Drill, Baby, Drill


It looks like the battle for Saudi Arabia has begun and, if it follows the pattern of other Obama wars, it will be soon lost, or so Richard Fernandez believes.

Even the New York Times sees it.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled Yemen by sea Wednesday as Shiite rebels and their allies moved on his last refuge in the south, captured its airport and put a bounty on his head, officials said.

The departure of the close U.S. ally and the imminent fall of the southern port of Aden pushed Yemen further toward a violent collapse. It also threatened to turn the impoverished but strategic country into another proxy battle between the Middle East’s Sunni powers and Shiite-led Iran.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies believe the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, are tools for Iran to seize control of Yemen and say they intend to stop the takeover. The Houthis deny they are backed by Iran.

The stakes are very high for Europe, especially.

The Telegraph, as usual a better source of news than US newspapers, says Saudi Arabia is moving heavy military equipment including artillery to areas near its border with Yemen, US officials said on Tuesday, raising the risk that the Middle East’s top oil power will be drawn into the worsening Yemeni conflict.

The question is whether the Saudis will fall to their own Shiite population and whether the capture of Aden will allow Iran to block Saudi oil shipments.

“Once hailed by President Barack Obama as a model for fighting extremism, the U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Yemen has all but collapsed as the country descends into chaos, according to U.S. and Yemeni officials.”

“It is the model that we’re going to have to work with, because the alternative would be massive U.S. deployments in perpetuity, which would create its own blowback and cause probably more problems than it would potentially solve,” Obama said in January as the situation in Yemen deteriorated.

Now, virtually all of the Yemeni troops that had worked with the U.S. are engaged on one side or another of a three-pronged political struggle between the remnants of the Hadi government, supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the Houthi faction, U.S. officials say. The officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak by name about sensitive intelligence assessments.

Yemen is lost. Will Saudi be next ?


The straits at Aden are a choke point for the Gulf.

The former diplomat said Iran hoped to establish a new base of operations in Yemen similar to its de facto outpost in southern Lebanon – controlled by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

The political, but also the economic stakes are huge.

“What’s most important is that this new base would be located in the Bab al-Mandeb strait, where between 70 and 80 percent of the world oil trade passes. So, with the Strait of Hormuz, Iran would control two straits, obligating the world to treat it as a business partner,” Gauthier added.

Here is the fruit of Obama’s feckless policy in Iraq and his flirtation with Iran.

Security is a concern at Bab al Mandab, which stands, along with the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz, as one of the world’s major oil-supply choke points. Yemen’s national security forces and its coast guard have been strained since the country’s revolution took root in 2011.

Some Western officials worry that Iran could use military allies along Bab al Mandab to disrupt shipping there, as it has attempted to do along its own coast on the Strait of Hormuz. Together, the Strait of Hormuz and Bab al Mandab are conduits for 22% of the world’s oil supply, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“If the Iranians are able to control Bab al Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz, they’d be able to have a chokehold on the global economy,” a Western diplomat in San’a said.

It looks like this will be the next step. The fall of Saudi Arabia may follow.

In the face of all this disaster, Obama seems to be retreating into a shell.

President Barack Obama has yet to meet with the new head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and won’t see Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg this week, even though he is in Washington for three days. Stoltenberg’s office requested a meeting with Obama well in advance of the visit, but never heard anything from the White House, two sources close to the NATO chief told me.

The leaders of almost all the other 28 NATO member countries have made time for Stoltenberg since he took over the world’s largest military alliance in October. Stoltenberg, twice the prime minister of Norway, met Monday with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa to discuss the threat of the Islamic State and the crisis in Ukraine, two issues near the top of Obama’s agenda.

Kurt Volker, who served as the U.S. permanent representative to NATO under both President George W. Bush and Obama, said the president broke a long tradition. “The Bush administration held a firm line that if the NATO secretary general came to town, he would be seen by the president … so as not to diminish his stature or authority,” he told me.

After Saudi, of course, comes the NATO Alliance or what is left of it.

America’s commitment to defend its NATO allies is its biggest treaty obligation, said Volker, adding that European security is at its most perilous moment since the Cold War. Russia has moved troops and weapons into eastern Ukraine, annexed Crimea, placed nuclear-capable missiles in striking distance of NATO allies, flown strategic-bomber mock runs in the North Atlantic, practiced attack approaches on the U.K. and Sweden, and this week threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Denmark’s warships.

