THE VATICAN AND FRANCOIS HOLLANDE: A COMMENT
"In the two years that he has occupied the throne of St Peter, Pope Francis has been an inspirational figure for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Following the conservative reigns of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, he has been hailed for trying to make the church more open, inclusive and accountable. At a time of global economic uncertainty, his personal humility sets him apart from many world leaders. Yet a diplomatic impasse between France and the Vatican over the nomination of a gay French diplomat as envoy to the Holy See risks damaging his reputation.
In January, France announced that it would send Laurent Stefanini, the head of protocol for President François Hollande, to be its new ambassador to the Vatican. Mr Stefanini is well qualified for the post. He is a practising Catholic and served in the French embassy to the Holy See between 2001 and 2005. The Vatican normally approves such applications within six weeks of the request being made. Its failure to do so after three months has prompted growing speculation that it is dragging its feet because the nominee is homosexual.
To many Vatican watchers, this diplomatic stand-off is somewhat unexpected. In the past two years, Pope Francis has relaxed some of the church’s anathemas on matters of sexuality and faith, making conciliatory remarks about gays and atheists. A comment early on in his pontificate — “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” — struck an unusual new tone on homosexuality. The slowness in approving Mr Stefanini may reflect little more than the creakiness of the Vatican’s centuries-old bureaucracy. But further delay can only confirm that the Holy See is blocking the envoy on grounds of his sexuality. This would greatly damage both the pontiff and the Church".
Leader, "A diplomatic test for the Vatican on gay rights". The Financial Times.
17 April 2015, in www.ft.com.
"I come now to the actual procedure which governs the appointment of a diplomatic envoy from one State to another. I shall take as my example of the usual practice the system adopted in the British Foreign Service. The head of some mission retires, or is transferred elsewhere, and it becomes necessary to choose his successor....Having decided on a suitable person, the Secretary of State then writes him a private letter offering the post. It is possible that the incumbent may plead ill-health or domestic reasons and may asked to be excused. The British Foreign Office is considerate in such cases. If he accepts, the next step is to obtain the agrement of the country to which he is to be sent. It is customary to make private enquiries before asking officially whether a given individual is likely to prove persona grata. The government to which the enquiry is addressed will, if in any doubt, consult their own embassy as to the character and the antecedents of the person suggested. If the agrement is refused, some mortification will result, and the rejected envoy will be glad if he has had sufficient discretion not to inform his friends of the offer which had been made to him".
Harold Nicolson. Diplomacy
. (1939), pp. 185-186.
The idiocy of the comments in the ultra-bien pensant
Financial Times speaks for itself. It is readily self-evident from the
simplest knowledge of diplomatic protocol that the authorities in Paris knew quite well that the nomination of a full-fledged and public pederast as Ambassador to the Vatican was a complete non possumus
. Pur et simple
. Instead of dealing with the matter in the time honoured method of diplomacy as outlined above by Harold Nicolson, the Hollande regime, the most unpopular government in France since the 1950's has decided for purely domestic political purposes to make the matter a cause célèbre
. What is truly noxious however is the complete and unmitigated hypocrisy and gall of the Hollande government in the entire matter. As the likelihood that Paris would (to take a few readily available examples): nominate the same individual to head the embassy in say Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or Turkey among other places, is absolutely nil. Or for that matter nominate someone who was a practicing Jew or for that matter an openly practicing Christian to Saudi Arabia or other Arab / Muslim countries? The question answers itself. Unlike in those other cases, Paris knows quite well that the Vatican serves as a convenient and harmless punching bag. Putting paid to any validity of the charges formulated by the dull and rather sluggish minds of the Financial Times
EYELESS IN THE WEST BANK OR ELLIOTT ABRAMS ON BENJAMIN NETANYAHU
"For the first time in over 15 years, Israel may soon form a coalition government that is composed solely of right-wing factions. This could have major implications for settlement expansion. After all, both of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous governments (2009–2013 and 2013–2015) included center-left parties that opposed settlement expansion outside areas that—according to past negotiations and in any realistic future peace accord—would end up as part of Israel. That is, his governments allowed population growth to expand freely in the major settlement blocs that Israel is expected to keep, but they constrained growth in the smaller settlements beyond Israel’s security barrier, which would likely be part of any future Palestinian state.
