Refuting The Misguided Activism Regarding Saudi Arabia’s Intervention In Yemen

Anita Gooding
Posted on February 22, 2018, 5:53 pm
FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites 10 mins
FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites

The military coalition led by Saudi Arabia has already made it known that it will invest $ 1.5 billion in new humanitarian aid for Yemen, supporting the internationally recognized government against the Iran-sponsored Houthis in a civil war that has lasted for three years

Yemen is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with 8.3 million people totally dependent on food aid and 400,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition that endangers life, according to the United Nations.

Just recently, Saudi Arabia paid $ 2 billion to the central bank of Yemen after the Yemeni prime minister publicly solicited for funds to improve the value of their currency and help prevent further famine.

The coalition has also in response to international calls, eased the blockade imposed on Yemen’s sea and airports in November in response to the ballistic missile launched by Houthis against Saudi capital Riyadh.  Saudi Arabia has committed more than $8.2bn in aids to Yemen.


We cannot talk about the Yemen crisis or Saudi Arabia’s involvement in it without refreshing our memories on how it all began.  The conflict has its roots in the failure of a political transition supposed to bring stability to Yemen following an Arab Spring uprising that forced its longtime authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to his deputy Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in 2011.

President Hadi struggled to deal with a variety of problems, including attacks by al-Qaeda, a separatist movement in the south, the continuing loyalty of many military officers to Mr. Saleh, as well as corruption, unemployment, and food insecurity.

The Houthi movement, which defends the Muslim minority of Zaidi Shia in Yemen and led a series of revolt against Saleh in the previous decade, pounced on the incompetence of the new president to take control of the northern Sa’ada and adjacent areas.

Disillusioned with the transition, many ordinary Yemenis – including Sunnis – supported the Houthis and in late 2014 and early 2015, the rebels took over Sanaa.

The president escaped to the southern port city of Aden the following month.

The Houthis and security forces loyal to Mr. Saleh – who is thought to have backed his erstwhile enemies in a bid to regain power – then attempted to take control of the entire country, forcing Mr. Hadi to flee abroad in March 2015.

Alarmed by the emergence of a group allegedly backed by Shiite military forces in the region, Saudi Arabia, and eight other Sunni Arab states launched air campaigns to restore the Hadi government. The coalition obtained logistical and intelligence support from the United States, Great Britain, and France.

Coalition ground troops landed in Aden in August 2015 and helped drive the Houthis and their allies out of much of the south over the next few months. Mr. Hadi’s government has established a temporary home in Aden, although the president remains in exile.

Meanwhile, the Houthis were not expelled from Sanaa and were able to sustain the siege of Taiz city in the south of the country and the fire missiles across the border with Saudi Arabia, and carrying out deadly attacks, notably in Aden. Jihadist al Qaeda militants on the Arab Peninsula and rival members of the Islamic State (IS) group have used chaos in taking the territory south.

The launch of a ballistic missile towards Riyadh in November 2017 prompted the Saudi-led coalition to tighten its blockade of Yemen.

The coalition said it wanted to halt the smuggling of weapons to the rebels by Iran – an accusation Tehran denied – but the UN said the restrictions could trigger “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades”.

Although the coalition eased its restrictions on rebel-held ports after several weeks, the extended closures resulted in a sharp increase in prices of basic commodities, accelerating food insecurity and the collapse of already basic services.

The human and compassionate nature of the Saudi-led coalition made them reopen the vital air and seaports to allow in desperately needed food and medicine. This act put the doomsayers to shame who had predicted the worst famine in human history and had also misconstrued Saudi’s intention and the role it is playing in bringing peace back to Yemen.

The conflict between the Houthis and the government is seen in some quarters as part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.

Gulf Arab states have accused Iran of backing the Houthi is financially and militarily, though Iran has denied this, and they are themselves backers of President Hadi.


Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has called on the rest of the world to support his bid in transforming the desert kingdom into an open society that empowers citizens and lures investors.

It’s no longer news that he has launched an audacious and quite ambitious $500bn independent economic zone straddling Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. While expanding on comments he made at the launch of the project, he had this to say, “We are a G20 country. One of the biggest world economies. We’re in the middle of three continents. Changing Saudi Arabia for the better means helping the region and changing the world. So this is what we are trying to do here. And we hope we get support from everyone”, quite an audacious and laudable statement from a young, vibrant and visionary leader.

The heir apparent to the throne is definitely on a move to consolidate his authority, sidelining clerics whom he believes have failed to support him and demanding unquestioning loyalty from senior officials whom he has entrusted to drive a 15-year reform programme that aims to overhaul most aspects of life in Saudi Arabia. That’s an emphatic action statement that depicts a leader who wants to put his country in a prime position in the global map.

As lofty and audacious as these moves and turnaround projects may be, one must also try to look at it from the realist and feasible perspective.  Economically Saudi Arabia will need huge resources if it is to succeed in putting its economy on a new footing and its leadership believes it will fail to generate strategic investments if it does not also table broad social reforms and a  return to moderate Islam, ban on women driving, contesting or voting in elections, sell of alcohol, fun attractions like cinemas, mingling of single men and women and whole lot of issues that need to be reformed in line with modern global practice. The crown prince indicated he understood the challenge. “Dreaming is easy, achieving it is difficult,” he said.

As he visits the United Kingdom in a few days time even amid calls by the British Prime Minister to rescind the invitation given to him, it is expected that the charismatic crown prince will take advantage of the occasion to sell his vision and endear himself to both the western media and the world leaders.



Anita Gooding
Political Analyst

My name is Anita, and I'm a UC Berkeley alumna and currently based in Minnesota but from the United Kingdom. I have been actively involved in political reportage since the days of Bill Clinton in the White House and have always kept tabs on political events in the United Kingdom and the European Union at large. I take special delight in covering the activities of frontline politicians in the US and EU I joined the Herald Reporter’s team of correspondents in October 2017 out of my passion for journalism to cover US and EU evolving and trending political news.