“It is hard for me to believe that the president of the United States has not found the time to meet with the current secretary general of NATO given the magnitude of what this implies, and the responsibilities of his office,” Volker said.

Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, declined to say why Obama didn’t respond to Stoltenberg’s request. “We don’t have any meetings to announce at this time,” she told me in a statement. Sources told me that Stoltenberg was able to arrange a last-minute meeting with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

Welcome to Obamaworld.

Now, as the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia moves directly to the borders of the Kingdom itself, Obama is like a deer in the headlights, incapable of any meaningful action. He’s been reduced to hoping that Tehran throws him a bone. The man who depicted himself as a transcendent figure on history’s stage, who described his foreign policy vision at the Temple of Hercules has been out-thought, out-generaled and completely outclassed by men with far fewer resources, but a great deal more ability than himself.

God help us. The Saudis are trying to rally Sunni countries but Pakistan turned them down when they asked for troops last week.

Saudi Arabia faces the risk of the turmoil spilling across its porous 1,100 mile-long border with Yemen and into its Shi’ite Eastern Province where the kingdom’s richest oil deposits lie.

Riyadh hosted top-level talks with Gulf Arab neighbors on Saturday that backed Hadi as Yemen’s legitimate president and offered “all efforts” to preserve the country’s stability.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said on Monday Arab countries would take necessary measures to protect the region against “aggression” by the Houthi movement if a peaceful solution could not be found.

All we can do is Drill, Baby, Drill and get our own energy supplies maxed out.

I don’t mean to try to hog band width but this is a crisis I believe.

38 thoughts on “Drill, Baby, Drill”

  1. With the amount of hardware the Saudis have bought, if they can’t defend themselves and defeat the Persians in Yemen, they deserve the consequences. Ultimately all these people have is oil. Do we care from whom we buy it? Internal security is our own problem regardless of which set of nutcases are selling.

  2. To give credit where it is due, and that doesn’t seem too often these days, about 15 years ago NPR did a long story on the dangers of Madrassas in south Asia, particularly places like Afghanistan.

    The Gulf Oil Royalty, particularly the Saudis, were under threat from the islamic fundamentalists as being Western puppets and apostates. The Saudis made a devils bargain and agreed to funnel money into extremist islamic groups in exchange for their agreeing not to stir up trouble locally.

    Madrassas were particularly bad because the education they offered consisted of primarily of memorizing the koran. The Gulf Oil Royalty has been funding these for 30+ years now. The harvest is ripening. They may been soon reap what they have sown.

  3. Mrs. Davis, that’s exactly what I said about the fall of the Iraqis to ISIS. Thousands of Iraqi officers and soldiers with food, ammunition and heavy weapons fled – officers first – from 800 or so ISIS fighters. Fled. Ran away.

    Why should they not bear the consequences of their lost freedom, freedom which was paid for with the blood of American, British, Dutch and Australian soldiers. I see Iraq as a strategic loss, but I feel no sympathy for them.

  4. The Saudis use the military hardware we give them to play soldier. They are not into maintenance or target practice. They hire Pakistanis to service the equipment which is about what one might expect from a culture that does not do mechanical things and hires outsiders to run oil wells.

    I doubt they can hold off the Yemenis and the crazies. The royal family all have houses in France for the emergency. The Kuwaitis are probably more serious about military but they may have relaxed since 1991.

    All I can hope is that fracking gets going big time again. Oil will go up. I’m buying gold now.

    Wish us luck. Egypt and Israel are our only allies and we can tell that because Obama hates them both. The Egyptian army is real. I think they should snatch the eastern Libyan oil fields. Maybe they will if the Saudis go under.

  5. More good news as the intel files seem to have survived.

    Secret files held by Yemeni security forces that contain details of American intelligence operations in the country have been looted by Iran-backed militia leaders, exposing names of confidential informants and plans for U.S.-backed counter-terrorism strikes, U.S. officials say.