In the years to come, though, the United States might have to contend with a new policy. During Netanyahu’s past six years as prime minister, his settlement policy has been the subject of great controversy and contradiction. On the one hand, the United States and Europe frequently criticized the policy as expanding Israeli presence in the West Bank. On the other, right-wing constituencies in Israel lashed out at Netanyahu for doing the exact opposite—implementing a “quiet freeze” policy that effectively halted Israeli construction outside of Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs.
Netanyahu’s policy allowed him to enjoy the best of both worlds—but also suffer the worst of them. On the positive side for Netanyahu, constant critiques by the international community (because there was considerable construction in East Jerusalem and the major blocs) solidified his position as the irreplaceable leader of the Israeli right leading up to his reelection. Meanwhile, his constraints on construction beyond the security fence kept alive the option of a two-state solution and encouraged peace hopefuls, such as State Secretary John F. Kerry, to stay engaged. On the negative side, Netanyahu’s equivocation bought him the distrust and scorn of many, in Israel and abroad, on the left and right. As a result, he is surprisingly unpopular for someone who just won a solid reelection victory".
Elliott Abrams and Uri Sadot, "Settling Settlements: Netanyahu's Real Policies, Before and After the Election". The Council on Foreign Relations.
16 April 2015, in www.cfr.org
"Designed for great exploits, if I must die /
Betrayed, captived, and both my eyes put out,
Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze,
To grind in brazen fetters under task /
With this heaven-gifted strength? O glorious strength,
Put to the labour of a beast, debased /
Lower than bond-slave! Promise was that I
Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver!
Ask for this great Deliverer now, and find him /
Eyeless in Gaza, at the mill with slaves,
Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke".
John Milton. Samson Agonistes
(1666-1671), lines 32-42.
The comparison between Samson and Israeli premier Netanyahu was of course merely rhetorical in nature. Samson of course was a great hero of the Jewish Old Testament. Whereas Netanyahu of course is the wiliest and canny of opportunistic politicians. Which of course answers in full the nature of Elliott Abrams query (no doubt also a rhetorical query). As can be seen from his fully ambidextrous positioning in the just concluded Israeli elections, the Israeli premier will change his policies surface content to suit almost any occasion 1. That is of fairly obvious and self-evident by this point. What is not quite so evident, but is in fact without a doubt true, is that the Israeli premier will to the maximum extent possible endeavour to colonialise as much Palestinian land and resources as possible. The rights or the wrongs of the Palestinian case, do not in the least bother or hinder the Israeli premier in taking what he regards as policies which fits in with his own ultra-Zionist vision of the so-called 'Land of Israel'. The fact that almost the entire world regards such policies with active disdain if not worse does not in any fashion give pause to the Israeli premier. Much less his ultra-right-wing colleagues in the Israeli Knesset & Cabinet. In short, while Elliott Abrams may have convinced himself that despite himself Netanyahu is a 'moderate' who is endeavouring to balance the demands of the Israeli right-wing and the views of the vast majority of the international community, the reality of both the situation and Netanyahu's past and present argue to the contrary.
1. Simon Schama, "Will the real Netanyahu please stand up?" The Financial Times
. 20th March 2015 in www.ft.com.
See also: José Ignacio Torreblanca, "The Israeli Spell".
European Council on Foreign Relations
. 26 March 2015, in www.ecfr.eu
TENSIONS BETWEEN RUSSIA AND THE NORDIC COUNTRIES: A COMMENT
"The Kremlin has complained that a new Nordic defence pact is “directed against Russia” and amounts to a “confrontational approach” on the Ukraine crisis.
