November 27, 2017


Is Saudi crown prince winning or losing in the Middle East? (Al Monitor, November 26, 2017)

As the crown prince stumbles in the region, Iran continues to roll. The prince's intervention in Lebanon has revealed, again, the limits of his influence and the costs of his impulsive regional policies, which redound to Iran's benefit.

Yemen, for example, remains a failure and quagmire for the kingdom -- the "worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world," Bruce Riedel writes, with 7 million people on the verge of starvation.

"Riyadh does not have a strategy to win the war," Riedel continues. "The front lines have barely moved in months. The Houthis show no sign of giving up. More airstrikes are not likely to bring a decision. So the Saudi strategy by default is to rely on famine and disease to wear down the Yemeni people. All sides in this war are guilty of perpetuating a catastrophe, but the blockade and airstrikes are the principal cause of the famine and cholera. The Saudi government and leadership should be held accountable for their actions. A strategy of starvation is unacceptable."

Giorgio Cafiero adds that conflict in Yemen offers the Islamic State "new opportunities and grievances to exploit as the internationally recognized central government remains entirely ineffectual. Should IS-Yemen lure more highly trained and battle-hardened fighters from the Levant, the local offshoot of IS could become an increasingly ascendant force to be reckoned with in southern Yemen, adding new dimensions of complexity and instability to the country's civil war and growing famine threat."

The kingdom's isolation of Qatar has undermined Gulf Cooperation Council unity, another windfall for Iran. Cafiero explains the limitations of the "Anti-Terror Quartet" of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain in building a new regional alignment, given differing perspectives on how best to deal with Turkey and Iran. Meanwhile, Iran -- allied with both the Syrian and Iraqi governments -- comes out a winner in both countries, while Saudi Arabia scrambles for a foothold.

Only Putin has stumbled nearly as badly.

Posted by at November 27, 2017 12:46 PM