Thinking Aloud: A Farewell to Arms?

Apr. 15, 2015 by Darius

Right now, warships from 15 nations, including the US, are combing the waters of the Persian Gulf.  Their mission: to interdict Iranian arms shipments to Houthi rebels in Yemen.  The only problem so far?  They haven’t found any.

Since the Saudis launched their intervention in Yemen on the grounds that the Houthis are Iranian proxies, they have created much paranoia over the prospect of Iranian armed support for the Houthis.  Despite much evidence to the contrary, other countries, the US among them, have been sold on the idea.  So far, all the money and resources expended on maintaining the blockade around Yemen to prevent arms shipments have been wasted: there have been no arms shipments to stop.

And here’s where it gets better.  According to US military officials, the fact that their dragnet has turned up nothing is a success because it proves it has deterred Iran from trying to support the Houthis.  Huh?  That’s a textbook bit of circular argumentation.  Finding nothing proves only that there was nothing to be found.  It is also possible to conclude that there was nothing to be found not because the Iranians were “deterred” but because they were never sending the Houthis arms in the first place.

It is not clear from the few news accounts about the blockade if the US is actually working with credible intelligence that there are Iranian arms shipments to interdict or if, instead, the US is doing the naval equivalent of looking for monsters under the bed.  Either way, the Saudis are happy – and the Yemeni people get hungrier as food shipments are held up while searches for arms continue.  Under the best of times, Yemen imports 90% of its food, and these are not the best of times.

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