The Russian foreign ministry issued the statement on its website on Sunday (12 April).
It said “Nordic defence co-operation … has begun to be directed against Russia in a way that could undermine the positive engagement accumulated over the past decade”.
It voiced “concern” that Finland and Sweden, which are not Nato members, are showing “increasingly strong convergence” with the alliance.
It also said that “instead of an open and constructive dialogue” on issues such as the Ukraine conflict, “the principles of confrontation are being foisted on the public opinion of the Nordic countries”.
The defence ministers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden unveiled the agreement in an op-ed in Norwegian daily Aftenposten last Thursday.
They said they would: share information on maritime and airspace movements; take joint steps on cyber defence; conduct military drills; consider launching a new air-police mission called Northern Flag; share air bases; and explore joint military acquisitions.
“Russia’s conduct [in Ukraine] represents the gravest challenge to European security. As a consequence, we must be prepared to face possible crises or incidents”, they warned.
They said “Russia is undertaking huge economic investments in its military capability” and that its military “is acting in a challenging way along our borders”.
They added that Russia is trying to “sow discord” in the West and that their pact “strengthen[s] the cohesion of Nato and the EU, and helps to maintain transatlantic links”.
Russian jets have violated the airspace of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania hundreds of times over the past year."
Andrew Rettman, "Nordic pact heightens tension with Russia". The EU Observer
. 13 April 2015, in www.euobserver.com
"Communists and the people of the Baltic states favoured joining the Soviet Union. Their bourgeois leaders came to Moscow for negotiations but refused to sign such an agreement with the USSR. What were we to do? I must tell you confidentially that I pursued a very hard line. I told the Latvian minister of foreign affairs when he came to visit us, 'You won't go home until you sign the agreement to join us'. A popular minister of war from Estonia came to see us---I've forgotten his name. We told him the same thing. We had to go to such extremes. And to my mind, we achieved our aims quite satisfactorily."
V. M. Molotov, Foreign Minister of the USSR, 1939-1949, 1953-1956, in Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics
. (Edited and translated by Albert Resis. (1993), p. 9.
The statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry is typical of the type of overbearing and belligerent behavior of Russia under the Putin regime in the past three to four years. Out goes a sense of co-operation and pour parler
with Russia's neighbors. In comes a sort of fist-pounding type of diplomacy whose aim is to intimidate in the most drastic fashion possible, Russia's smaller and weaker neighbors. The fact that Russia's neighbors are actually frightened by Moskva's
behavior in recent years is something that Putin, Lavrov, et. al., studious are choosing to ignore. Au fond
of course Russia's diplomatic modus operandi
is by definition self-defeating and will inevitably have negative results for Matushka
Russia. As the article above indicates, the countries of the Baltics and the North Sea will inevitably regroup into a purely anti-Russia political-diplomatic phalanx. Given this rather self-evident result of Russia behavior, one is almost tempted to say that Grazhdanin
Putin is almost consciously seeking this very same result. As the diplomatic and political isolation of Russia from the rest of Europe & the West will have the end-result of making Putinism a much more plausible ideology to Russia's poor and misguided people. A extremely unfortunate tragedy for a country which was perhaps the chief sufferer of the nightmare that was most of twentieth century history.
THE POSSIBILITIES OF AMERICAN DECLINE: ILLUSION OR REALITY?
"This British tendency to believe that America’s “empire” will decline is more than just a curiosity of intellectual debate. It also has real-world effects. Behind the scenes, many British policy makers also seem to be operating on the assumption that the continuing rise of China and the relative decline of America are both inevitable. As a result, they are making decisions that reflect a cautious adaptation to this wind of change. Britain’s recent decision to defy Washington and join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is one straw in that wind.
