Yemen: The country caught in the middle of the Iranian-Saudi power struggle


Bobby Ghosh writes: Of the two things Saudi Arabia did on Jan. 2 to make the world a more dangerous place, one has caught all the attention: the execution of the dissident Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr. That led to the fire-bombing of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and Riyadh’s retaliatory decision to break off diplomatic ties.

The other, however, has gone almost unnoticed: the formal ending of a poorly-observed truce in Yemen, and new airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states against Shia rebels known as the Houthis.

Much of the analysis following the events of the weekend has focused on fears that the Saudi-Iranian conflict will derail peace talks on Syria (paywall), where Iran backs president Bashar al-Assad and Saudi Arabia backs opposition rebels. Indeed, the talks planned for later this month may not now happen at all. But the consequences for Yemen are no less dire.

Yemen’s civil war, raging for nearly a year, seems fated to constantly be drowned out by tumult elsewhere in the region. (When it does get some press, headline writers inevitably label it the “forgotten war.”) Nearly 3,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting, the country’s already fragile economy has been shattered, and attempts at negotiated settlement have gone nowhere. The resumption of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition — which enjoys US support — means the impoverished nation at the foot of the Arabian Peninsula is not likely to find peace anytime soon.[Continue reading…]

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