Clinton adviser wants US to intercept Iranian ships to help Saudi Arabia

Michael Morell © Jason Reed
Hillary Clinton’s campaign adviser, former CIA director Chris Morell – known for recommending killing Russians in Syria, and opposing the Iran nuclear agreement – has emerged with a new idea: forcibly boarding Iranian ships to help Saudi forces.

The idea to escalate support for the Saudis by engaging in such open aggression against Iran was voiced by the Democrat during a speech given to Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s liberal think-tank, Center for American Progress (CAP), on Tuesday.

“Ships leave Iran on a regular basis carrying arms to the Houthis in Yemen,” he said, speaking on the Iran-aligned Shia rebels fighting the government there. “I would have no problem from a policy perspective of having the US Navy boarding their ships, and if there are weapons on them, to turn those ships around.”

These ideas, as well as the former CIA director’s supportive stance on waterboarding, may sound like something out of the Republican camp, but Morell is indeed with Clinton, and in the event of Clinton winning the election, he is poised to become a driving force in American foreign policy.

He did, however, express some worry that forcibly boarding Iranian ships in foreign waters might pose some problems with regard to international law. But according to Morell, who has accused Iran of “malign behavior in the region,” taking things to the next level is exactly what is needed to “get the attention of our friends in the region to say the Americans are now serious about helping us deal with this problem.”

The Iran-aligned Houthi rebels captured Yemen’s government institutions and exiled President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi in 2014. The Americans believe him to be the country’s legitimate leader, and are in league with Saudi Arabia over expelling the rebels from Yemen.

Gulf countries then set about bombing Yemen in the spring of 2015, with no protests emanating from the Americans, who have engaged in active support. The death toll topped 4,000 in late October, as the Saudi-led coalition used tens of billions of dollars in US weapons aid – including laser-guided bombs and internationally-banned cluster bombs – creating a humanitarian catastrophe that has put millions of lives in danger.

One of the latest Saudi bombings hit a funeral hall and killed 140 people.

Washington, however, is careful not to brand the Houthis terrorists. Aside from enjoying a tenuous alliance with Iran, the Houthis have also been committed to fighting against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Qaeda is, after all, considered a terrorist group by Washington.

Podesta’s CAP released a fresh report last week, entitled ‘Leveraging US Power in the Middle East,’ calling for continued cooperation with the Gulf alliance and expanded action against Syria, which is allied with Iran in all of this. According to The Intercept, the report was received with open arms by UAE Ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba.

The ambassador’s position has been that the US is not doing enough to help the Sunni monarchies expand their influence, adding that he would like to see Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and Jordan enjoy renewed support from Washington, “to get the band back together,” as he put it, according to The Intercept.

The US has sold more than $20 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia in the past 18 months.

Morell, for his part, believes the Middle East conflict is not a struggle between Iran and the Gulf monarchies, but instead “a desire on behalf of the Iranians to be the hegemonic power in the region… and it is the Sunni Gulf states pushing back against that. That is what’s happening.”

In August, Morell told Charlie Rose in a PBS interview that Russia and Iran should suffer in Syria for their support of the government of Bashar Assad.

The former CIA director said: “What they need is to have the Russians and Iranians pay a little price. When we were in Iraq, the Iranians were giving weapons to the Shia militia, who were killing American soldiers, right? The Iranians were making us pay a price. We need to make the Iranians pay a price in Syria. We need to make the Russians pay a price.”

He suggested that the killing be done “covertly, so you don’t tell the world about it, you don’t stand up at the Pentagon and say ‘we did this.’ But you make sure they know it in Moscow and Tehran.”

In the same vein, he proposed US forces bombard Syrian government installations to “scare Assad.”