Qatar-Saudi Deal A Pushback Against Iranian-Chinese Dominance

The recently concluded Qatar-Saudi deal to end the blockade on Qatar has once again changed the equation and calibration of peace in the Middle East. There are those naysayers who believe the deal was concluded in time for a potential Biden administration, but that is improbable.

Remember the embargo on Qatar was led by Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States precisely because of Qatar’s connections to Iran and its funding of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A Biden administration that is ready to cozy up to the Mullah’s in Iran would elicit a continuing of the present Saudi led embargo.

Most likely, Qatar has realized which way the wind is blowing in the Middle East when it comes to their Sunni friends. Qatar’s strength has always come from its ability to play all sides – the embargo proved to its leadership in Doha that this strategy is no longer an option.

Qatar Wants In On A Potential UAE-Israel Pipeline

With a reported pipeline between the UAE and Israel in the works, Qatar’s reliance and drive to build one with Turkey has now become obsolete. The main reason for its support for Turkey’s pro ISIS policies during Obama’s tenure was due to the building of this joint Turkey-Qatar pipeline.

Without the ability to build a secure pipeline and the UAE-Israel potentially being far more lucrative, Qatar has less reasons to hold back from returning to the Sunni block.

True, Biden’s team views things differently and this is the reason for Qatar’s decision to pick sides now. With the White House’s foreign policy potentially being run through Beijing, Qatar’s historic “neutrality” in the region is not longer relevant after Jan. 20th.

A Different Middle East – New Opportunities

President Trump’s team has left the region in a very different situation. The Muslim Brotherhood is fast being pushed out after the signing of the Abraham Accords and with it Qatar’s reason and ability to push against its Sunni neighbors and more importantly Israel.

Qatar’s choice to rejoin the Saudi led block also means that it accepts the centrality and necessity of Israel’s role within that block. Biden can certainly try to partner with Iran. However, the block’s strength is its ability to utilize Israel’s innovation economy, military prowess, and geopolitical connections around the world to sidestep a hapless Biden administration and a rising China without losing ground to Iran.

Qatar’s growing communication with Israel concerning Gaza has also made it less obstinate in dealing with the Jewish state on other issues. It also has a working relationship with Jerusalem and will now benefit from the Abraham Accords in an indirect way.

The Qatar-Saudi deal may appear to have come out of nowhere, but it needed to be done before Biden takes over in order to ensure that Iranian influence does not pollute the negotiations. Qatar wants to keep its revenues rising and influence steady and sees the Sunni block as the key to doing it.

This agreement will make it harder for Biden and company to push for rejoining the already broken Iran nuclear deal. More than that, it is a message for China who recently upgraded their military pact with Iran, that the Abraham Accords and the Sunni block will not be broken up.

Yemen, Iran, and The Coming Attack On Israel

The new alliance between Israel and the UAE as well as Bahrain has upended the Middle East in many ways. From technology and innovation partnerships to military drills and intelligence sharing, the Abraham Accords has made the countries involved the most powerful the region has seen.

None of this has been lost on the Iranians, who understand that despite Biden’s desire to jump back into the nuclear deal, there will be little he can do about the growing strength of the Sunni-Israel alliance.

This is why the Iranians are using Yemen as a forward battle against Saudi clout on the Arabian peninsula. This was clearly demonstrated when the new Saudi backed Yemen government arrived at the Aden airport only to be attacked by Iranian backed Houthis. 26 people were killed the triple bombing and more than 60 wounded.

The blasts were so loud they were heard in Israel.

The message from Iran is clear: Don’t think about joining the Abraham Accords.

China, Djibouti, and the Control Over The Red Sea

Although most observers have focused their attention on the Persian Gulf, Yemen has strategic value to Iran as rests across the Bab al-Mandab Strait from Djibouti. This is one of the most important choke points for shipping in the world. Freighters travel through Bab al-Mandab Strait and bring oil and other commodities to the West.

This is why China has gone out of its way to build up its base in Djibouti, effectively giving it an advantage in controlling the Red Sea. Furthermore, Beijing has gone out of its way to invest in Eritrea and Ethiopia, securing most of the Horn of Africa.

