Just think about the supreme irony unfolding in war-torn Yemen -- Exhibit A of what I would charitably call "Kerry compartmentalization." While feverish nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries hurdle toward an artificial March 30 deadline in Switzerland, Iran is single-handedly feeding a Shiite Houthi rebel takeover of Yemen that has overthrown a democratically elected, pro-U.S. government and virtually destroyed the vital U.S. counterterrorism base used by U.S. Special Forces against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQIP).
Make no mistake about it: AQIP -- more than the Taliban, and even more than ISIS -- constitutes the single greatest terror threat to the U.S. homeland. It was in Yemen in September 2011 that a U.S. drone strike killed AQIP's mastermind, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was -- and, from his grave, still is -- the radical fuel that feeds AQIP and its plots against America.
Awlaki radicalized and inspired the Boston-bombing Tsarnaev brothers, the Charlie Hebdo terrorists, and Nidal Hassan's Fort Hood terror rampage. And Awlaki's sinister online videos continue to inspire lone-wolf threats and attacks in Europe and the U.S. For good measure, AQIP's members have produced the gravest technological threats to American aviation security, including the infamous shoe bomb, the underwear bomb, and the printer cartridge bomb, and are still doing so. Counterterrorism officials are well aware that AQIP's bomb-making masterminds are still on the prowl in Yemen.
Now the entire American counterterrorism effort against AQIP (at least the critical on-the-ground part of it) is down the drain, thanks in large part to Iran's support of the Houthis.
When nuclear negotiations with Iran commenced under the Obama administration, the mullahs insisted on (and the White House all too quickly relented to) segregating these negotiations in a lock box, separated from all the other issues that make Iran a major strategic threat to Israel (Hezbollah, Hamas, terrorism), a threat to Sunni Arab states (intervention in Iraq, support for Syria's demonic Assad) and a global threat as the number-one sponsor of terrorism in the world.
Now the chickens are coming home to roost, and the disintegration of Yemen into another Sunni-Shiite proxy war finds the Obama administration siding with Saudi Arabia as it bombs the Iranian-inspired Houthi advance, and we are still breaking bread with the mullahs in Switzerland as if Yemen were on another planet. Oh, too complex, you say. I can hear White House shorthand now: Can't mix delicate Iran nuclear apples with Yemen oranges.
However, the growing regional war in Yemen constitutes a direct threat to the United States, and nice, long-winded, ever-so-tortuous explanations from Obama administration officials cannot hide the fact that Yemen's disintegration poses a singular foreign policy debacle for the U.S.
Putting aside the vagaries of the proxy war involving Saudi Arabia and its fellow Gulf State allies, the Houthis are unabashed haters of the United States. And they are about to seize control of the most strategic waterway aside from the Straits of Hormuz -- the Bab el Mandeb Strait, vital to free passage between the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, and Israel's access to the Indian Ocean through its port city of Eilat.
That maritime threat, however, pales in comparison to the unbridled joy AQIP is experiencing as a result. Iran's meddlesome role in Yemen is creating an even more fertile runway for AQIP as they parasitically play off Sunni Yemeni fears of a complete Houthi takeover.
Here's this for a simple equation: Iran + Houthi = AQIP to the nth degree. That is no exaggeration.
Why on Earth is the Obama administration pretending that Iran's intervention in Yemen is an inconvenient fact that must not interrupt or interfere with the delicate nuclear negotiations with Iran in Lausanne, Switzerland?
I know why.
Because for Obama, an Iran nuclear agreement is more important than anything else: more important than assuaging our Arab allies about Iran, more important than Iran's terror threats against Israel, and more important than the loss of the most important U.S. base of operations against AQIP. We bought the Persian rug that none of Iran's other irksome, dangerous policies can pollute the talks -- and now we are suffering the payback for that failure.
Diplomats may argue about priorities, but when it comes to protecting the homeland against al-Qaeda, I take no prisoners.
One must ask: Has the White House's fixation on the holy grail of nuclear negotiations unduly blinded it to the urgent requirement to hold Iran directly accountable for the Yemeni crisis and consequential increased AQIP threat to the U.S.?
Until Iran ceases their direct military support for the Houthis and compels their proxies to pull back and permit Yemen's democratically elected president to return to Yemen's capital Sana'a, the U.S. nuclear negotiators should take a "diplomatic pause" and make it unmistakably clear to Iran that Iran's intervention in Yemen constitutes a direct threat to U.S. security in view of the growing terror threat from Yemen against the U.S.
American homeland security dictates that we not let the nuclear negotiations become a self-imposed safe harbor for Iran's dangerous intervention before Yemen spirals completely out of control.