Reining in the rogue royal of Arabia
The story seemed far-fetched, but Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the attack out of Yemen may be considered an "act of war" -- by Iran. And as war talk spread across the region last week, Riyadh ordered all Saudi nationals in Lebanon to come home.
Riyadh has now imposed a virtual starvation blockade -- land, sea and air -- on Yemen, that poorest of Arab nations that is heavily dependent on imports for food and medicine. Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni are suffering from cholera. Millions face malnutrition.
The U.S. interest here is clear: no new war in the Middle East, and a negotiated end to the wars in Yemen and Syria.
Hence, the United States needs to rein in the royal prince.
Yet, on his Asia trip, Trump said of the Saudi-generated crisis, "I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing."
Do they? In October, Jared Kushner made a trip to Riyadh, where he reportedly spent a long night of plotting Middle East strategy until 4 a.m. with MBS.
No one knows how a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran would end. The Saudis has been buying modern U.S. weapons for years, but Iran, with twice the population, has larger if less-well-equipped forces.
Yet the seeming desire of the leading Sunni nation in the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, for a confrontation with the leading Shiite power, Iran, appears to carry the greater risks for Riyadh.
For, a dozen years ago, the balance of power in the Gulf shifted to Iran, when Bush II launched Operation Iraqi Freedom, ousted Saddam Hussein, disarmed and disbanded his Sunni-led army, and turned Iraq into a Shiite-dominated nation friendly to Iran.
In the Reagan decade, Iraq had fought Iran as mortal enemies for eight years. Now they are associates, if not allies.