Saudi Arabia has made no decision about whether to send ground troops into Yemen but is keeping its options open, the country’s ambassador to the United States said on Sunday.
In separate comments on NBC and CBS television channels, Adel al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia was committed to completing its air campaign aimed at dislodging Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who have taken over much of its southern neighbor Yemen.
Asked about the possible use of ground troops, he told NBC, “I don’t know that anyone wants to go into Yemen but we don’t rule anything out. Right now the objective is being achieved through an air campaign.”
Asked what conditions would prompt sending in ground forces, al-Jubeir said: “We have to see. We are not contemplating this issue.
“We are determined to degrade and destroy the Houthi capabilities. We’re determined to protect and preserve the legitimate government of Yemen. And we’re determined to protect the people of Yemen. And, so, we will continue this campaign until those objectives are achieved.”
In his comments, Jubeir said the move by the coalition came at “the invitation of the legitimate government, who are there to protect the people of Yemen from an occupation by a radical group that is bent on turning Yemen towards more radicalism.”
“We came to protect the legitimate government of Yemen. And we want to restore peace and stability in a country that's neighboring to us,” he said.
Yemen’s chaos may further complicate efforts by world powers to convince Tehran to scale back its nuclear research program in return for easing economic sanctions. A self-imposed deadline to reach a framework agreement expires on Tuesday.
Asked whether Riyadh wanted a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, al-Jubeir said: “We want a solid deal that denies Iran the ability to make nuclear weapons, a deal that is verifiable, a deal that cuts all avenues to a nuclear weapon for Iran, a solid deal.”
Asked whether a “strong Iran” and a “strong Saudi Arabia” could coexist in the Middle East, al-Jubeir said: “It's really up to the Iranians. We have encountered many problems, aggression by Iran against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There has not been one incident of Saudi aggression against Iran. We have extended our hand in friendship to the Iranians. And it's been rejected for the past 35 years.”