When the Arab League, gathered in Amman, made its final statement on Wednesday, the members unanimously declared that they “reject any intervention in the internal affairs of Arab countries”. There is only one country they were accusing: Iran.
So serious has Iran’s interference in the Middle East become, and particularly in the flashpoint of Yemen, that the United States is considering backing an Arab military plan to retake the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, currently in the hands of the Iranian-backed Houthis. American involvement is necessary and it is in the interests of the US itself, because Iran’s influence in the Yemen war is creating a significant threat not only to Yemen and the Gulf states, but to the wider world beyond it.
An example of this came over the weekend, when Al Qaeda in Yemen admitted carrying out a suicide bombing on a government building in southern Yemen. Before the conflict, the Yemeni government and the US were partners in seeking to rid Yemen of Al Qaeda, which found places to operate in its ungoverned expanses. As the Yemen war has escalated, Al Qaeda have continued to seek to expand their reach. Without a solution, they will continue to grow, seeking to attack targets not only in Yemen, but in the wider world – Al Qaeda has a track record of seeking to target international aviation.
It also appears that the Houthis and their Iranian backers are looking to internationalise the conflict on the western side of Yemen, along the Red Sea coasts. The Bab Al Mandeb is one of the world’s most strategic waterways and a crucial chokepoint for international shipping. In the past few months, anti-ship cruise missiles, sea mines and drone boats have been used there. The US has also warned commercial ships that it believes the Houthis have laid mines around the port of Mokha, which could also pose a threat.
All of which shows why the conflict is Yemen is already an international conflict. The Iranians appear determined to affect the livelihoods of Yemenis, draw in Gulf countries and disrupt global shipping. Only a concerted effort by the Arab countries and their allies internationally, especially the US, can push them out. What happens in Yemen concerns the whole world; it is not a problem for Yemen alone.