After the defeat of the Islamic State in 2017, normality is returning to Iraq ahead of the 12 May parliamentary elections. In this Q&A, Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for the Arabian Peninsula Elizabeth Dickinson says the country’s cautious optimism includes hopes of a new partnership with Riyadh, balancing Baghdad’s strong ties with Tehran.
Govt and UAE continued efforts to create regional front against Iranian, Qatari and Turkish influence: govt hosted Arab League summit in Dhahran 15 April and brought together 24 militaries 21 March-16 April for “Gulf Shield 1” training exercises. As Saudi-led coalition escalated campaign in Yemen, Huthi forces upped attacks on Saudi infrastructure and assets: Huthi forces 3 April attacked Saudi oil tanker in Red Sea off Yemeni port of Hodeidah and Saudi military 11 April shot down Huthi armed drone attempting attack on oil facility at Abha in south.
From Saudi Arabia's establishment in 1932, its minority Shiite population has been subject to discrimination and sectarian incitement. Beginning in the early 1990s, with then Crown Prince Abdullah's active support, the government took steps to improve inter-sectarian relations.
Saudi Arabia is at a critical stage in both its struggle against terrorism and its on-again, off-again efforts at reform, and Islamism is at the heart of both.
The Saudi regime faces one of the more difficult phases in its history. Fearful of change, accustomed to a system in which it holds enormous power and privileges, the ruling family may consider any serious reform a risk not worth taking.
Most people agree at this point that the Saudis are facing a legitimate security threat and that Iran is part of the problem. By continuing down this road, things will just get worse.
Nobody doubts that Iran has been helping the [Yemeni] Houthis. [But], nobody doubts that Saudi Arabia has been conducting activities that are violations of the rules of war either.
Giving birth to a visible Saudi-Israeli alliance that will deter Iran is in many ways the very rationale for advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace in Washington and Riyadh.
[The ongoing civil war in Yemen] looks like a failure [for the Saudi kingdom]. [Crown Prince] Salman wants a success right now. He’s desperately looking for a success, I would even say.
There are now those in the [Middle East] who would like Israel to go to war with Hezbollah and fight a Saudi war to the last Israeli. There is no interest in that here.
There are so many fuses, so little communication, so many risks of something exploding [between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon], that there’s little chance of something not going wrong.
Originally published in The Washington Post
Doha has become a casualty of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ fights with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. But don’t expect a war.
Originally published in The New York Times
Originally published in The Daily Star