This is why Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states have long seen the war in Yemen as critical in keeping the Chinese-Iranian alliance to only one side of the Bab al-Mandab Strait.

Message to Israel

With Israeli arms sales and agri-tech development in Ethiopia and other countries on the Horn of Africa, Israel is hoping to keep pressure on Beijing to play fair by keeping the struggle economic.

Iran’s message to Israel is clear. Yemen may have a new government, but it still the Houthis that call the shots and with them the Red Sea and its shipping routes are up for grabs.

Iran is effectively using much of China’s investment in its Belt and Road Initiative to help build a net against Israel and her Sunni allies.

Yemen is critical in controlling both sides of the Bab al-Mandab Strait and with it, a crushing blow to peace in the region.

PREPARING FOR BIDEN: Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Meet To Plan Next Moves

The news is awash with rumors of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s face to face meeting with Muhamed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince, also known as MBS. Now confirmed, the meeting took place on Sunday in the desert city of Neom.

Under construction as a $500 billion showcase of technological innovation, the Israeli leader spent nearly five hours with MBS, Saudi Arabia’s heir to the throne. The Prime Minister was joined by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mossad Director Yossi Cohen.

While the setting of Neom was a fitting place for this groundbreaking meeting, it was not the technology or environmental aspects of Neom the two leaders were discussing. More than likely, they were discussing the incoming Biden administration and the dangers it brings to the region.

It is also true that with less than two months left to President Trump’s term full normalization may be on the table. Such a move is necessary in order to block the potential return of the JCPOA (Iranian nuclear deal), which threatens the safety of both the Sunni Arab Gulf States and Israel.

However, the JCPOA is only one worry. The immediate change in status for Iran in dealing with the White House is what scares Israel and its new Arab allies. Iran, backed by China and a compliant America will be able to demonize the Persian Gulf and beyond.

Biden’s incoming administration is more like a third term for Obama and it is this third term, which seeks to truly transform the world. From faux climate change to reengaging China and Iran, the Deep State and globalists who now find themselves moments away from active control of the USA are salivating for the opportunity to push back on Israel and the Saudi-UAE-Bahrain alliance.

Remember, it was the Obama administration who enabled ISIS and thus created a vacuum of power in Iraq that allowed Iran to march into.

Antony Blinken is Only Tip Of The Iceberg

Antony Blinken the incoming Secretary of State was one of the backers and architects of the JCPOA. He will have full control of America’s foreign policy and appears ready to reengage with Iran. With Biden, largely expected to take a back seat to decision making, Blinken’s role will be magnified.

Another Obama-Clinton retread is Jack Sullivan, who served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Biden has appointed him as incoming Director of the National Security Advisor (NSA).

Finally (at least for now), Avril Haines who worked at the White House starting in 2010 as a national security lawyer and then in 2013, then CIA Director John Brennan appointed her deputy director for the CIA. Brennan was the one who brought us drone assassinations, an expanded Iran, and a decimated Libya among other things.

The above appointments and more show which direction the Biden team plans on heading on Jan. 20th.

Bibi and MBS Building An Alliance

The 1 hour trip to Neom was in essence a path forward for both Israel and Saudi Arabia. The ascendancy of Biden to President means a possible reversal of the gains the Trump Administration accomplished. This is why Israel and Saudi Arabia may have no choice but to forge a path together and build a new Middle East with or without America. By doing so, they will have the ability to hold back the Mullahs and in many ways the coming Biden Administration.

Trump to Mohammed bin Salman: Focus on Iran

When Donald Trump meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, the president should have three clear and forceful messages for his reform-oriented guest: Focus your undivided attention to adopting a soft power approach to the Iranian regime, end the war in Yemen and lift your blockade of American ally Qatar.

These three interconnected messages that President Trump should deliver to MBS (as he is known) stem from a geopolitical reality that has been in existence for over 39 years: The Iranian regime continues to be the most serious threat to regional security in the Middle East and the major state-sponsor of terrorism. Concomitantly, the Iranian people continue to be the most serious threat to the Islamic regime and the only real hope for a fundamental change in Iran.

