Future Uncertain in Iran-Saudi Proxy Conflict

 

As the editorial by Middle East Institute Senior Fellow Alex Vatanka points out, Saudi Arabia has been acting in response not only to the Iranian role in Yemen but also to the larger issue illustrated by Iran’s support of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and its contribution to the consolidation of Shiite power in Iraq, effectively leading to the rise of the Islamic State as a Sunni extremist alternative.

Vatanka indicates that with this evidence accumulating the Saudis are more confident than ever that the will of the international community is on their side, as evidenced by a 14-0 UN Security Council vote resolving to blockage Yemen against Iranian arms shipments.

Nonetheless, Vatanka says that both Iran and Saudi Arabia have reason to pursue a political solution to the Yemeni crisis, instead of allowing it to spiral into a direct Iranian-Saudi conflict that could be enormously damaging to both sides. Still, the likelihood of achieving such a political solution is much in doubt, as Vatanka himself acknowledges.

This perception seems to be dramatically illustrated by the fact that a Saudi ceasefire that was announced on Tuesday lasted less than a day before Arab coalition bombing resumed in response to Houthi attacks on loyalist Yemeni troops. The Tower points out that Saudi Arabia had previously made clear that it would still confront the Houthi militarily if need be, even though it was focusing on diplomatic mediation from this point on.

The Tower also reports that it is unclear whether the new bombings presuppose a resumption of broader hostilities, which reportedly succeeded in destroying approximately 80 percent of Houthi weaponry. According to Voactiv, this has helped the Saudis to claim a military victory even as they begin to pursue a political solution at a time when the Houthi are still active in the country and dominant in its capital.

On social media and elsewhere, Saudis have presented the end of Operation Decisive Storm as a victory not only over the Houthi but also – or perhaps mainly – over Iran’s influence on the Arabian Peninsula.