Saudi Arabia’s CT Image Problem Part 1: Yemen

By Scott Morgan

For the last few weeks the Saudis have not been happy. There has been a negative viewing of their Counterterrorism Efforts. The problem is so severe that they have been organizing briefings for Congressional Staffers and passing out a report highlighting their efforts in this endeavor.

There are several points that the Kingdom seeks to raise to a partner that they seem to be losing some trust in. One of those points will be highlighted in this report. This will be the intervention in its Southern neighbor Yemen a little more than a year ago.

Hold on for a second. Didn’t President Obama highlight the US efforts in CT with the former regime of Ali Saleh as a success? The answer is yes. So then what happened in the Country for the Saudis to make the decision - along with their allies in the GCC (Gulf Coordination Council) - to intervene as chaos emerged in the country - lying at the Southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula?

The image that the Saudis are portraying is that the Iranians were intervening in the situation. In the report, the Saudis became concerned with the increasing number of flights between the Capital of Yemen and Iran. The Houthis - an ethnic group that had its influence reduced after a Peace Deal forced President Ali Saleh to leave power - took up arms to highlight their displeasure with the accord.

So it appears that Riyadh does not want a State with Iranian Influence too close to their borders. We know that during the Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia sent troops into neighboring Bahrain to quash an uprising, which is interesting due to the rumors that Washington signed off on this in exchange for Saudi Support for the Western Intervention into Libya (that removed Qaddafi).

This appears to highlight a Sunni vs Shia concern. The Saudis are concerned with an expanding Iranian Influence in the region. The Nuclear Deal with Iran that the US signed with other Countries will only increase these fears. The longer the operations continue within Yemen between the Saudi backed Government and the Iranian Backed Insurgents the more likely this conflict will appear to resemble the fighting in Syria - viewed as a proxy war between Tehran and Riyadh.

What position does this put the US in? After all, this was actually touted by President Obama as a success in his Foreign Policy. So why then did the situation within Yemen collapse?

Did the US lose interest? Or scale back operations in a cost cutting measure? It seems that the latter seems to be the case. Scaling back coordination and training by the US appears to have created an opportunity that Tehran wants to exploit, Riyadh doesn’t want to and the rest of the Middle East and the World are wondering how many people will have to suffer as neighbors cannot play nice.

(Image: Aftermath of airstrike in Sanaa - BBC) 

[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]


  1. No, not a result of budget cuts but a result of wanting to pressure Saudi Arabia. I think the US made a cold calculation. They start negotiating with Iran and showing signs of overture which made everything else unfold. Smart!

  2. Hey Morgan,

    What if Yemen is being used to reassure the Saudis they still have US support? What if it goes beyond the Iran deal?

    The question is how many people will have to suffer till the US realises that it needs to reset its ME policy?

    Great piece.



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