Mr. Trump and his national security team should make it clear to the crown prince that Saudi Arabia’s efforts to confront the Iranian regime by war through proxy in Yemen has not deterred the IRGC. Sadly, the conflict in Yemen is draining Saudi Arabia’s precious financial resources. According to some estimates, the Saudi effort to confront the Iranian regime in Yemen is costing the Kingdom around $1 billion per month.

After spending billions of dollars, Saudi Arabia is not close to thwarting the designs of Ayatollah Khamenei to build a beachhead on the Arabian Peninsula by supporting his Houthi allies. Spending a small portion of this $1 billion on a robust soft power approach toward the thugs ruling Iran would be a better investment by MBS.

The president should also ask that the Saudi crown prince lift the blockade of his smaller neighbor Qatar because this move has split the GCC and diverted the Security Pact’s attention from adopting a unified approach to confronting the threat posed by the Iranian regime. Qatar is home to America’s largest prepositioning based in the world and ExxonMobil is the largest investor in that country’s energy sector.

The Saudi crown prince may point to Doha’s ties with Tehran as one reason for the blockade. But for Saudi Arabia to criticize Qatar for its relations with Iran is unfair because Qatar shares a major natural gas field with Iran. If Qatar takes a hostile approach toward Iran Tehran will react negatively and jeopardize the flow of natural gas to world markets.

Just ask Azerbaijan, another American ally. In 2000, Iranian gunboats threatened work on a 10 billion barrel oil field in the Caspian Sea thus denying Azerbaijan the ability to monetize a major energy asset.

Mr. Trump should applaud the young ruler of Saudi Arabia for his boldness in wanting to confront the Iranian regime but he should also point out that If Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman adopts a robust, consistent and efficient soft power policy in his dealings with the Islamic regime, he will have the full support of the president and his entire national security team.

The United States government should make it loud and clear to MBS that by solving the “Iran Problem” through non-military means he will usher in a new geopolitical and economic dynamic within the broader Middle East.

While MBS and his father, King Salman, may be aware of the consequences a soft power approach toward the theocratic regime in Tehran, it may be worth Mr. Trump emphasizing to the crown prince the tectonic geopolitical ramifications of a new order in Iran:

No more funding for groups like Hamas (who are holding Palestinians hostage in the Gaza Strip) and Hezbollah (who are holding the people of Lebanon hostage to their dogma); an end to support for Houthi rebels in Yemen; liberating Bahrain (home to America’s Fifth Fleet) from the constant threat of IRGC adventurism; decoupling the butcher of Damascus (Bashar Assad) from his equally thuggish patrons; freeing Iraq of political intervention; demonstrating to the Muslim world the bankruptcy of Islamic ideology as a form of governance; and, removing an existential threat to Israel.

In addition to the aforementioned, Mr. Trump should strongly encourage MBS to adopt a soft power policy toward the regime in Tehran because a free and democratic Iran, at peace with itself and its neighbors will usher in a new economic renaissance for the entire region. The $2 trillion that are currently under the control of the region’s sovereign wealth funds can be invested inside Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait to boost human capital and create jobs.

Furthermore, these funds can also be put to productive use in rebuilding parts of Iraq, Yemen and Syria. And finally, Iran’s 80-plus million market can become a destination for investments by Saudi Arabia and its GCC allies.

Mr. Trump should encourage Mohammed bin Salman to adopt a course correction as it concerns Saudi Arabia’s policy toward the theocratic regime in Iran. The leader of the free world has a historic opportunity to point out to Mohammed bin Salman that by embracing a soft-power approach toward Iran he can go down in history as the leader who ushered in a renaissance for the people of his country and the region.

Originally Published in the Washington Times.

PEACE PROCESS: Saudi Arabia Allows Air India Flights Bound for Israel to Use its Airspace

After a 70 year ban on commercial flights using its airspace to fly to Israel, Saudi Arabia has granted for the first time permission for Air India flights bound for Israel to be able to fly over the Kingdom.

The decision, which will be implemented in March, means that the flights from New Delhi to Tel Aviv would be shortened by two and a half hours. It also means cheaper tickets for passengers.

