WASHINGTON – During the third in a series of hearings on the U.S. role and strategy in the Middle East, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, argued skepticism about the Obama administration’s commitment to the region after the Iran nuclear deal is playing out in the proxy war in Yemen where a Saudi Arabian-led coalition is fighting Houthi rebels supported by Tehran.
“If you talk to our Gulf partners, there is clear skepticism about American leadership in the region,” said Corker. “There is a strong case to be made that almost every decision this administration has made concerning the Middle East over the last few years has been considered with pursuit of the Iran nuclear agreement in mind.”
He also questioned the strategic objectives of current American military support for the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen, where poor targeting coordination has led to excessive civilian casualties.
“The war, and the resulting extreme humanitarian crisis, is receiving the reluctant support of this administration, yet I don’t know what the defined objectives and end state of that support is,” Corker added.
Policy experts testifying at Tuesday’s hearing provided an assessment of the situation in Yemen as well as the state of U.S. relations and security cooperation with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Mary Beth Long blamed U.S. policy for contributing to expanded Iranian and Russian involvement in Yemen, Syria and conflicts elsewhere in the region.
“That is why Russia and Iran have expanded their participation both militarily and politically in all of these conflicts that should have been and could have been contained, at least in some respects. They could have been at least mitigated…had we had a strong U.S. foreign policy and a plan that we were executing, and, frankly, we have had and have neither,” she said.
For archived footage and full testimony, click here.