Saudis believe war in Yemen signals more assertive role for the kingdom across the Middle East

Kim Ghattas writes: almost every conversation with Saudis about the Yemen military operation leads to a wider discussion about the region, the kingdom’s new role as the leader of a military coalition and in many cases, people’s desire to see this translate into action elsewhere.

At a bowling alley in Riyadh one evening, I met a young couple enjoying an evening out. The man was in the military so he would only give his name as Hamed. His eyes lit up when I asked him whether he supported the war.

“We support the king’s decision to go to war 100%, it’s long overdue. Hopefully, we will move to help Syria next, and bring down President Assad who has been causing so much death and destruction for his people,” he said.

Saudi Arabia has accused regional rival Iran of arming the Houthis – a charge both the Houthis and Iran have denied.

Saudis and Sunnis in general feel they have been taking a beating by Shia Iran across the Middle East as Tehran tries to solidify its influence from Baghdad to Beirut.

The victim narrative is an odd one considering the power of countries like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) in general and the fact that an overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world are Sunni.

So there is an interesting wave of patriotism on display in the kingdom these days and a sense of pride that Saudi Arabia, under new King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, is asserting itself in a way it has not in the past.

“Saudi Arabia is a reference and a leader for the Arab and Muslim world and we are proud of that,” said Hamed.

Some Saudis do quietly express concern about the country entering into a war with no apparent end game. But no-one wants to be openly critical as they ponder the possibility it could all wrong and the kingdom could find itself in a long protracted war. [Continue reading…]

Reuters reports: Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in neighbouring Yemen shows that the Sunni monarchy will stand up to Iran and that Arab states can protect their interests without U.S. leadership, the kingdom’s ambassador to Britain said.

Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf also said that the Saudi-led coalition that has waged four weeks of air strikes against Shi’ite Houthi fighters in Yemen had met its goals and could be a model for future joint Arab action. [Continue reading…]

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