The move is credited to the growing alliance and working relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel. It is also a testament to the growing influence India has in the Middle East.  India’s upgraded partnership with Israel to that of a strategic alliance has shuffled reltionships across the Arab world.  Between Trump’s pushing and prodding and India’s PM Modi’s ripping up of the “Palestinian” narrative, the Crown Prince Muhammed Bin-Salman has found it necessary to begin forging ties with Israel.

The Saudi government had banned flights headed to Israel from using its airspace for 70 years. While it is no secret that private jets can fly from Saudi and other Gulf airports to Israel, they could not use the direct route and had to make a stop-over in Amman airport first.

The move by Saudi Arabia also confirms the Palestinian Authority’s worst fears that it is being pushed to the side in search for a real and lasting peace.  Afterall, in the eyes of many in the Arab world, the times have changed and no longer are the “Palestinian” a necessary component of Arab nationalism.  A smaller world has led to the realization that Israel is here to stay and furthermore can play an important roll in a Middle East that has moved byond sectarian tunnel vision.

Modi’s push for Air India to be able to fly over Saudi Arabia  to Israel is beyond Trump’s peace moves, but rather reflects a changing world where traditional indigenous powers have come of age. It also reelcts Israel’s diversification in relationships.



A new diplomacy is already changing the Middle East.

What a difference an administration makes.

Under Bush, Muslim World League secretary-general Abdullah Al-Turki described the Jews as “perfidious” and suggested that “it is the natural disposition of the Jews who inherited this deception from their forefathers.”

Under Obama, the Muslim World League Journal ran an article claiming that “Jews” and “Jewesses” run the media. It was one of many violently anti-Semitic pieces that had appeared in the publication.

Under Trump, the Muslim World League sent a letter to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum before the commemoration of International Holocaust Memorial Day expressing, “our great sympathy with the victims of the Holocaust”. It goes on to completely disavow any support for the Holocaust or its denial, “This human tragedy perpetrated by evil Nazism won’t be forgotten by history, or meet the approval of anyone, except criminal Nazis or their genre. True Islam is against these crimes. It classifies them in the highest degree of penal sanctions and among the worst human atrocities ever.”

The letter was signed by Dr. Mohammad Al Issa, the new Secretary General of the MWL who had replaced Al-Turki in the summer of ’16. The MWL is under Saudi control and Al Issa, who is loosely associated with the reformers, was appointed as major changes were sweeping the desert kingdom.

The MWL Holocaust letter never mentions the Jews by name. It was sent to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, a United States government institution, rather than a Jewish communal institution. The new alignment between the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia is based on a growing threat from Iran. The letter allows Saudi Arabia to distinguish itself from Iran’s anti-Semitic obsession with the Holocaust.

“One would ask, who in his right mind would accept, sympathize, or even diminish the extent of this brutal crime,” the Muslim World League letter asks. The answer is meant to be quite obvious.

Two years ago, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day with a Holocaust denial video. Iran’s bizarre obsession with Holocaust denial, convening a conference and hosting Holocaust cartoon events, is extreme even by the standards of a region where Mein Kampf is a bestseller and it’s generally believed that Hitler didn’t go far enough.

After Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad left office, he claimed that his Holocaust denial “broke the spine of the Western capitalist regime.” His successor, Hassan Rouhani, tried to put on a moderate façade by being ambiguous about the subject. And that gives the Saudis an easy opening.

But it’s not just the Iranians.

Not all that long ago, the Muslim World League had hosted Muslim Brotherhood leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi at its First International Islamic Conference on Dialogue. Also present was William W. Baker, a Neo-Nazi, who found a second career appearing at Islamist events to bash Israel.

Qaradawi would later combine the typical Islamist toxic cocktail of Holocaust fantasies and denial by declaring that Allah had sent Hitler to punish the Jews.  “The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.” The believers are Muslims. The Brotherhood’s icon was fantasizing about a Muslim holocaust of the Jews. It’s a theme to which Brotherhood clerics frequently return to.