The British “declinists” have also had a big impact on America’s own debate about the future. Mr Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers was a best-seller in the US when it came out in 1987 and has shaped the discussion ever since. In the late 1980s, an era of high budget deficits and industrial decline, his argument that America — like Spain and Britain before it — would succumb to “imperial overstretch” seemed particularly persuasive. Paraphrasing Shaw, he predicted: “Rome fell; Babylon fell; Scarsdale’s turn will come....”
It is possible that British professors based in America have the right combination of knowledge and detachment to have an unclouded vision of America’s future. Alternatively, it is also possible that they may be over-projecting the fate of the British empire on to its rather more robust American successor. Joseph Nye, a professor at Harvard (and an American) points out that: “By the outbreak of World War I, Britain ranked only fourth among the great powers . . . in GDP, and third in military spending.” By contrast, America still has the largest or second-largest economy in the world (depending on the measure you choose) and easily the biggest military budget.
What is more, the collapse of the British empire was precipitated by the draining effects of two world wars, which left the UK close to bankrupt. If the US can avoid being sucked into a similar global conflict, it should do a better job of preserving its power".
Gideon Rachman, "UK’s risky obsession with US decline: Many policy makers seem to see the rise of China as inevitable". The Financial Times
. 6 April 2015, in www.ft.com
"Reputation is so very necessary to a prince that the one who enjoys it does more with his mere name than can be achieved with their armies by those who do not"
Cardinal Richelieu. Testament Politique
. (1688), p. 373.
The issues highlighted by Gideon Rachman in his article of the other day are as follows: i
) is American power in decline per se
) And if it is, how seriously can it be said to be in decline? Meaning are we approaching an end to the American world hegemony and or primacy of the past seventy-years? As per the first issue: by definition in terms of economic statistics, the USA is not as important to the world economy as it was circa 1945, 1955, 1965, or for that matter 1995. With that being said, it is still the case that by some measurements (but not all) the USA is still the largest economy in the world. With the Peoples Republic of China in second place. As per the second, more complex issue, the question is: a
) how important in geopolitical terms is the relative, economic decline of the USA? b
) can this relative economic decline be said to have impacted upon the American world position? And if so how seriously? It would seem the case that while China's economic expansion in many parts of the world has given it a much higher, diplomatic profile of late, it cannot be said to have garnered the PRC, much by the way of diplomatic hard diplomatic gains or fruits. With the exceptions Burma,(until recently), North Korea and Pakistan, China is still singularly lacking in allies of any sort. Its relations with most of its closest neighbours (Russia excepted) being singularly bad if not atrocious. Nor can Peking be said to have much by way of 'soft' or culture power. Certainly nothing akin to what the Americans or even some of the European powers possess. Similarly, notwithstanding all the military hardware that it has recently purchased, China's military is still woefully inadequate to engage in anything approaching a real military conflict with another erste-klasse
power. With the historical record showing that it was on the losing side in two of the last three military conflicts it has engaged in: India - 1962 (winner), Russia - 1969 (loser), Vietnam - 1979
(loser). As a recent piece in the Financial Times
has cleared exposed 1. Au fond
though, the real issue is that all the recent talk of American decline has been inspired partly by the debacle of the Iraq war and partly by the world financial crisis of 2008-2009. In the case of the former, obviously, the policies of the current American administration, have to a certain degree, lend themselves to precisely such talk. In this case, the perception factor that Cardinal Richelieu so cogently identified low these
almost four-hundred years ago, is most apt. 'Strategic patience' is perhaps a needed, nay a necessary tactic from time to time for any Great Power. When it is seemed to become not a tactic, but a determined and fixed strategy, then it is very easy for others to talk of said power's 'decline' and suchlike. At this point in time, no one can easily say if the current hesitancy in the application of American power abroad is something which will last-out the current American administration or will it become the default power position for the USA. Just as, viz Gideon Rachman, at a certain point, circa 1957-1960, a strategy of withdrawal and in fact 'decline' did become the default position of the United Kingdom. And soon enough a new mindset was created which in turn added to and reinforced what may at first have been merely a momentary tactic.
