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publish date : 5 Tuesday May 2015      5:51

Yemen, Quagmire of Saudi Mistakes

An interview with Alireza Ayati, a senior expert on West Asian affairs at the Iranian Foreign Ministry

Have Saudi Arabia’s attacks against Yemen been carried out due to Riyadh’s understanding of the trend of regional equations caused by Middle Eastern developments, from the Arab uprisings to Iran’s nuclear dossier?

The attacks carried out by Saudi Arabia can be analyzed from three aspects; domestic, regional and international. Domestically, Saudi Arabia is faced with four crises, the roots of which date back to decades ago and which have only increased with the Islamic Awakening and the popular uprisings in the Arab world. The crisis of legitimacy, the crisis of insecurity, particularly instability along the borders and the recruitment of ISIS and al-Qaeda, the crisis of the ash-Sharqiyah region and people’s legal demands and the crisis of the rivalries between the princes are the issues that this country is confronted with. In fact, Saudi Arabia is sitting on a barrel of explosives or a silent volcano. Saudi Arabia took different measures to resolve its internal problems; small controlled reforms, the distribution of money among the people, facilitating women’s presence in some activities, contacting the Shiites of ash-Sharqiyah, deporting radical forces to Syria, Iraq and Yemen and even Lebanon, dismissing princes and political elites … These measures which were pursued by King Abdullah acted as a pain reliever . Of course, the main intention behind these measures was to maintain the al-Saud regime and eliminate the Sudairis from important positions of the country. Certainly, the crisis in the ash-Sharqiyah region and the developments in Bahrain, which is linked to the revolution in Yemen, will shake the al-Saud regime. The problem is not the people in ash-Sharqiyah or Bahrain or Yemen.  They demand their rights but their movements automatically shake the regime in Riyadh.

At the regional level, Saudi Arabia has witnessed that Iran, its biggest rival, has stood against all types of plots designed by the US, the Zionists and Arabs during the past three decades and is now negotiating with the US on an equal footing. This is not good for Saudi Arabia and the Arab front. Worst of all, Iran has not allowed their plans in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen to be completely implemented. All their plans have failed. They were not able to topple Bashar Assad’s regime. The plan approved by the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council in Yemen did not succeed and they did not reach their objectives in Iraq. Lebanon is completely in the axis of resistance. Therefore, while Iran has the upper hand in all these cases, it is negotiating with the US. Another aspect which has angered the Arabs is the coalition of Russia and China which support Iran’s plans. Bandar bin-Sultan threatens Putin by expressing support for Chechnya in Moscow and Putin becomes angry. They intended to gain concessions from Putin but they failed. Thus, they decided to attack Yemen in order to create a balance. They say that Iran has won in certain dimensions and has the winning card, thus, we have to win some cards so that if in the future negotiations are to be held they will have winning cards. Terrorist measures which Saudi Arabia has taken have tarnished this country’s reputation. The US immediately distanced itself and Biden said that their aids were reaching the terrorists. Their last card is in Yemen; meaning the killing and bombardment of the people. These measures will also damage their reputation. Everybody says that Saudi Arabia is killing people, similarly to Israel. Is it right for the Servants of the Sacred Shrines to have such a position in the world of Islam?

At the international level, the role played by the US must be considered. The US’ allies in the region are entangled in a situation which the US does not know how to deal with. The US administration is confused, whether with regard to Mubarak in Egypt, or the downfall of Morsi and the coming to power of al-Sisi, or in the crisis in Bahrain and even the downfall of Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen. Most important of all is Saudi Arabia. This country is like a US state. None of the allies of the US is capable of resolving its own problems.

Since 2011, Obama has transferred US forces out of Iraq and pursued the policy of no direct intervention; this means that it has attempted to use the capacities of its allies in the region unless they make mistakes and then the US enters the scene. In Iraq and Syria, they helped ISIS and the al-Nusra Front to the point that the US felt that they were reaching the western borders. Thus, the US entered the scene and directed the crisis; meaning the weakening of both sides (the governments of Syria and Iraq) and the terrorists.

With regard to Yemen, the US has determined a ceiling; this means that the Houthis will be contained by the US allies like Hezbollah, Maleki and Bashar Assad but the US has given the green light for the attack against Yemen to certain limits. The US intends to use Saudi money and the Arabs’ prestige to the benefit of Israel and also to impose costs for the axis of resistance and Iran. If Saudi Arabia succeeds, the US will also benefit from it and if it does not succeed, Saudi Arabia’s reputation will be lost.