The genocidal hadith once featured in the Hamas charter has recently been preached at mosques from California to New Jersey. “Judgment day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews. The Muslims will kill the Jews, and the Jews will hide behind the stones and the trees will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’”

In June of last year, the Muslim World League booted Qaradawi from the Islamic Fiqh Academy. The realignment was strategic. The Saudis, UAE and Egypt were fighting the Brotherhood and Qatar. The new regional battle lines put Iran, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood on the same side.

The MWL letter is meant to remind us that the Saudis are different than Iran and the Brotherhood.

The Obama era had broken the old alliance between the Brotherhood and most of their Gulf allies by giving the Islamist group too much and too soon. With political backing from the Obama regime and financial support from Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood had begun seizing entire countries. Qatar was too drunk on the power of being able to conquer countries with its checkbook to stop. Its former allies isolated it and the Sunni terror state in Doha formed an alliance with the Shiite terror state in Tehran.

The Saudis went looking for allies in strange places. One of those places was Israel. They adapted to a radical new environment with major changes at home and abroad. The MWL letter is a product of shifts in an organization associated with support for the ruthless export of Wahhabism. Those same shifts have opened some limited opportunities for women in Saudi Arabia as it questions Wahhabism.

It would be unwise to read too much into the new Saudi attitude. There have been clear political changes in response to military, social and economic threats. If those threats were to go away, if oil were once again a sure thing, if Iran were to fall apart, if the Islamists became more pliable, then reform would likely prove to be another mirage. Like Gorbachev’s Perestroika, the Saudi reforms are necessitated by circumstances rather than sincerity. They might become the real thing in time.

But it would be a mistake to confuse posturing with principle. Or to disregard its significance.

The repercussions of Osama bin Laden’s original campaign against the House of Saud have transformed the region and the world. 9/11, the Iraq War and the Arab Spring have changed everything. Iran has become a regional power. Islamist organizations have been able to seize entire countries. Energy independence for America and Europe is becoming a reality. Qatar controls the foreign media’s narrative of the region through Al Jazeera. And that narrative is very unfriendly to the Saudis.

The House of Saud responded by questioning whether its arrangement with the House of Wahhab, the two swords on the coat of arms of Saudi Arabia, temporal power and religious power, is still relevant. Its reforms negotiate a complex balancing act between modernizing its political system while still holding on to religious power. The Saudis need America more than ever even as we need them less than ever. Its show of social changes, like the abolition of slavery in response to pressure from JFK, are also a message.

Had Hillary won, the Saudis would have been left alone to mastermind a regional struggle from Yemen to Lebanon to Libya. The former Secretary of State had made it clear that she would double down on the Arab Spring. But instead Trump won. And that’s one of the reasons that the MWL letter exists.

The Trump administration is unlike any of its Republican predecessors. It mixes the type of traditional energy diplomats like Tillerson, whom the Saudis have always been very comfortable with, with non-traditional thinkers and a sprinkling of serious pro-Israel people. Unlike the Bush era neo-conservatives who believed in regional democracy, but who have been frozen out of the Trump administration, they have very little interest in the democracy folly that led to the Arab Spring. Instead they are realists who prioritize fighting terrorism and stabilizing the region by throwing out a lot of the discredited old ideas.

That’s why President Trump imposed a travel ban and recognized Jerusalem, among other moves.

The realists reflect Trump’s desire for results over the misguided fantasies that led to the Palestinian Authority and the Arab Spring. And after decades of negotiating ideological delusions from D.C., the Saudis have eagerly embraced that realism. Trump, the Saudis and the Israelis want to stop Iran, stop the destabilizing expansion of Islamist civil wars and restore a measure of stability to the region.

Trump and Netanyahu want stability because they don’t want the region’s problems to be their problems. Trump doesn’t want to have to deploy more soldiers in more wars. And Netanyahu doesn’t want to see more terrorists showing up on Israel’s borders. Neither man wants Iran to have nukes.

The Saudis want to reclaim their central role in the region. They’ve offered Trump a way out of more regional wars that will be unpopular at home and they’ve offered Netanyahu a “Palestine” solution that may appear more feasible than the PLO dead end represented by Abbas. Like the Trojan Horse, it’s best to be wary of such gifts. But for now they’ve cemented a secretive alliance in a complex conflict.