While I myself and skeptical that the USA is in full-fledged decline, only time and nothing else will tell if I am correct or not.
1. Charles Clover, "China: Projections of power". The Financial Times.
8 April 2015, in www.ft.com
THE NUCLEAR AGREEMENT WITH PERSIA: WHAT TO MAKE OF IT?
"FOR years Iran has lied about its nuclear plans. The Islamic Republic insists that it wants peace, but it has built secret, bomb-proof facilities for enriching uranium and, most outsiders conclude, begun work on designs for nuclear weapons. At the same time, it has spouted anti-Semitism and sponsored terrorists and militias in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. It is fighting directly or by proxy in Syria, Iraq and now Yemen, often supporting vicious sectarian clients. And yet, despite Iran’s transgressions, this week’s progress towards an agreement to limit its nuclear programme is still welcome.
The declaration that emerged on April 2nd, after marathon negotiations between Iran and six world powers in Lausanne, was surprisingly comprehensive. Iran will curb its programme and open it to inspection in exchange for a gradual lifting of sanctions. Speaking at the White House, President Barack Obama called it a good deal that will make the United States, its allies and the world safer. However, the details remain to be thrashed out by the end of June. The president warned that this process could still fail—and hardliners in both Tehran and Washington will do their damnedest to see that it does.
Failure would be a grave loss. This agreement offers the best chance of containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And it also offers the faint promise of leading the Middle East away from the violence that has been engulfing it.
The best reason for wanting the next three months to produce a deal is that the alternatives are so unattractive. Military action to destroy Iran’s programme would have only a temporary effect. Air raids cannot annihilate know-how, but they would redouble the mullahs’ determination to get hold of a weapon, further radicalise Muslims, and add to the mayhem in a part of the world that is already in flames.
Then there are sanctions. Some people, such as Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, argue that Iran is too malign to be left with anything but a symbolic ability to enrich uranium. He recommends redoubling sanctions and holding out until Iran is forced to concede to the world’s demands. But there is a contradiction here. On the one hand, Iran is so bent on destruction that it cannot be treated as a normal negotiating partner; on the other it is so pliant than more sanctions will make it give up a nuclear programme that it has defended, at great cost, for many years.
Besides, waiting for Iran to make concessions does not have a good record. In 2003 the Bush administration ignored tentative Iranian signals that it was ready to talk. Since then, the mullahs have enhanced their expertise and increased their count of centrifuges from 164 to 19,000 or so. As Mr Obama argues, this second option very quickly leads back to either war or negotiations—and on worse terms.
By contrast the deal that has comes out of Lausanne is at least attainable. Iran will cut its capacity to enrich by two-thirds compared with today for a minimum of ten years; it will radically shrink its stockpile of enriched uranium for a minimum of 15; and it will permanently cut off the route to a bomb placed on plutonium. Iran will also submit itself to intrusive inspections throughout the nuclear supply chain. In exchange, the outside world will lift economic sanctions and agree to Iran’s right to enrich uranium."
The Economist, "Negotiating with Iran: Is this a good deal?" 2 April 2015, in www.economist.com.
"Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien."
Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique
Monsieur Arouet's dictum is I believe the soundest way of looking at the results of the Persian nuclear talks that were announced last week. It is very much the case, that this agreement is not the very best from the Western perspective that could be hoped for. It is merely the case that this agreement, presuming that the details can indeed be negotiated in this next three months, does au fond
provide the essential and needed safeguards concerning Persia's ability to quickly develop nuclear weapons undetected. Given the other voluminous & ongoing problems in the region at present, from the chaos in Libya to the ongoing war in Syria and the Sunni-ISIS insurrection in Iraq, with Yemen's problems added to the mix, the likelihood of a diplomatic settlement to Persia's quest for nuclear weapons can only be looked upon with favor. Unfortunately, none of the other options discussed in the British periodical, the Economist
, makes any sense. A bombing campaign to stop and or derail Persia's nuclear ambitions would in the current Near and Middle East, be erste-klasse
disaster. And heaping more sanctions on Persia, while perhaps effective in the long-run, will not necessarily result in either a quicker nor necessarily a better agreement in the medium to short term. Given both its economic exhaustion and its internal political difficulties, it is probably the case that the current agreement is the very best that Persia will agree
to voluntarily. As the man who I regard as the leading American military expert, Anthony Cordesman cogently stated
"The proposed parameters and framework in the Proposed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has the potential to meet every test in creating a valid agreement over time of the kind laid out earlier in the Burke Chair analysis circulated on March 30. It can block both an Iranian nuclear threat and a nuclear arms race in the region, and it is a powerful beginning to creating a full agreement, and creating the prospect for broader stability in other areas. Verification will take at least several years, but some form of trust may come with time.
This proposal should not be a subject for partisan wrangling or outside political exploitation. It should be the subject of objective analysis of the agreement, our intelligence and future capabilities to detect Iran's actions, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) capabilities to verify, and enforcement provisions if Iran should cheat.
No perfect agreement was ever possible and it is hard to believe a better option was negotiable. In fact, it may be a real victory for all sides: A better future for Iran, and greater security for the United States, its Arab partners, Israel, and all its other allies" 1.
In short to quote Fürst von Bismarck: 'politics is the art of the possible'
1. Anthony Cordesman, "Verify and Trust May Come with Iran: The Parameters for the Proposed Joint Comprehensive Plan". The Center for Strategic and International Studies
. April 2015, in www.csis.org.
FELIX PASCHA TO ALL!
"AND in the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre. And behold there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and coming, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. And his countenance was as lightning, and his raiment as snow. And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror, and became as dead men. And the angel answering, said to the women: Fear not you; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come, and see the place where the Lord was laid. And going quickly, tell his disciples that he is risen: and behold he will go before you into Galilee; there you shall see him. Lo, I have foretold it to you.
And they went out quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy, running to tell his disciples. And behold Jesus met them, saying: All hail. But they came up and took hold of his feet, and adored him. Then Jesus said to them: Fear not. Go, tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, there they shall see me".
Matthew 28, as found translated from the Vulgate in the Douay-Rheims Bible, circa 1582.
THE SAUDI MILITARY INTERVENTION IN YEMEN: A COMMENT
"Shia Houthi rebels clashed with Saudi military units on Yemen’s northern border on Friday. The rebels vowed to intensify their campaign for control of the country after a second night of air strikes by a coalition of regional Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia.
Houthi fighters also clashed with rival militias in the south of the country.
As the fighting intensified, president Abd-Rabbu Hadi, who this week fled the southern port city of Aden in the face of the Houthi advance, travelled to Egypt to attend a summit of Arab leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh. The president vowed to call for an Arab ”Marshall Plan” to rebuild his country once the Houthis have been ousted.
Tensions grew on Friday as Saudi and Egyptian warships deployed to the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait in an effort to stop Houthis taking control of the waterway. Large volumes of Gulf oil and trade flow through the strait, bound for the Suez Canal.
Saudi Arabia fears that the Houthis — who seized Yemen’s capital, Sana’a in September and placed Mr Hadi under house arrest — are helping Iran expand its power base in the Arab world. The Saudis are also concerned about their border with Yemen, near the Houthis’ northern stronghold.
Saudi Arabian officials said they believed the multinational operation, dubbed Resolute Storm, had degraded the Houthis’ military capabilities. But Abdelmalek al-Houthi, Houthi leader, vowed to confront what he called Saudi Arabia’s “criminal, unjust and unjustified aggression”.