    U.S. intelligence officials believe additional files were handed directly to Iranian advisors by Yemeni officials who have sided with the Houthi militias that seized control of Sana, the capital, in September, which led the U.S.-backed president to flee to Aden.

  6. Mike: The article you are quoting above says: “the Bab al-Mandeb strait, where between 70 and 80 percent of the world oil trade passes.”

    That statement is just not correct. The Suez handles about 4 million barrels per day of oil. But, almost 16 mbpd is exported from the Gulf. Most of which goes to East Asia. World Oil Transit Chokepoints from EIA.gov Suez has also been closed for long stretches in recent years, such as much of the era from 1967 through the earl 80s. As a result most really big tankers cannot use the Canal. Further, there is lots of oil coming from other parts of the world (Americas, East Africa, Russia) that does not come near Arabia or West Africa.

    That does not mean that Saudi Arabia does not have a really bad situation on its door step. The Saud’s most treasured title is “Guardians of the Two Holy Mosques” (i.e. Mecca and Medina) which confers a great deal of legitimacy on them. Problems in the Bab al-Mandeb could impede the haj which would be a problem for them. Even worse would be an attack on the pilgrims staged out of Yemen.

  7. Nasser had over 80,000 troops in Yemen at on time. This part of the peninsula is only of value due to its location, and will always draw in other major and minor powers. The goofs on TV, that want Saudi troops in Iraq, have no idea of the fragility of that nation. We may not like it, but we are the only nation on Earth to protect world trade. Obama thinks all problems stem from this, but it is quite the opposite.

  8. Jerry Pournelle has a saying he uses a LOT lately that I like….

    “Sow the wind, Reap the whirlwind.”

    The whirlwinds are forming up and heading for F-5 status….

  9. From Mike K’s LA Times article:

    “The U.S. still plans to fly armed drones over Yemen from bases in Saudi Arabia and Djibouti, but officials acknowledged that their ability to identify and find terrorism suspects has been severely hampered by the loss of the intelligence files and the power struggles within Yemen’s security services.”

    This gives us a clue as to how Obama has been proceeding and his future plans. We just evacuated the air base last weekend, and now this week the rebels are launching attack sorties. Clearly, elements of the military have joined the rebels- the military that we have a close relationship with and were working with as recently as a few days ago.

    Obama doesn’t want to meet with NATO because the only alliance he cares about now is with Iran.

    I saw this comment recently about how Obama’s strategy has played out now that he doesn’t fear domestic political repercussions: General Petraeus is facing jail time while General Soleimani is taking Sanaa.

  10. “That statement is just not correct. The Suez handles about 4 million barrels per day of oil. ”

    I think they may’ve meant both choke points. Hormuz handles much more.

  11. Iran appears to be attempting to gain control of major shipping choke points.

    Bab el Mandeb controls access to the Suez Canal as well as Eilat, Aqaba and Saudi Red Sea ports. A blockade of shipping would be an act of war. (Egyptian blockades of the Strait of Tiran at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba helped to precipitate the Suez crisis and Six Day War.)

  12. I doubt Iran wants a war, except with Israel. They want to be in charge of Europe, China and Japan. Once they have nucs, they are equal to us and Russia. Obama thinks we are not being fair to be “the world’s policemen” when “hands up don’t shoot” is the rule at home.

    He is just not that thoughtful or intelligent. He would be a good character study when the time comes. If we survive, of course.

    Remember, Suez is the route to Europe.

  13. Well, Egypt is in the process of expanding the Suez Canal so once that is done the larger ships should be able to make it through that way. Though really, this is more a problem for Europe then the US and quite frankly I don’t care of all of Europe freezes in the dark. We have been supporting them too long.

    There is a positive side to all this, it will help my State (Alaska) budget and with family in North Dakota it would be good for them too.

  14. More Good News from Yemen.

    “The Saudis can’t defeat the Houthis and take back Sana’a,” said Riedel, who’s now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy. “The Saudi army would get bogged down in the mountains of northern Yemen. But their Air Force could target Houthi command centers and supply lines. The Houthis and Saudis fought several border skirmishes a decade ago, the Houthis always prevailed.”

    “The only good news,” Riedel added, “is that the Houthis are violently opposed to al Qaeda and will fight them with determination.”

