“I think this should be a GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] led, Saudi [Arabia] led engagement if there is one [with] diplomatic, maybe limited military involvement,” former US State Department and National Security Council official Dafna Rand said on Tuesday.
Yemen's capital has undergone a violent crisis in recent days, culminating with members of the Houthi opposition group storming the Yemeni presidential palace on Tuesday, according to reports from the country. The instability has resulted in concern by American officials and regional governments, as Yemen has served as a stronghold for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Retired US Army Lieutenant General Daniel Bolger did not rule out the possibility of a limited US military engagement in the event the Houthi opposition group were to threaten control of the Bab el-Mandeb strait, a strategic trade choke-point at the entrance to the Red Sea.
“That is an area where I could see quite a discussion of potential direct US military involvement to prevent that,” Bolger stated.
Both Bolger and Rand pointed to the role of Iran in supporting the Houthis in Yemen, arguing that a successful siege by the group could impact the balance of power in the Middle East.
Allowing the Houthis to overtake Yemen’s capital city would be “an incredible empowerment toward Iran” that “will change the balance of power in the Gulf in many ways,” Rand argued.
From the standpoint of the United States and its European allies, “an Iranian proxy gaining some degree of ascendancy” in Yemen could provoke a crisis in trade out of the Persian Gulf, Bolger asserted.
Citing the possibility of major disruptions to oil exports, which rely on stable access to the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, Bolger warned, “The Houthis are much more concerned about what’s going on in Yemen, but their sponsors see the bigger picture.”
In the past 48 hours, Yemen’s Houthi opposition movement seized territory near the city of Sanaa, stormed the presidential palace, and targeted a US diplomatic vehicle.
A ceasefire was negotiated by Yemen’s President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, but recent reports indicate that the violence is ongoing.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon emphasized in a Tuesday statement the need for the factions to reach a ceasefire and take the necessary steps to restore the authority of the legitimate Yemeni government.