The Middle East is a region of shifting sands and illusory mirages. Like thirsty caravans crossing the bleak desert, even the experts often see what they want to see. But one thing is as clear as water in the oasis.

President Trump has redefined what we expect of the Saudis. We can’t know whether the ripples in the House of Saud extend below the surface, but we do know that America is a moral authority again.

Originally Published in FrontPageMag.

PACKERS CORNER: Did the PA Kill Rabbi Raziel Shevach?

As most are probably aware, the big news this week in Israel is quite tragic – a Father/Husband/Rabbi/Mohel/Paramedic was shot and murdered by arab terrorists near his home in Havat Gilad – an unauthorized community in the Shomron/Samaria/Northern West Bank.

I want to spend a little bit of time on this because it encompasses alot of different aspects of the current political situation.

-The terrorists have yet to be apprehended, but there is good amount of speculation that they are somehow connected to the Tanzim/Palestinian Authority. The main reasons being the quality of the weapon used and the quality of the shooting (unfortunately). This indicates that the terrorists were able to obtain quality weaponry and train to use it. This is very difficult for the more extreme groups, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in that area. More potentially damning, this attack could have come at the direction of PA leadership in response to how poorly things are going for the PA diplomatically as it concerns Israel and the US, under President Trump. One might question how they could be so stupid to think this would help things, however, its pretty much par for course. When diplomacy fails or stutters, terrorism is their default response.

-Havat Gilad: Havat Gilad is an extremely strategically located Jewish community. The community sits on privately-owned Jewish land but has not received official authorization from the Government. It would fit the category of an “illegal outpost”. (However most “illegal outposts” are on state-owned land, and this is privately-owned). The community sits right off the highway in between the Jewish communities of Kedumim and Yitzhar. Without Havat Gilad there would be a long stretch of hostile highway without any permanent Jewish presence. In short, the future of the Jewish presence in the Shomron relies greatly on the existence and development of Havat Gilad. Since the tragic terrorist attack, many government officials have pledged to work to recognize Havat Gilad as an official community. This would be a big deal. Remains to be seen if these promises will be kept (many are not). In the meantime, the victim of the terrorist attack, Rabbi Raziel Shevach, hy’d, was the first person to be buried in the outpost. I’m not aware of any other such situation in which someone is buried in an unauthorized community. Its a bold move and likely significantly strengthens the chances of the community continuing to exist in that location.

In other news, some not-so-important legislation has been passed in the Knesset and much actually important legislation has been further delayed. This continues a long-running trend and yet, as I have stated pretty much every week, the current Israeli Government coalition continues to be incredibly stable. (Today, Minister Kahlon stated that he wouldn’t bring the government down for any reason – that’s a pretty extreme thing to say).

There are published rumors that Saudi Arabia is considering buying weaponry from Israel. Not so surprising under the current sunni-shiite regional conflict.There is talk of President Trump pulling out/sabotaging the Iran nuclear deal. And there is talk of Prime Minister Netanyahu promising a state to the “palestinians” in northern Sinai in exchange for Israeli annexation of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

In short, there is a lot of talk. Not so much action. There is supposed to be an announcement soon about newly approved building in Judea and Samaria. Let’s see what is decided and discuss what it really means next week.

Is Saudi Arabia About to Abandon the Palestinians?

In the video below, two known Saudi writers appear to push for Saudi Arabia and the Palestinians to go their separate ways.  Ignoring for a moment, some of the mistated facts, like claiming there were only a handful of Jews in 1939 in what was known as Palestine or that the Jews only wanted to be members in a Palestinians parliament, the point the writers are driving home is that the Palestinians are to blame for their problems. This is an extreme about face for the Saudis and appears to be setting a stage for a serious detente between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Saudi Forces Advance on Iranian Backed Houthis in Yemen

Reports coming from Yemen show the capture of many formerly Houthi-held positions in Al-Zarfa and Asilan districts located in southeast Yemen.

The Saudis and their local allies had managed to turn the tide against the Yemeni Army and the Houthi militias by seizing the entirety of Asilan and Bijan districts.

