Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates are bombing Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen. Different Islamic nations are also battling each other in Libya, Syria, and Iraq. Experts say this may herald an all-out Middle Eastern war.
This would be an all-Islamic conflict, with Sunnis fighting Shi’ites and different factions of Sunnis fighting each other. There is no way Saudi Arabia, which claims authority over Sunni Islam, could countenance the ISIS Sunnis’ claim to have re-established the ancient caliphate. Also, traditional rulers are fighting rebel movements, who want both politcial freedom and radical jihad.
This is not, strictly speaking, an American fight, though the United States is supporting everyone fighting jihadist terrorists on both sides of the factions, which is resulting in all kinds of contradictions. Thus, the U.S. is supporting Iranian-connected militants when they are fighting ISIS in Iraq, but opposing them when they are fighting moderate Arabs in Yemen.
The meltdown in Yemen is pushing the Middle East dangerously closer to the wider regional conflagration many long have feared would arise from the chaos unleashed by the Arab Spring revolts.
What began as a peaceful struggle to unseat a Yemeni strongman four years ago and then mutated into civil strife now risks spiraling into a full-blown war between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran over a country that lies at the choke point of one of the world’s major oil supply routes.With negotiators chasing a Tuesday deadline for the framework of a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, it seems unlikely that Iran would immediately respond militarily to this week’s Saudi airstrikes in Yemen, analysts say.
But the confrontation has added a new layer of unpredictability — and confusion — to the many, multidimensional conflicts that have turned large swaths of the Middle East into war zones over the past four years, analysts say.
The United States is aligned alongside Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and against them in Yemen. Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, who have joined in the Saudi offensive in Yemen, are bombing factions in Libya backed by Turkey and Qatar, who also support the Saudi offensive in Yemen. The Syrian conflict has been fueled by competition among all regional powers to outmaneuver one another on battlefields far from home.