Saudi Arabia’s Leader Could Tell a Better Story if He’d End His Vicious, No-win War
Saudi Arabia’s Leader Could Tell a Better Story if He’d End His Vicious, No-win War
Op-Ed / Middle East & North Africa 1 minutes

Saudi Arabia’s Leader Could Tell a Better Story if He’d End His Vicious, No-win War

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who arrives in Washington this week, is a man on a mission with a story to tell. It’s an appealing if slightly embellished narrative: about his economic vision, desire to promote a more moderate form of Islam, recognition of women’s rights and empowerment of a younger generation. But it’s a narrative that should not silence the other, far less rosy story of Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen. As it trudges toward its third-year anniversary this month, Riyadh’s campaign in its destitute neighbor’s civil war has been an unmitigated disaster.

The tragedy is threefold: the humanitarian consequences of the war have been dramatic; it has significantly worsened the situation that Saudi Arabia’s involvement was intended to address; and — unlike other ruinous ongoing Mideast conflicts — a realistic negotiated solution could be within reach. The war has been medieval in its brutality. More than 8 million Yemenis are on the verge of starvation out of a total 22.2 million in need of humanitarian assistance — figures roughly the equivalent, respectively, of the entire populations of Virginia and Florida. With more than 1 million suspected cases, the country has witnessed the worst cholera outbreak in modern history. Only half of Yemen’s health facilities remain functional, and even those lack the necessary medicines, equipment and staff. Casualties, inevitably underreported under these conditions, have been estimated at more than 10,000 civilians dead — a figure first announced by the United Nations in January 2017. The head of the U.N. office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs has called the situation an “apocalypse,” warning that if things do not change, “we are going to have the world’s worst humanitarian disaster in 50 years.”

Saudi Arabia is far from alone in bearing responsibility. But its repeated obstruction of humanitarian aid and commercial shipmentsclosure of Sanaa’s international airport and bombing of civilian targets — including homes, markets, schools and critical infrastructure — have played a considerable part.

Nor has the war brought Riyadh closer to its self-proclaimed objectives. Saudi Arabia is less secure today than it was three years ago. The Houthi rebels it is fighting launch almost daily incursions into Saudi territory. They have greatly improved their missile technology — in no small part thanks to Iran — and fire rockets deep into their northern neighbor. Two have reached Riyadh. While the Saudis purportedly entered the war to roll back Iranian expansion, their intervention is producing the opposite, tightening the Houthi/Iranian alliance while handing Tehran a low-cost means of keeping their rival bogged down in a country Iran doesn’t care much about.

Read the full article on The Washington Post's website.


Former President & CEO
Former Deputy Program Director, Middle East and North Africa

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