While the Houthis had been holding off an unprecedented combined assault by Saudi and allied forces, the current shift in the conflict in Yemen appears to be connected to infighting between the Houthis and the General People’s Congress (GPC) formed by deceased Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh was killed by the Houthis on Dec. 4th.

Meanwhile the Saudi Press Agency reports that the Houthis rebels suffered another blow as the Yemeni army who is working closely with Saudi Arabia said that its forces captured Abdul Malik Al Houthi a field commander closely allied with the Houthi militia.

In 2012 Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi came to power after Arab Spring protests pushed Ali Abdullah Saleh from power.  In 2014, a Houthi coup backed by Iran placed Hadi under house arrest. Haidi escaed and shifted his base of power to Aden where he has led an offensive against the Houthis with the help of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni allies. Haid has since liberated 85% of Yemeni territory.  Despite this, the Houthis with the backing of Iran have been able to hold onto the capital of Sana’a.

Due to the humanitarian situation in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has  agreed to open the Red Sea port city of Hodeida for 30 days to let in humanitarian supplies.

Israel Connection

The Saudi push against Iranian backed forces in Yemen comes at an important time as Hezbollah moves closer to Israel.  Although Israel and Saudi Arabia have no overt relationship, they often share intelligence and coordinate against their shared enemy of Iran.


But will the Palestinians agree to it?

