Yemen: a headache for Saudi Arabia

Yemen: a headache for Saudi Arabia


The intervention in Yemen is causing more and more problems to Saudi Arabia: politically and humanitarianly, but also as regards the reputation of the kingdom. Now Russia offers its help.

For some time, the Yemeni president, Abdo Rabu Mansur Hadi, is a man without power. Reports from the AP news agency now suggest that Hadi is also a man without freedom of movement. The president who, for months now, is together with his family in Saudi Arabia wants to return to his country. However, that is precisely what the Saudi government denies. The same government that supports him as legitimate president of his country. And the same government that, therefore, has maintained a military intervention in its neighbor country for two and a half years.

The decision to keep Hadi in Riyadh suspects that Saudi Arabia wants to end its deployment in Yemen, an effort that has cost the kingdom a reputation and whose legitimacy can no longer be sustained in the light of more than 10,000 civilian deaths.

Desire for retirement

Given the disastrous political and humanitarian consequences of the mission, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman already hinted in August, during his visit to the US, that his country would prefer to withdraw from Yemen. The decision not to let President Hadi out of Saudi Arabia could serve that purpose. It would be an indirect signal directed at the Houthi rebels, led by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Victims of war: the Yemeni civilian populationVictims of war: the Yemeni civilian population

This theory gains even more plausibility knowing that Russia sent a plane to Yemen in early October to take 75-year-old Saleh abroad to medical care. And that, currently, foreign aircraft can only cross Yemeni airspace with the permission of Saudi Arabia. This can also be interpreted as a sign of rapprochement with the Shiite Houthis in Yemen.


A few days ago, the Houthis had fired a missile from Yemen directed at the Riyadh airport. Another reason to try to end the intervention. The offer of help and mediation by Moscow is therefore welcome in Riyadh. For Moscow, the opportunity to gain more influence in the region is offered.

Controversial intervention

The military intervention of the coalition led by Saudi Arabia is very controversial. Sebastian Sons, an analyst at the Foreign Affairs Research Institute in Bonn, interprets it as another scenario in the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. “First of all it is a political and geostrategic conflict, Saudi Arabia considers that Iran has gained too much influence in the Arab world,” says Sons.

Now, Saudi Arabia is forced to ask for help from Russia, precisely the ally of Iran. On the other hand, he also hopes that Russia could convince Tehran to pursue a more moderate foreign policy. Saudi Arabia seems to return to the wisdom that words are sometimes more powerful than weapons.

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