The US, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf

Summary:  Fifth chapter of new Arab Digest / Global Policy Journal e-book explores how the Gulf monarchies have reacted to their increasingly ambiguous relationship with the US.

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  1. “Saudi Arabia and the UAE led an unprecedented Arab coalition to push back the expansion of the Houthi forces in Yemen. Neither state was willing to countenance the reality of the Houthis controlling the Yemeni capital and key port cities.” While they had historical concerns over the role of Iran in Yemen, the UAE role in Yemen appears to have been more akin to the UK’s support for the US over Iraq: no over-riding national issue with the target, but a strategic choice to maintain the closeness of the relationship. Most of the UAE ire in Yemen is directed against al-Islah, the party which contains the Yemeni wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and which is nominally allied with them against the Huthis.
    “The core concern with such a state of affairs was that, with consolidated power and such a vastly expanded infrastructure, the Houthis would find it easier to obtain supplies of weapons and other such support from Iran that they could use to consolidate their power.” Yemenis – including their several major arms dealers – have had no difficulty sourcing weapons from many countries: notably SCUDs from N Korea, and many weapons from Eastern Europe. The probable issue, chiefly for KSA, was that the Huthis are both a family which was beyond the Sa’udi patronage network, and was also Hashimi (made worse by their khuruj doctrine – resistance to an unjust ruler.) Had the Huthis consolidated power, they might have looked to take back the three formerly Yemeni provinces in KSA where there are still some Zaydis. They might also have inspired (12er) Shi’a uprisings with Sa’udi Arabia.
    “There is little doubt that Iran has supplied the Houthis with weapons over the years. The only debate is how significant these supplies were. The Arab Gulf monarchies view them as of critical importance”. There seems to be considerable doubt about Iranian military support to the Huthis, even among the Gulf monarchies, particularly in the years before 2010. In 2007, the US “Embassy reviewed the file and did not find any evidence to support allegations of links between the insurrectionists and Iran.” ( By mid-Sep 2009, Am Emb Sana’a sent a cable “IRAN IN YEMEN: TEHRAN’S SHADOW LOOMS LARGE, BUT FOOTPRINT IS SMALL” (, while at about the same time “Members of the Saudi Government’s Special Office for Yemen Affairs […] are privately skeptical of Saleh’s claims of Iranian involvement and of his desire to regionalize the Sa’ada conflict,” (

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