MondayThe New York Times published the Palestinian response to an alleged Saudi peace plan. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly presented it to PLO chief and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas last month.
According to the Times’ report, Mohammed told Abbas he has two months to either accept the Saudi proposal or leave office to make way for a new Palestinian leader who will accept it.
The Palestinians and their European supporters are up in arms about the content of Mohammed’s plan. It reportedly proposes the establishment of limited Palestinian sovereignty over small portions of Judea and Samaria. The Gaza Strip, over which the Palestinians have had full sovereignty since Israel pulled its military forces and civilians out in 2005, would be expanded into the northern Sinai, thus providing economic and territorial viability to the envisioned Palestinian state. While the Palestinians would not receive sovereignty over Jerusalem, they would be able to establish their capital in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis.
There are several aspects of the alleged Saudi peace plan that are notable. First, the Palestinians and their many allies insist that it is a nonstarter. No Palestinian leader could ever accept the offer and survive in power, they told the Times. The same Palestinian leaders from Hamas and Fatah, and their allies, also noted that the Saudi plan as reported strongly resembles past Israeli proposals.
Another aspect of the report that is notable is that the Saudis did not acknowledge that Mohammed presented the plan to Abbas.
Unlike the situation in 2002 when Times columnist Thomas Friedman presented what he claimed was then Saudi king Abdullah’s peace plan, the Saudi regime has not admitted that the characterization of their peace plan by the Times reflects their thinking.
It makes sense that the Palestinians and their Lebanese and European allies are upset at the alleged contents of the new Saudi plan. It is also reasonable that the Saudis are not willing today to publicly present the plan laid out in the Times.
The fact is that the alleged Saudi peace plan represents a radical break with the all the peace plans presented by the Arabs, the Europeans and the US for the past 40 years.
Unlike all of the previous plans, the contours of the plan reported by the  Times guarantee that Israel will remain a strong, viable state in an era of peace with the Palestinians. All the previous plans required Israel to accept indefensible borders that would have invited aggression both from the Palestinians and from its Arab neighbors east of the Jordan River.
The purported Saudi plan is the first peace plan that foresees two viable states living in peace. All the other plans were based on transforming Israel into a non-viable state with a non-viable Palestinian state in its heartland.
While the Times report cites Western sources claiming that Egypt has rejected the prospect of merging Gaza with the northern Sinai under Palestinian sovereignty, there is no reason to assume that the option is dead. To the contrary, in the aftermath of last week’s massacre of 305 Muslim worshipers in a mosque in the northern Sinai, it is arguably more relevant now than at any previous time.
The mosque massacre makes clear that the Egyptian regime is incapable of defeating the Islamic State (ISIS) insurgency in Sinai on its own. Egypt’s incapacity is as much a function of economic priorities as military capabilities. With Egypt constantly on the brink of economic collapse and in need of constant support from the World Bank, the US and the Gulf States, it is hard to make the argument for preferring economic investment in Sinai to economic investment west of the Suez Canal. And in the absence of significant economic support for developing the Sinai, it is hard to see an end to the ISIS insurgency.
If the Europeans, Americans and Arab League member states chose to develop the northern Sinai for a Palestinian state with half the enthusiasm they have devoted to building a non-viable Palestinian state in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria that would render Israel indefensible and enfeebled, the Palestinians would have a viable, developed state in short order.
And the Egyptians in turn would have the international support they need both economically and militarily to defeat ISIS completely and to rebuild their national economy. Indeed, as advocates of the plan note, by yielding control over the northern Sinai to the Palestinians, and so enabling a viable Palestinian state to form, Egypt would become again the indisputable leader of the Arab world. With the good will of the Europeans and Americans, Sisi would secure Egypt’s position indefinitely.
This then brings us to the third notable aspect of the purported Saudi plan. The backlash against the plan, like the backlash against Mohammed, has been furious. Abbas has reportedly been calling every international leader he can think of to oppose the deal. The Europeans reportedly also oppose it. French President Emmanuel Macron’s adviser reportedly contacted the Americans to make clear that the French are not on board with the proposal.
And whereas the opposition to Mohammed’s purported proposal has been largely behind the scenes, since Mohammed did not make it public, the Palestinians and their international supporters have been grabbing every available microphone to condemn US President Donald Trump’s reported plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and perhaps begin taking concrete steps to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
With or without a public announcement of his alleged peace plan, Mohammed has become a hated figure in wide circles of the foreign policy establishment in the West due to his trenchant opposition to Iran’s rise as a hegemonic power in the region. The Times portrayed him as a serial bungler in its article about his alleged peace plan.
As Lee Smith revealed in a recent article in Tablet magazine, the voices leading the charge against Mohammed are the same ones that developed the media echo chamber in pursuit of then president Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.
As Smith explained, the onslaught against Mohammed is “an information campaign designed to protect the pro-Iran policies of the Obama administration.”
As these operatives see it, Smith argues, Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran is the foundation of Obama’s foreign policy legacy in the Middle East. “If Trump pulls the plug, then Obama’s ‘legacy’ in the Middle East collapses.”
Trump’s visits to Israel and Saudi Arabia in May made clear that renewing US alliances with Saudi Arabia and Israel, and using them as a means to scale back Iranian power in the region, is in fact the central plank of his Middle East policy. Trump’s subsequent moves in support of Mohammed and Israel have reinforced this conclusion.
And so the backlash against Mohammed by the likes of former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and Robert Malley, Obama’s former adviser for the Middle East on his national security council makes sense. If they can discredit him, and pretend that an Iranian-controlled Lebanon and Syria are better than the alternatives, then they can force Trump to maintain faith with Obama’s policies.
It’s a hard sell though. Mohammed’s peace plan is the first peace plan that has ever offered the Palestinians a chance at a real state. It’s the first plan that ever envisioned a situation where the Palestinians have a state that doesn’t imperil Israel. People who actually care about the Palestinians and Israel should welcome and support his position.
People who oppose it have to explain why they insist on remaining faithful to a peace paradigm that has brought only war and instability. Why do they prefer to retain Abbas’s authoritarian regime over a non-sovereign kleptocracy in Judea and Samaria with a Hamas terrorist state in Gaza to an alternative without either? Why doesn’t Abbas support it if his chief aspiration is the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and actually wants peace with Israel?
The New York Times article may or may not be an accurate portrayal of a real plan presented by the actual crown prince of Saudi Arabia. But if it isn’t his plan, it should be. Or it should be Trump’s plan.
Because it is the first peace plan anyone has ever put forward that makes sense. Not only does it secure the future of both Israel and the Palestinians, it enables Arab states like Saudi Arabia to work openly with Israel to defeat their joint Iranian enemy, while ensuring that Israel can survive and remain a credible ally to its Arab neighbors for decades to come.
Originally published by the Jerusalem Post