Saudi Adventurism
In Yemen, the Worst May Be Yet to Come

Saudi Arabia may be headed into even more trouble in Yemen. Reuters reports:

Even in retaking areas where local people supported the coalition, inexperience has shown: security lapses allowed jihadist suicide bombers to hit three major coalition targets in Aden, and billeting troops too close together led to high casualties when a missile hit a base near Marib.

At that airbase, the floor of a large white tent, used as a field hospital after the missile strike killed more than 60 Gulf soldiers, was still littered with medical debris including latex gloves and blood-stained plasma bags weeks after the blast.[..]

The coalition has not pushed far into highland areas where the Houthis enjoy greatest support, and where the terrain favors those holding it.

Artillery fire could be heard in Marib from the hills to the west, areas vital to the recapture of the capital Sanaa. Yemen’s rugged highland terrain still provides cover for constant Houthi attacks on Saudi frontier positions and distant blasts were also audible to Reuters on separate trips to the border.

As we have noted since this summer, when and if the Saudis move into Houthi territory, the bloodbath will be enormous. Most of these casualties will be Yemeni civilians, but many may be Saudis, if they can’t close on the truce they keep promising is right around the corner—but never seems to come. And with a small population, high standard of living, and historically conservative foreign policy, the Saudi public may not be willing to take much. Even—or perhaps especially—in a totalitarian monarchy, that can spell trouble.

The Saudis have only undertaken this risky course because of the retreat of American leadership in the region—we need to keep a careful eye on Yemen, and Riyadh, to make sure the follow-on effects of our pull-back do not grow even worse.

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