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What does Saudi Arabia want from Yemen?

Dr. Ali al-Kheshaiban

Published: Updated:

After all these years of war, many analysts still neglect the important question: What does Saudi Arabia want from Yemen? Because the answer to this question will certainly reveal the Saudi goals in Yemen. When we look back at history, specifically in the early days of the unification of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, there were some skirmishes, as can be expected.

King Abdulaziz was keen that Yemen remain for its people without prejudice to its nature or political composition. Professor Muhammad al-Manea mentioned in his book on the history of the Kingdom, a book translated by Dr. Abdullah al-Uthaymeen into Arabic, that King Abdulaziz has always emphasized that Yemen is for the Yemenis.

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Therefore, this policy remained the guideline for a long period that extended until the emergence of the armed Houthi groups. Whoever believes that Saudi Arabia, which dealt with Yemen as a neighbor over many decades, would allow Yemen to be a source of concern in the region, specifically on the side of the Arabian Peninsula, is wrong.

The transformations brought on by the Arab revolutions and on the international scene forced everyone in the region, including Saudi Arabia, to work on building a different vision for all political activities in the region, especially confronting the policies of the Houthi militias that Iran uses to impose its expansionist policies. It was important to confront these policies, and Saudi Arabia was faced with two strategic options: either to let Iran devour Yemen and threaten Saudi Arabia and the entire Gulf, or to change the course of quiet diplomacy that was long successful in Yemen before it was subject to foreign interventions and revolutionary militias.

And Saudi Arabia, by its historical nature, possesses that quiet diplomacy and employs it in the right situations, but Yemen, since its entry into the possibilities of civil war and the emergence of the Houthis, has required policies linked to a great responsibility, because the presence of the Houthis in Yemen is a dangerous wound that could allow the infiltration of the entire Arabian Peninsula with Iranian poison.

The Saudi experience with Yemeni history understands all the lessons, and there is no country in the region that compares to Saudi Arabia in understanding Yemen and its geographical and political structure. Saudi Arabia has accepted Yemen as a neighbor and has been patient with it for decades, dealing with any problems with various political and diplomatic tools, but the most important warning of the need to take strict measures in Yemen came with the Iran-backed Houthi infiltration to take control of Sanaa and try to rule Yemen.

Although the historical context does not accept such a thing and it is difficult to apply on the ground, Saudi Arabia did not want to let the historical movement take its course because the end result if the Houthis left Sanaa would be a civil war, where Yemen becomes a place tht is fought over by countries near and far.

No one disagrees with the fact that Saudi Arabia holds the biggest weight in the Arabian Peninsula, regardless of all considerations or attempts to change this equation. Saudi Arabia, in line with all the transformations sweeping the region, finds itself today compelled to understand its role as a major active state in this region, and its political calculations regarding all the surrounding parties, whether Iran or others, must be taken into account.

Therefore, the question of what Saudi Arabia wants from Yemen involves the idea that Saudi Arabia, which draws upon the politics, economy, geography and history in the Arabian Peninsula, desires to create stability in southern Arabia and close the door to any form of strategic ambitions that the Yemeni crisis could open to other countries, the most important of which is certainly Iran.

Saudi Arabia does not want Yemen to be a gateway to Iran, whatever the cost. Iran must realize that the Houthis, regardless of their militia position, must transform into a natural part of the Yemeni political map without any partisan discrimination and without turning them into militias similar to Hezbollah. Through this military experience in Yemen, Saudi Arabia realizes that its major allies must realize its right to defend its borders and take military decisions that serve the national security of Saudi Arabia and the security of the region.

After these years of war, it has become clear to everyone that the Saudi message consists of three angles: First, Iran and its Houthi militias are not allowed to control Yemen, second, Saudi national security is linked to political stability in Yemen, and third, Yemen should not turn into a gateway to the Arabian Peninsula.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi newspaper Alriyadh.

Read more:

The Houthi militia on a hot plate

The dispute over Yemen

Yemen and the UN’s foresight

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.