Mike Pompeo has been busy in his last few days in office. In an effort to please both Saudi Arabia and Israel, he is preparing to declare the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen a “terrorist group.” The Houthi, who control a large portion of their nation, are no threat to the US or to American citizens. Pompeo is making the declaration because, according to him, the Houthis are backed by Iran even though there is no credible evidence to support this accusation. Trump’s allies in Saudi Arabia want this declaration as part of their aggressive campaign against Iran. Pompeo’s declaration will have no impact on the Houthis themselves, but it will constitute a crime against humanity in Yemen, one that could trigger what the U.N. secretary-general calls, “the worst famine the world has seen for decades.” Such a declaration would also chill humanitarian efforts to donate food and medicine to Houthi-controlled areas in northern and western Yemen where the majority of the country’s thirty million people live.
The US government is complicit in this crime against humanity. According to the New York Times, “it has supported Saudi Arabia and its allies against the Houthis, providing intelligence and billions of dollars in weapons, over the objections of Congress, that could amount to war crimes.”
Why the “terrorist” designation?
One reason could be because the Saudi’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad wants it and so does Israel which considers Iran a regional enemy and as a purported supporter of the Houthi, is pleased by Pompeo’s declaration. Both he and the Israelis are doing everything they can to goad Iran into a conflict, and both want to leave the Biden administration with a dilemma: either reverse the designation and be smeared as “pro-terrorist” by the Israel lobby, or leave it in effect in a nation where already half of all children suffer stunted growth because of malnutrition.
In an equally outrageous effort to initiate war with Iran, Pompeo now claims that al Qaeda’s new home base is Iran, a claim Iran immediately rebuffed. Though these claims have been met with skepticism within the US intelligence community and Congress, this did not prevent Pompeo from sharing these remarks in a speech at the National Press Club.
“I would say Iran is indeed the new Afghanistan as the key geographic hub for al Qaeda, but it’s actually worse. Unlike in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda was hiding in the mountains, al Qaeda is operating under the hard shell of the Iranian regime’s protection.”
The National Iranian American Council, which is no friend to the regime in Tehran, noted that “the American people still remember the consequences of falling for Dick Chaney’s lie that Saddam Hussein was harboring al Qaeda terrorists who were plotting against the United States.”
According to Barbara Slavin of the Atlantic Council “Iran and al Qaeda have a largely hostile relationship and the Sunni jihadi group sees Shiite Iran as an enemy.”
Why these lies? Pompeo, the man who, when director of the CIA, boasted, “We lie. We cheat and we steal,” wants to run for president in 2024, and he plotted his move when billionaire mega-donor Sheldon Adelson was still alive. Even after his recent death, the top of the Adelson family wish list is continued confrontation with Iran. Adelson himself famously said that the US should fire an atomic weapon at Tehran instead of negotiating.
If left unchecked, Pompeo’s statement could represent an escalation in the US’s ability to use force against Iran. The 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) allows US forces to pursue al-Qaeda anywhere in the world. Pompeo’s lie, if allowed to stand, would permit the Trump administration in the week it has left to claim it already has Congressional approval and attack on Iran.
In a more normal time in our nation, Secretary of State Pompeo’s actions would constitute reasons for impeachment, thereby eliminating any ambitions he might have about running for president in 2024. How unfortunate the US Congress is so preoccupied with impeaching Trump that they cannot take up this important consideration.
All of Cathy Sultan’s books, including The Syrian and Damascus Street which deal specifically with Iran’s involvement in the Syrian war, can be found on Amazon.