How would Saudi Arabia’s show of power to its regional and extra-regional rivals resolve these country’s problems?

Certainly, Saudi Arabia cannot remain immune from the structural changes in the Arab world. Our regions have turned into a quagmire in which no country could be immune. If you do not enter it, you will lose and this quagmire will be directed against the security and interests of your country. If you enter it to form allies, it will have its own consequences. Any country which has high capacities will leave undamaged from this quagmire. Iran is controlling the situation very well because it has a powerful leader, a democratic system and high national capacities which have immunized the system. Turkey, with its democracy and Islamic basis and with the help of other countries, attempts to maintain its immunity but its capacities do not reach those of Iran. But Saudi Arabia, due to its four-fold crises, resorts to any measure to save itself. It uses al-Qaeda and ISIS. Sometimes it turns to Russia and the French to threaten the US. Its alliance with the Zionist regime in Iran’s nuclear case has damaged its reputation. And now it has decided to attack Yemen. But none of these measures has benefited Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia does not have strong cards. All of its cards have, hitherto, damaged its reputation. Today, the world knows Saudi Arabia alongside  ISIS and al-Qaeda. The government may use the Wahhabis inside the country but beyond its borders this is a liability. Today, the western countries have the same problems with Saudi Arabia as they did with Israel. The public opinion of the world exerted so much pressure so that the West had to distance itself from Israel’s killings. Now it is exerting this pressure that how is Saudi Arabia supported while it has not even held one election? Today, many countries are recognizing the government of Palestine. Regarding Saudi Arabia, if the West and the US fail to resolve the problems of this kingdom, they will be faced with many questions in the post-modern world.

What will Saudi Arabia achieve from its attacks against Yemen?

Saudi Arabia is trapped between bad and worse. The war that is started must end and they should be able to state that they have achieved their objectives. Saudi Arabia has not yet achieved anything except that it killed the people and distanced the Yemenis and shocked the world and positioned itself alongside Israel which has shed blood in Gaza and Lebanon. The victor in any war is the one who finishes it. The US did not succeed in Iraq. Therefore, I believe that war is not a good option. The pressures exerted by Iran, Russia and some other countries caused Saudi Arabia to state that it will end the air strikes. In the end, Saudi Arabia will have to implement Iran’s plan which is the establishment of peace in Yemen.

If the revolutions in Yemen and Bahrain succeed, the Saudi Kingdom will be threatened. Perhaps, it will be able to delay these revolutions and immune itself through the use of al-Qaeda but it will not last long. The train of regional developments is advancing so fast that if Saudi Arabia fails to comply with it, it will be left alone.

How would you predict the future of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy considering the recent changes that have been made in the ruling structure of this country?

Recent developments of the region are so heavy that Saudi Arabia cannot deal with them alone. It needs a high capacity which Saudi Arabia lacks. The US must decide what the regional countries and its allies should do. It is said that the young generation that has come to power has decided to enter the war but the depth of the issue is US permission. They needed the US’ permission for this big measure. Certain conditions were imposed on Saudi Arabia to which it had to react. Muhammad bin-Salman and Muhammad bin-Nayef chose the option of war. Saudi Arabia needs to take some preventive measures. Their ruling structure was shaken. The US has understood this situation and has agreed with these strikes but with certain limits. The Islamic Republic of Iran will have great impacts on this trend. Russia and China and their allies are also effective. This ceiling must soon be defined for Saudi Arabia so that the security of the region would not be threatened. I predict that Iran’s military and security power, success in the nuclear case, managing the crises in Syria, Iraq and Yemen and establishment of peace in these countries will cause others to surrender; meaning the imposition of peace in the region. These conditions are agreed by all including the United Nations. Now that ISIS is threatening the security of the world, Iran’s proposal has found its supporters; fighting against terrorism and radicalism, no foreign military intervention, internal dialogue among disputing groups in countries, holding transparent elections and the establishment of an inclusive government. This model can be implemented in all countries which are faced with crisis. Everyone believes that the region cannot tolerate war because only terrorism and Israel will benefit from it. The US does not intend to pay a heavy price in this region. Thus, the ending of the disputes is a strategic issue which is now pursued by both Iran and the US. Yemen is a quagmire which all countries including the US are distancing themselves from; although they may secretly take some measures but they are really concerned.



Keywords : saudi arabia - yemen - iran - iraq
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