Cairo is considering sending troops to take part in a ground war in Yemen. The US is backing the aerial campaign by providing logistical support and satellite imagery.
The Houthis’ precipitous rise to power was backed by Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president overthrown in a 2011 popular uprising in Yemen. The group’s military victories are largely due to the backing of armed forces units loyal to the former leader.
But this week’s targeting of military installations held by the Houthis and soldiers loyal to the former president has given rise to fears that the Saudis and their allies may have to become an occupying force to prevent the country spiralling into the kind of chaos and sectarian violence seen in Iraq or Syria.
“The coalition’s strikes have succeeded in decimating much of the capacity of the Yemeni army,” said Adam Baron, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank. “[But] it poses a huge challenge moving forward, threatening to exacerbate a pre-existing power vacuum in the country.”
Peter Salisbury, "Houthi rebels clash with Saudi troops on Yemen’s northern border". The Financial Times
. 27 March 2015, in www.ft.com
The intervention, as of now in the air, but shortly perhaps on the ground as well, by Saudi Arabia and its allies provokes in one, a mixture of views: i) that faute de mieux
, the Saudis intervention while obviously motivated by sectarian hatred of the Shiite-oriented, Houthis, is better than no intervention at all by any outside power. That while the Houthis may perhaps have solid grounds for being opposed to the status quo ante
in Yemen, this fact does not provide a rationale for their overt power grab. Especially, given their alignment with the former Saleh regime; ii) on the other hand, it is somewhat self-evident that per se
, a mere air campaign will not fundamentally change the dynamics on the ground in Yemen. That the recently ousted President, Mr. Abd-Rabbu Hadi, does not himself possess the wherewithal militarily speaking to defeat the Houthi rebels 1. Accordingly, there is much talk of a coalition of ground forces between the Saudis and the Egyptians which will invade Yemen and defeat the Houthis. Which is of course by far the best case scenario. The only issue is that neither Saudi Arabia, its Gulf allies or even the Egyptians have shown themselves in recent years able to perform anything akin to the scenario just outlined above. And of course the history of the failed Egyptian military intervention in the 1960s, shows how fraught with dangerous possibilities is any type of unplanned military intervention in a country like Yemen with its extensive deserts and mountains. Which is not to say that per se
, any outside military intervention will automatically fail. The success of the combined British-Persian military intervention in Oman in the early 1970s, shows that such interventions can indeed work. But it does require employing a trained and capable as well as a numerically overwhelming military force. Half-hearted measures will in the current situation in Yemen will most definitely not work; iii) finally, as per the issue of possible Persian military intervention, it is very much the case, that while the Persians would love to see the Saudis and their allies suffer a defeat, both military and political, it is also the case that the Persians themselves, with both the sanctions regime still in place and with their existing military and other commitments in Iraq and Syria are hardily in a position to overtly assist the Houthis. Especially, given how difficult it would be to concretely give such assistance
in not very accessible (from Persia that is) Yemen. In short, it is safe to assume that while Tehran, will diplomatically speaking, complain and indeed complain loudly, it will not care to overtly intervene to counter-balance the Saudi lead intervention. Especially as it is in the process of perhaps negotiating an agreement with the Western Powers over its nuclear capabilities. In short, it is my opinion that while the Saudi-lead intervention into Yemen is a course of action with manifold risks, there does not appear to be any 'good' or plausible alternatives, short of allowing this country to
follow Syria, Iraq and Libya to fall into anarchy. With all the attendant dangers as seeing the spread of Islamic radicalism and terrorism following from the very same. Whether the Saudis, et. al., have the wherewithal to effectively intervene `a la the British-Persian intervention into Oman in the early 1970s is a question which I do not have an answer to at this time. One may only hope that the Christian God will intervene on the side of the Holder of the two sacred places of Islam.
1. Alistair Burt, et. al., "Yemen on the Brink?" Chatham House collequal
. 23 March 2015, in www.chathamhouse.org