We the People: U.S. involvement in the Mideast can take place behind the scenes

More fighting has erupted in the Persian Gulf. President Bashar of Syria declared that a dialogue involving the U.S. would help bring a resolution to the Syrian civil war that spawned ISIS just as Saudi Arabia took independent military action against Shia rebels in Yemen.

Saudi warplanes hammered Houthi rebel targets in Yemen. Saudi Arabia, a Sunni nation with vital oil resources, and Iran, a Shia theocracy with a nuclear program, are maneuvering for geo-political advantage in the region.

The Saudis informed the U.S. of the planned strikes and some officials indicated that the strikes relied heavily on U.S. surveillance and logistical assistance. The strikes devastated Houthi military targets without significant collateral damage.

Did the Saudis feel a need to act because the U.S. has not taken a strong stance in Syria or Yemen? According to The Washington Post, U.S. and Saudi officials discussed possible military intervention in Yemen last summer when the Houthi rebellion overran the country.

Ansar Allah (Helpers of God), began in the 1990s as a revivalist movement of Shia Islam known as Zaidism in Yemen. The Zaidis are a Shia sect of Islam named after Zayd ibn Ali.

Ansar Allah fighters were led by Hussein al‑Houthi when the insurgency began in Yemen. He was reportedly killed by Yemeni army forces in 2004. The group took his name and developed into a powerful rebel force that eventually toppled the Sunni-led government of Yemen and captured its capital Sana’a in 2014.

The Saudi attacks are aimed at stopping the Houthis from capturing Aden, a critical port city. The air strikes are supposed to weaken the Houthis and encourage them to sit at the negotiation table. They have resisted all previous political negotiations.

Only Saudi warplanes were used in the strikes that were directed at destroying sophisticated weapons and aircraft captured from the Yemeni government. Senior Republican lawmakers say the action is proof that the Obama administration has a weak policy in the Persian Gulf.

Senator John McCain (R‑Ariz.), chairperson of the Armed Services Committee, said, “I think it’s fine that they did it themselves, but the question is, what’s the reason for it?” Other conservatives charge that this is proof the Saudis felt a need to go it alone without U.S. sanction.

However, every indication is that the Saudis turned to the U.S. for support and assistance which was provided in a subtle way, which is a good thing in the region. Senator McCain said that the Obama administration is negotiating a bad nuclear deal with Iran and that its desire to seal that deal leads it to adopt to a passive policy in the region.

House Speaker Boehner (R‑Ohio) accused the administration of having “no strategy” in the war-torn region. Those opinions are belied by Saudi officials who describe the U.S.-Saudi relationship as “unshakable.” The fact that the Saudis are able to lead a regional coalition without overt assistance from the U.S. will be more effective in getting the Houthis to consider peace talks.

There are credible reports that the U.S. provided intelligence and logistical assistance in addition to the strong statements in support of the operation. It makes more sense to rely on and assist allies to manage a regional issue since any overt action by the U.S. can be a recruiting and propaganda victory for the Houthis and other groups.

The U.S. must remain involved and relevant in the this strategic region but it does not have to drop every bomb or supply every soldier in every regional conflict to do that.

New York City announced plans to build a pre-K facility with eight classrooms and 144 students in Bay Ridge at 369 93rd Street. This will advance Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious pre-K plan and provide desperately needed education resources in District 20. Less than half of the district’s pre‑K applicants (734 of 1,921) got a seat in the district in 2014. However, many neighbors expressed concern that the facility with many young children coming and going every day would be dangerous for the kids because of the facility’s  proximity to the Prince Hotel.

The block and the district will benefit from the new facility and if proximity to the Prince Hotel becomes problematic for the children, our elected officials must act to protect the children.

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