    The Comments are interesting and th Daily Beast readers lean left.

    The neocons ignored the CIA’s pre invasion warnings that removing Saddam would also remove the only regional counter-balance to Iran and would foment sectarian violence in Iraq. They didn’t listen, just like they didn’t listen to the CIA’s pre 9/11 warnings about the high probability of an attack by AQ on American soil.

    CAN YOU IMAGINE how different this world would be if they’d listened on both counts?

    NO 9/11 attack

    NO Afghan war

    NO Iraq war.

    10,000 Americans who’d still be alive/Trillions of dollars that wouldn’t have been p!ssed away down that bottomless ME rabbit hole.

    What would be the same, sadly, is that Muslims would still be killing each other off at every opportunity with great enthusiasm and in the most vicious fashion imaginable, and there’d still be neocon warmongers demanding that that the U.S. do something to mitigate the psycho-sectarian madness that has crippled Islam for the last 1,400 years.

    The terrible wounds that the Bush administration and its resident sinister sociopath Darth Dick inflicted on the ME and on America will last for generations to come.

    It’s all Boooosh’s fault. That’ll fix things !

  15. Iran is demanding Saudi Arabia withdraw from the festivities in Yemen. I wouldn’t be so sure they don’t want a war.

  16. >>It’s all Boooosh’s fault.

    Standard for leftists. No matter how catastrophic the results of their policies it’s someone else’s fault! Rinse and repeat.

  17. Mike K,

    I’ve long since ceased wasting attention upon the so-called “thought” of leftists, but I’m not willing to give Bush a pass on our impending disaster.

    During the Iraq War Iran was arming our enemies in Iraq, and I heard multiple examples of Iranian soldiers getting taken prisoner there.

    Bush did nothing.

    The lesson the Iranian regime learned is that they can do whatever they want without consequences, because they noticed they could kill American soldiers with impunity. They apparently resumed their nuclear program- which had been suspended when we invaded Iraq- and here we are.

    And that was with a Republican president. I’m sure they are aware enough to comprehend that democrats will do nothing at all to stop them except the occasional sound bite intended to silence domestic opposition. Obama is a gift to them.

    So, yes, I will blame Bush. He could have put in motion events that would have resulted in the overthrow of the mullahs if he’d taken notice of their provocations, but instead crickets. Only my opinion of course, but I recall the massive and long-lasting protests that rocked Iran for weeks in 2009. I consider that roughly equivalent to the French decision not to contest the German remilitarization of the Rhineland prior to World War II.

    The die is cast, and we’re only waiting for the snake eyes to roll up.

  18. The protests were after Bush left office.

    “Bush did nothing.”

    He could have done more and I really wondered if Cheney would convince him to attack the Iranian reactor sites before he left office.

    We did kill a number of Iranians although I don’t know what happened to this captured in Iraq.

    I don’t give Bush a pass although I think he had little choice but to invade in 2003. The fatal error was putting Bremer in charge. I have been asking why Garner was relieved and finally concluded that it was a historic mistake.

    That post was in 2008 when Bush was still in office.

  19. Mike K,

    I of course know those Iranian protests were after Bush left office. Forgive my lack of clarity, but I mention them only to note the rather deep unpopularity of the mullahs, which I presume was also present when Bush was effectively ignoring the casus belli casually provided by the Iranian regime when it sent its soldiers to kill Americans in Iraq.

    I agree Bush had no choice to invade, and I suspect your post from 2008 was correct.


  20. The Saudis are not our friends, not our family, not our neighbors. I suggest arming both sides. And by news accounts, we have.

  21. “Mr. Bremer’s decree reversed an earlier plan — one that would have relied on the Iraqi military to help secure and rebuild the country, and had been approved at a White House meeting that Mr. Bush convened just 10 weeks earlier.”

    From that post in 2008. The generals who could have held Iraq together are now commanding ISIS.

  22. Xennady,

    Agreed. I don’t think we’ll know the full story for many years. It could be that Bush got bad advice, had poor judgment or was simply very cautious. Alternately he might have thought himself already at the limit of what he could get away with politically, and so avoided expanding our AO into Syria and Iran at a time when we had maximum resources and leverage in the area.

