As U.S. leadership of the international order fades, more countries are seeking to bolster their influence by meddling in foreign conflicts. In this new era of limit testing, Crisis Group’s President Robert Malley lists the Ten Conflicts to Watch in 2019.
As tensions continued to rise between U.S. and Gulf states on one hand and Iran and its regional allies on other, Huthi forces in Yemen increased pace of cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia, including on infrastructure; Saudi followed with higher-intensity bombings in Yemen, especially in capital Sanaa, raising risk of further escalation in July. Huthis launched missile and drone strikes on Abha and Najran airports in Saudi Arabia, attacking Abha airport 12, 14, 15 and 23 June. Govt officials described Huthis as Iran-backed terrorists and U.S. framed Huthi cross-border attacks as part of Iranian regional campaign against Saudi and U.S. interests (see Iran). Quad comprising Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), UK and U.S. 22 June expressed concern over “escalating tensions in the region and the dangers posed by Iranian destabilising activity to peace and security both in Yemen and the broader region”. After Sudanese security forces 3 June attacked protesters in Sudanese capital Khartoum, U.S. official next day called Saudi and UAE govts which support Sudan’s military leadership; both released statements regretting violence and urging military to reopen talks with protesters.
Saudi Arabia has been forging links to Iraq since reopening its Baghdad embassy in 2016. Its adversary Iran has strong Iraqi ties. If Riyadh avoids antagonising Tehran, invests wisely and quiets anti-Shiite rhetoric, Iraq can be a bridge between the rival powers - not a battleground.
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.
Riyadh may not want war with Iran, but there are risks to this strategy of rhetorical confrontation.
Les deux partis au Congrès perdent patience face à la campagne menée par l’Arabie Saoudite au Yémen. Il y a des raisons d’espérer que le Congrès interviendra pour contrer MBS, même si Trump ne le fait pas.
Secretary Pompeo was put in an almost impossible situation from the outset: traveling to meet with people [in Saudi Arabia] suspected of having ordered a political assassination at the request of a president determined to sweep the affair under the rug.
Although from a distance the U.S.-Saudi relationship appears rock solid, there are cracks in the foundation.
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.
A series of escalations in both word and deed have raised fears of U.S.-Iranian military confrontation, either direct or by proxy. It is urgent that cooler heads prevail – in European capitals as in Tehran and Washington – to head off the threat of a disastrous war.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are actively fighting one another in the media, through armed proxies, in cyberspace and with Western lobbyists. But in Iraq they should both see the case for détente.
Originally published in The Hill
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