Saudi Arabia’s Yemen mess might have just become even messier. The AP reports:
Attacks targeting exiled Yemeni officials and Saudi-led troops fighting in the country’s civil war killed at least 15 people Tuesday in the port city of Aden, authorities said. A new Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) affiliate claimed responsibility for the assault, which officials previously blamed on Yemen’s Shiite rebels […]
The official Saudi Press Agency blamed the Houthis for the attack, saying the rebels fired Russian-designed Katyusha rockets. Those rockets are part of the Yemeni military stockpile that the Houthis, as well as al-Qaeda’s local branch in the country, have seized amid the war’s chaos.
But by Tuesday afternoon, the new ISIS affiliate in Aden claimed the attacks in a message circulated by militant sympathizers online. It said a truck bomb driven by a militant named Abu Saad al-Adani first attacked the hotel, followed by a bomber named Abu Mohammed al-Sahli driving an explosive-laden Humvee.
The ISIS claim may not be true; the group would have plenty of incentive to opportunistically claim credit for another group’s dirty work. It could also just be an one-off attack. But if ISIS is starting to get more involved in the Yemeni civil war, this attack could mark the beginning of a big problem for Saudi Arabia.
As WRM wrote on Monday, the Saudis are confronting a host of strategic problems across the region right now, including Iranian-backed Shi’a aggression in general and the Iranian-supported Houthi insurgency in Yemen. They are therefore trying to build a united Sunni front to confront the Shi’a and the House of Saud may be tempted to turn a blind eye toward domestic funding of groups like ISIS that, though they might go too far (in Saudi thinking), at least fight the “right” enemy.
But history shows that radical terror groups, prominently al Qaeda, bear no love for the Saudi government, and ISIS is no different. If the jihadi group becomes a third player in the Yemeni war, that involvement will complicate even further what’s already starting to look like a quagmire for the Saudis.