I spend a lot of time reading Middle East news sources and therefore I’d say I can pretty much see the direction a situation will take (I sincerely wish our ‘crackerjack foreign policy mavens’ could do the same). However, with all the research I’m used to do, I’m still puzzled by the intervention of Saudi Arabia in the internal conflict in Yemen.
The media, as well as many of the so-called Middle East experts, are saying that this situation is due to Saudis’ concern with the Houthis, a Shi’a-led rebel group in control of Sanaa, fearing that their armed rebellion could spill over the border and involve the sacred sites of Islam (Mecca and Medina, above all).
However, I do not buy this simplistic scenario. Why? The timing.
The Houthis and other Shiite groups have been operating in Yemen for many years and were no more a danger to the Saudis than they are today. If it’s not the worry for the safety of the holy sites, what could be the problem, then?
The real reason behind the attacks is one and only one word: Iran. Ever since the Shiites came to power in Iraq in 2004 and Jordan’s King Abdullah spoke about a “Shiite Crescent” in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, a religious dictatorship of the worst kind, together with its Sunni allies in the region, which are also dictatorial regimes, have been obsessed with the Shiites and Iran. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, former Saudi Arabia ambassador to the United States and former intelligence chief of Saudi Arabia, said several years ago: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia.’ More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them”. The late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had called for bombing of Iran by the United States. (Huffington Post)
In my humble opinion, the Iranian nuclear negotiations were the actual reason. It’s no secret that the Saudis despise the Iranians, the latter being the protectors of the major secondary sect of Islam, since Riyadh is a staunch opponent of any deal with Tehran on anything. In this, they share the same motivations as the Israelis, given that Jerusalem, too, has spurned any deal with the regime of the ayatollahs.
As word began to leak out that the P5+1 were close to a deal with the Iranians, all opponents went into overdrive to scuttle the agreement. Since the Houthis were making great advancements against the Yemeni pro-Western government, I believe the Saudis smelled an opportunity which was too good to be declined.
As I previously mentioned, Israel has also been an opponent of any deal with the Iranians and have used their significant lobbying power in the US Congress to try and scuttle any proposal.
My evidence is that, when the deal was close to a comprehensive agreement (on March 25, 2015), the Saudis started their air assault of Yemen and the Houthis. Oddly enough, the deal was officially announced few days later, on March 31, 2015. As far as I’m concerned, since, on the one hand, the Saudis are staunch supporters of the US policy in the Middle East and, on the other, Iran will try to help their Houthi allies without any reasonable doubt, hostilities are likely to erupt and kill any kind of deal on the table.
Word has been seeping out of the Middle East for years that the Saudi monarchy and the Israeli government were working together on a couple of different scenarios. But word’s leaking out that the Saudis, with help from the Israelis, have raided Yemen to prevent a thaw in US/Iran bilateral relations, ie the same shift Israel looks at with timorous suspicion.
Word has also slipped out of the Middle East that Netanyahu and King Salman are working on a plan to hit the Iranian facilities:
The two countries have both united in worry that the West may come to terms with Iran, easing sanctions and allowing the Islamic Republic to continue its nuclear program.
According to the Sunday Times, Riyadh has agreed to let Israel use its airspace in a military strike on Iran and cooperate over the use of rescue helicopters, tanker planes and drones. (Times of Israel)
It seems to me increasingly clear that Israel and Saudi Arabia are deathly afraid that the White House’s turn in relations with ayatollahs could jeopardize their ‘special relationship’ with Washington. The foreign policy would be adjusted if the relations were to become good and productive. Iran is positioning itself to be a strategic ally in the Near East and despotic regimes like Israel and Saudi Arabia are worried for their loss of influence.
My fear is that the twins of the Middle East, Jerusalem and Riyadh, will do everything in their power to retain their ‘favored’ nation status, even if it means the outbreak of an unnecessary war.
Op-Ed from the Fingers of Chuq