The air strikes delivered by Saudi Arabia against the Houthi rebels in the Yemen have again escalated, what is, effectively, a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran is backing the Houthi rebels.
Iran & Saudi are engaged in a steady escalation of war as they also continue to train, equip and finance rival militants in the Syrian theatre and to support opposing sides in Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon and, of course Yemen. Those contacts to whom we have spoken are concerned that there appears to be no real end game and this is a continuing escalation between the two countries, through the lesser and smaller neighbours in the Middle East.
However, although Iran continues to support the Houthi, the group have been able to press on across Yemen, feeding on and encouraging the disillusion of the populace with the Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi Govt. Also the Houthi have an alliance with the regime of the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Therefore, whilst Iran is helping to put a proverbial edge on the Houthi blade, Iran is neither the cause nor a major player in this civil war.
The Saudi Arabian’s and Iranians have a long time hatred and suspicion of one another, which probably began to take form in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The intense and dramatic Islamic rhetoric effectively challenged and threatened the legitimacy of the Saudi Arabian regime. Ayatollah Khomeini had a natural appeal to the oppressed peoples of the region, offering them support to achieve freedom, equality and an end to injustice.
Saudi Arabia sought to undercut that rhetoric by highlighting Iran’s Shiism, and by promoting intolerant versions of Wahhabi Islam that, among other unsavoury qualities, encouraged vitriolic anti-Shia sentiments which gathered speed across the region and other areas of the globe.
This foundation was used to support all the incidents that have rolled across and through the Middle East from this time onward, including the continued engagement by the US on a variety of issues.
Effectively, Saudi’s fear of Iran appears to have clouded the country’s judgement. With regard to this fear and Zenophobia, extensive aerial bombing of the Houthi’s by the Saudi’s is unlikely to bring the Houthi’s to the negotiating table. The Saudi’s are believed to be conducting this increased bombing so they are seen as “standing up” to Iran.
Add to this that AQ is also operating out of Yemen and the US continues to support Saudi led operations in Yemen as the Saudi’s are co-ordinating with Hadi loyal forces in Yemen.
Continued airstrikes against the Houthis have destroyed Yemen’s air defence systems and it is expected that the Saudi’s will likely now target the Houthi weapons depots and military convoys. If former President Saleh ends his support for the Houthis, the group will be weakened significantly and possibly unlikely to hold or maintain their territorial gains, South of Sana’a.
Both al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS will likely be able to seize on this advantage of the security vacuum in southern and eastern Yemen in order to expand, as they have done elsewhere to substantial effect.
However you look at this, it appears that the Yemen is another section of the Middle East, which is slowly beginning to unwind as all the previous major powers begin to fight with one another, for political and religious supremacy. Local contacts are also concerned that Egypt may well start to become engaged in this conflict.