins in the water, according to Bolger, who noted that the U.S. has long been active in and around Yemen, citing the example of the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole.

A guided missile destroyer patrolling the Port of Aden — the key port of Yemen — the Cole was attacked by an al-Qaida suicide boat "and we lost 17 great sailors that day," said Bolger.

The Cole, though badly damaged, is "back in action today," a testament to the importance the U.S. Navy places on protecting the Gate of Grief, said Bolger.

"But the challenge is what's going to happen ashore in Yemen," he said. "And there, we've had our intel services, allegedly our Special Ops folks, our special operators ashore helping the Yemeni armed forces."

Bolger described the conflict in Yemen as a "three-way civil war" between U.S.-backed government forces, the Houthis, "and then of course al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, a remnant of the old al-Qaida that attacked the USS Cole in 2000 — the old Osama bin Laden outfit.

"They're the third angle on that civil war. So there is stuff going along a shore, but obviously we would like to use air power and sea power as much as possible and not put ground forces in," he said.

Bolger also discussed the complicated U.S. relations with other Middle Eastern countries that are counted as allies even as they're suspected of funneling money to terrorist groups such as the Taliban Islamic State.

Bolger named Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Kuwait as problem allies, because "we need friends" in those countries for military, intelligence, diplomatic and economic cooperation, and "sometimes we've got to hold our nose."

"We have tolerated a lot from these countries," said Bolger.

He said that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan require the closest scrutiny: "Frankly, both of those countries are wavering strategic partners."

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A collapse of Yemen's government - once hailed as a model Arab democracy and anti-terror ally - would be a victory for Iran, which is backing the rebels who have encircled the president's home, and bad news for western nations, says a former wartime commander of U.S. forces...
yemen, government, collapse, Iran
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2015-58-22
Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 01:58 PM
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