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The Saudi-Led War Keeps Failing at Everything Except Wrecking Yemen

Bruce Riedel notes [1] that the Saudi-led war continues to fail in achieving any of its objectives. Because of the war, the new Saudi leadership has earned a reputation in the region for recklessness:

There are mutterings around the Gulf states now that the Saudi leadership is impulsive and rash. The Saudis have traditionally been very conservative and risk averse. From Faysal to Abdullah, Saudi Kings were cautious and careful. Now there is hushed talk of a team out of its depth with no plan for an endgame.

It was clear from the beginning of the campaign that the Saudis had no “plan for an endgame.” As interventionist states often do, the Saudis and their partners rushed in to a conflict they were never likely to win and declared goals that they were always very unlikely to achieve. The Saudi decision was a classic case of choosing to intervene in a conflict because they could. The Saudis sought to impose their political preferences on Yemen through force, which they should have already known would be a fool’s errand.

The Saudis evidently underestimated the difficulty of what they were trying to do and never considered what they ought to do if the initial campaign failed. They can continue to bludgeon and starve Yemen, and they seem intent on doing so, but the war is likely to provide them with nothing except increasing costs and increased insecurity along the border with Yemen. As Riedel mentions, the Houthis are now shelling targets inside Saudi Arabia, so at this point the war is exposing Saudi territory to attacks that would not be happening were it not for the intervention.

Meanwhile, Iran can just sit back and watch as the Saudis sabotage themselves with an ill-conceived and unnecessary war. Riedel writes:

Instead — after weeks of air attacks on the Zaydi Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies — the prince’s war looks like a stalemate. The immense damage done to Yemen’s weak infrastructure has created considerable bad blood between Yemenis and their rich Gulf neighbors that will poison relations for years. Yemenis always resented their rich brothers, and now many will want revenge. Iran is scoring a victory on its Gulf rival without any cost to Tehran and with only limited Iranian assistance to the Zaydis.

Exaggerated fears of Iranian influence in Yemen contributed to the Saudi decision to launch their dangerous intervention, so it is fitting that the Saudis are hurting their own cause with self-inflicted wounds in their desperate gamble to thwart an “expansion” of Iranian influence that was not actually taking place.

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5 Comments To "The Saudi-Led War Keeps Failing at Everything Except Wrecking Yemen"

#1 Comment By collin On May 19, 2015 @ 4:13 pm

Although I rationalizing the Obama choice to support the Saudis in this futile war, I really have to wonder about the Republican candidates that strongly endorsing our allies in their national defense. At this point, the Saudis are not acting rationally, by making war in Yemen, negotiating with Pakistan for nukes (is this true?) and burning through currency reserves like crazy. (Luckily they have three years worth so a Russian financial crash can easily be avoided. However, if the Saudis does have close to an economic crash, heaven helps us.)

I know is not time to break off relations with Saudi Arabia but we have to guard ourselves to make the better choices here. We should also remember it is China who is the biggest oil importer these days.

#2 Comment By cfountain72 On May 19, 2015 @ 4:35 pm

“Now there is hushed talk of a team out of its depth with no plan for an endgame.”

Looks like we taught them well.

Peace be with you.

#3 Comment By Flammable On May 19, 2015 @ 5:32 pm

“Exaggerated fears of Iranian influence in Yemen contributed to the Saudi decision to launch their dangerous intervention, so it is fitting that the Saudis are hurting their own cause with self-inflicted wounds in their desperate gamble to thwart an “expansion” of Iranian influence that was not actually taking place.”

Yes, the rashness of recent Saudi behavior is unexpected and disturbing. The relative youth and inexperience of the new Saudi king has got to be a major factor. Hopefully older, wiser heads (including some American ones, if they still exist) will rein him in.

#4 Comment By Andrew Nichols On May 19, 2015 @ 9:47 pm

One thing it doesn’t fail at – profits for US weapons manufacturers. Another reason the USA just loves the disgusting Saudis.

#5 Comment By Winston On September 1, 2015 @ 10:31 pm

Saudis doing what Israel did to Lebanon. Wreck the country. Then have somebody else rebuild it.