Saudis fanning the flames

Writing in the Financial Times, Roula Khalaf calls for a rethink on Saudi policy towards Yemen, and the Houthi rebellion in particular. She argues that the Saudi bombing of Houthi positions is adding fuel to the fire and suggests the kingdom is “allowing its resentment of Iran to cloud its judgment over Yemen”:

The Houthi rebellion is, above all, a reflection of social, religious and political grievances by a group that feels marginalised and considers that the [Yemeni] state has succumbed to radical Sunni Salafi ideology …

… Saudi involvement is certain to aggravate the grievances and possibly prolong the fighting. The rising destruction, casualties and displacement of the population have fed the rebellion, widening its territorial scope and winning the rebels thousands of new recruits. 

“The ultimate travesty is there is no way to militarily solve the problem – you need a humanitarian ceasefire and mediation,” says Christopher Boucek, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East programme. If stability is the aim in Yemen, then, as Bernard Haykel, a professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University, argues, Saudi Arabia needs a policy that is neither “throwing money” at the problem nor military intervention.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 20 November 2009.