Saudi hegemony in Yemen?

Saudi involvement in Yemen’s affairs seems likely to grow following last week’s suicide attack that slightly injured Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the kingdom’s assistant interior minister.

On Saturday, Yemen’s foreign minister revealed that the attacker – a known al-Qaeda militant – had travelled from Marib in eastern Yemen. Al-Qaeda merged its Saudi and Yemeni operations in January and is now thought to be using Yemen as its base because of the security crackdown in Saudi Arabia.

This can only increase Saudi concerns about the situation in Yemen. Riyadh is already fearful about the effects of the Houthi rebellion on its southern border and the rebels have repeatedly claimed that Saudi warplanes are assisting Yemeni forces (which the Yemeni government denies).

The history of Yemeni-Saudi relations is a complex and turbulent one (see chapter in my e-book). Currently, President Salih seems to have Saudi Arabia’s full support but that is probably conditional on crushing the Houthi rebellion and dealing effectively with al-Qaeda.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 30 August 2009.