Iran has been taking to the airwaves in its support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Delivering coverage in Farsi, Arabic, and English, Iran’s propaganda efforts have included showing video clips comparing King Salman to Saddam Hussein with shots of crying Yemeni children interspersed. As an analyst at the European Council for Foreign Relations put it, “the Iranians don’t have much to lose and a lot to gain from the ongoing conflict and the sense that the Saudis and their allies are sinking into a deeper quagmire.”
While it’s bad enough to be knee-deep in a war next door with nothing to show for it, Saudi Arabia faces a greater danger: a Sunni-Shi’a conflict, or at the very least a Shi’a insurgency, inside Saudi territory. The Yemen-bordering province of ‘Asir, which the Kingdom seized back in the 1930s, has a minority population of ethnic Yemeni Shi’a. That’s the place to watch in the coming months, as the Saudi bombs keep falling.
In the Kingdom as a whole, the Sunni majority’s emotions are running hot against Shi’a in general over the war in Yemen and Iran’s machinations there and in Syria. Saudi ISIS operatives have blown themselves up in Shi’a mosques, which has the Shi’a creating their own militias. Whether or not Iran’s propaganda efforts spill over the border, the rising temperature of sectarian conflict could bring the war home for the House of Saud.
And Iran, soon to escape the yoke of Western sanctions, wants to see the Saudis boil.