Is Yemen the first front in Trump’s confrontation with Iran?
'There’s a desire to look at a very aggressive pushback' against Iran in Yemen, a source advising the Trump team said.
The Trump White House has begun stepping up action against Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen, part of a broader plan to counter Tehran by targeting its allies in the impoverished Gulf state, according to Foreign Policy.
On Thursday, the United States diverted a destroyer to the Yemeni coast to protect shipping from Iranian-backed rebels, and is weighing tougher steps including drone strikes and deploying military advisers to assist local forces, according to officials familiar with the discussions.
“There’s a desire to look at a very aggressive pushback” against Iran in Yemen within the administration, a source advising the Trump national security team said.
Given the public rhetoric and private deliberations in the White House, the United States could “become more directly involved in trying to fight the Houthis” alongside Saudi and Emirati allies, said the source, who asked not to be named as he had not been authorized by the White House to comment.
President Donald Trump’s aides see Yemen as an important battleground to signal U.S. resolve against Iran and to break with what they consider the previous administration’s failure to confront Tehran’s growing power in the region. But the tough approach carries the risk of triggering Iranian retaliation against the United States in Iraq and Syria, or even a full-blown war with Iran.
On Friday, national security advisor Michael Flynn released a statement accusing the international community of having been “too tolerant of Iran’s bad behavior,” adding “the Trump Administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests.”
After meeting with Flynn on Friday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said there needed to be “a coordinated, multi-faceted effort to pushback against a range of illicit Iranian behavior” in Yemen and the Middle East.
One worry inside the administration is that Iran will expand its support for the Houthi rebels if Yemen’s civil war continues to grind on without resolution, threatening neighboring Saudi Arabia and international shipping passing along the coast — one of the world’s key maritime choke points.