The United States is sending mixed signals to its allies in the Middle East by simultaneously giving support to the Saudi-led Sunni coalition fighting in Yemen and negotiating with Shiite Iran on its nuclear program, according to NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel.
Engel pinpoints an apparent contradiction: Even as the U.S. is assisting Saudi Arabia and other nations in “confronting the Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen” by providing intelligence and other support, it continues to negotiate with Tehran on its nuclear program, and to collaborate with Iranian forces in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq.
As a result, Engel says, “the Saudis, and the larger Sunni Muslin world, doesn’t [sic] feel the U.S. can really be trusted,” and Iran is “spreading its wings and feeling very comfortable” in expanding its influence in the region.
“A lot of people in the Middle East see the U.S. as trying to put butter on both sides of the bread, frankly, and [that] has left people quite confused as to what the U.S. strategy is vis-à-vis Iran,” he says.
“Are you trying to placate Iran and make a deal with them, or are we standing with Saudi Arabia, who is trying to push their proxy out of Yemen?”