    Obama’s failure to support the Iranian opposition in 2009, when we might at relatively low risk have advanced our interests significantly, and his campaign of capitulation to Iran’s nuke program and imperial expansion, are by contrast inexcusable.

  23. Defending Saudi Arabia and Yemen is a job for NATO. Sadly NATO is busy trying to intimidate Russia and conquering the Ukraine. If Europe loses Saudi Arabia NATO will have no choice but to capture the Russian oil and gas wells.

    Now is a good time to find fallout shelters and show the kids the Duck n Cover videos on Youtube. Gen Breedlove is now our commander in chief. He has replaced Obama.

  24. The Saudis are not our friend, but they desperately need our support and they have nobody else to help them. Our current President has been played like a fiddle. We need a strengthened NATO to intimidate Putin and a foreign policy that does not reward bad behavior. I truly wonder what goes through President Obama’s dreams at night.

  25. Agreed, the Sauds are not our friends, and while I would agree that they desperately need our support, I’m not a one to agree that they should have it. Frankly, I’d be in favor of seeing them go back to being impoverished cousin-marrying desert bandits.
    They paid for years for madrassas spewing hate against the West, as long as it didn’t affect them. They paid off the wind, let the whirlwind eat them alive.

  26. The Saudis have found the Egyptians more willing than the Pakistanis to help with Yemen. Of course, the Egyptians have a history with Yemen but that was the old days in Egypt.

    Hopefully, they are better at fighting now but Obama may cut off aid. He seems pretty committed to the Shiites.

    Events in Yemen continue to accelerate much faster than many experts predicted, and the potential for widespread sectarian war between Sunni and Shi’a grows more acute by the day. In some ways this portends even more trouble than ISIS’s fight against Iran’s proxies in Syria and Iraq: that fight is both bloody and strategically important, but ISIS is also an enemy of the Sunni powers (whose rule it wants to overthrow). Now, the Saudis and their allies are clearly prepared to confront Iran’s allies head-on.

    Obama may be on the sidelines or on the other side.

  27. Even Vox thinks these messages are “cringeworthy.

    “We have not seen that kind of progress in terms of strengthening the central government, I think you could make a pretty strong case that we’ve seen the opposite of that, but we do continue to enjoy the benefits of a sustained counterterrorism security relationship with the security infrastructure that remains.”

    God, these people are delusional!

  28. If Obama was merely incompetent he wouldn’t be signing off on Irans weapons program. He is intentionally permitting them and their allies to gain control of the region. He policy and objectives are being met, they just happen to harm the country he is supposed to be leading an representing.

  29. The Kingdom itself is a volatile demographic stew of Sunni and Shia, with the latter concentrated in the Eastern oil producing province. Inter sect hatred is ages old, the prejudices are ingrained. The coming civil war will be brutal, and Iran will act to defend the Shia, and for the control of Mecca and Medina.

  30. How illuminating would a candid discussion of socially-censored discussion of the name “Hussein” have been in apprehending the bias of the President’s foreign policy initiative? Still, I fear not even now will it be broached.

  31. I am not optimistic about the Saudis’ ability to win this war. Arab armies are notorious and Iran did not do well against Saddam. Still. they seem to be a rabble with officers living large.

    A Saudi civil war would be a disaster for world oil markets. Drill, Baby, Drill.

  32. The really dumb lefties complain that the CIA put the Shah in place. History is almost as difficult as math. At least to the left tail of the Bell Curve.

  33. A bit more on the deep trouble the Saudis are in.

    The Yemeni theater is one that the Saudis cannot afford to lose. But unless the Saudis conjure up a heretofore absent genie, the Iranian juggernaut will likely prevail.

    The Saudis are backing embattled President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. In January, a rebel group known as the Houthis overthrew him. Drawing on their common Shia roots, the Iranians have come to their aid, setting up the latest Iranian-Saudi showdown.

    From Lebanon to Syria via the Palestinians, Iranians proxies have defeated groups backed by the Saudis. The preferred Saudi strategy of showering surrogates with cash has been no match for the Iranians, who prize combat prowess. Iranian proxies are seasoned in guerrilla warfare. Groups such as Hizballah, which have fought Israel to a standstill, have much to offer the Houthis.

    Drill, Baby, Drill !

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