Iranian Yemeni Houthis Checkmate the House of Saud

Having assassinated Ali Abdullah Saleh on December 04, Iranian Shia proxies on Arabia’s southern peninsula have fractured the very leadership required for Saudi leadership to begin consolidating feeble gains in a war dominated by aircraft.

If the Iranian’s know anything about the future, its this:  light infantry is the means by which regimes secure their interests.  If you’re not available to command the ground, you’re finished.  American military leadership from its counter-insurgency command has always hailed the limited means that aircraft have on ground campaigns.  Having conceded that air cover does in fact dominate conflicts, it cannot deliver political gains required to succeed.

The power vacuum left after Saleh’s demise is palpably felt in Riyadh, D.C. and Jerusalem.

Having survived the Arab Spring, Gulf leaders forced him to abdicate favoring his vice president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.  Saleh forced his way back seeking alliances with Shia Houthis overtly supported by Iran.  Having reached the port of Aden, the Saudi’s intervened to punish Saleh.  Eventually, his death revealed a startling impasse the Saudi’s wish to avoid, namely having to admit that the vast majority of Sunni’s aligned with Riyadh wouldn’t fight for bin Salman.  For all its military might, the Saudi led air campaign have never defeated its weaker Shia foe.  The death of Saleh only fragments a tenuously held position that is frightening Saudi leadership.

What’s left for Riyadh?  The official state policy of starving one’s enemy remains possible.  The Saudi’s have begun to open dialogue with General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar who now serves as Hadi’s vice president.

The war envisioned by Tehran is easily prosecuted.  A peninsula is enveloped by a pincer movement seeking to permanently aggravate Saudi weaknesses.

The only good news is that Saudi Arabian leadership has openly solicited Israeli dialogue, in the hope of eliminating the isolation Riyadh experiences from social, geopolitical and fiscal pressure.

The long game is on, and the Saudi’s are losing throughout their own southern region.  Anticipate the House of Saud to gain advantage by openly permitting Israel to reduce the terror of distance between Jerusalem in Tehran.


About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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