Some eight months into the deadly Saudi war against Yemen, the Riyadh regime now seems stuck in a quagmire, without a clear strategy to end the costly military campaign in “a face-saving way,” a report says.
The report, published by The Washington Post on Friday, outlined the economic and political challenges facing the Al Saud family due to the war it has waged against Yemen as well as mounting pressure on Riyadh even by some of its own allies due to the high number of civilian casualties caused in the war.
“This war is draining the Saudis militarily, politically, strategically,” the Post quoted Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemen analyst at the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Center, as saying. “The problem is they’re stuck there.”
Since late March, Saudi Arabia has been involved in a military campaign against Yemen supposedly with the aim of weakening the country’s Ansarullah movement and returning the government of fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, its staunch ally, to power.
Referring to a growing rift in the coalition of mostly Persian Gulf monarchies that are assisting Saudi Arabia in the war on Yemen, the report said the aggressors appear “unable to find a face-saving way to end the costly conflict.”
According to the report, the protracted Saudi war, which has led to thousands of civilian deaths so far, has drawn an outcry from numerous international human rights bodies, making it difficult for Riyadh’s long-time allies, including the US and the UK, to keep up their support for the Saudi regime in the military campaign.
Egypt and Pakistan, the report said, have also let down Saudi requests for the dispatch of troops to help Riyadh’s military and the pro-Hadi militias on the battleground against the Yemeni army, backed by Ansarullah fighters and Popular Committees.
The war has caused even more headaches for Riyadh, the report said, pointing to dissent within the House of Saud.
It said Riyadh’s offensive “has intensified apparent power struggles within the secretive and opaque royal family,” with new Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud receiving letters from the royals critical of the war’s economic burdens on the kingdom, which is already suffering from low oil prices.
“It’s all somewhat murky, of course, but the war is generating this competition for power,” said Yezid Sayigh, a Middle East analyst at the Carnegie Middle East Center.
The power struggle among Saudi royals came to the surface after the death of former King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, which put Salman at the helm in the kingdom early this year.
Shortly after his rise to power, Salman rattled the kingdom with shake-ups, including with the appointment of his son Prince Mohammad bin Salman to deputy crown prince and defense minister, a position that placed the 30-year-old in charge of the kingdom’s war on Yemen.
Yemeni forces continue to defend their country in the face of Saudi attacks, as foreign troops and allied pro-Hadi militias operating on the ground are unable to make any gains and appear to be mired in back-and-forth battles, the report said.
Riyadh feels humiliated by the failure to achieve the objectives of its months-long war, while it remains “unclear how Saudi Arabia can end its military involvement without coming off as a loser,” it said.
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